“There’s a lot of gifted people out here, but they forget about the responsibility you have when you have the ability to capture the ear of so many people. Maybe its hard sometimes to accept that weight on your shoulders, but because of who I am, because of who I’ve come from, I’ve learned to accept that responsibility.”
“Outside of my family trips, everywhere I’ve been is because of my gift. I love the platform, just having the opportunity to perform for different audiences with different people, different backgrounds, different stories. I just love meeting people, going to new places, experiencing new things.
“I started performing in high school. I was a shy kid. I had an internal love for the stage, but I was still really shy; I had to warm up to people. [My teacher] had us write a prose for an English assignment and made us read it in front of the class. She pulled me to the side, said I had a nice speaking voice and told me I should do a show. I faked her out for the first one. I didn’t do it. But then she told me she had another show coming up and she wasn’t asking me, she was telling me to do it.
“The first time I got on stage I got a standing ovation. I think throughout the rest of high school I did every single show. I fell in love with the stage. As far as my writing, I wasn’t confident in it. I was great at you know, writing notes to girls. But as far as this, my mother was always very encouraging. She kept pushing me towards it. When I wrote that poem for English class I took it home and she said “Oh my god this is amazing, you have a gift.” She had a newsletter at work that she published it in. So actually my first time being published was by my mother, for her work.
“Later when I was in college I remember one time I called home and I was excited about all this writing I was doing. My mind just – I just couldn’t stop writing. Even my roommate, he was like “Ah man Jimmy, would you stop writing!?” I was like “Man, I cant help it, I dunno where they’re coming from!” I mean, I wrote so many pieces. My mother, she was like, “We should put a book together. You have enough poems.” So I published a book called Poetically Black.
“One time I talked to her on the phone – Ivy’s actually my middle name, and I HATED my middle name. It was a girl’s name. She called me up and she was like “You know what, you should use Ivy for your pen name. All great poets have a pen name.” So I started using my full name. And later on I shortened it to J. Ivy. I would have never thought to use my middle name.
“When it came to performing, she was always in the front row. Later on when I was on Def Poetry, she flew out to NYC. She was always there front and center. She just always reminded me that I did have a gift, even when I didn’t know it.
“My mother, she’s one of those, there’s something extra about her. I don’t feel like I’m being biased. She raised three boys on her own and everyone is, you know, doing all right. She’s an extreme planner. She has everything planned out. With her a plan isn’t a plan unless it has a plan B. She was a registered nurse; she was a supervisor at a dialysis center [so] she worked with a lot of diabetics. At one point she worked two jobs.
“She always encouraged me and always reminded me of the responsibility I have with my words. There’s a lot of gifted people out here, but they forget about the responsibility you have when you have the ability to capture the ear of so many people. Maybe its hard sometimes to accept that weight on your shoulders, but because of who I am, because of who I’ve come from, I’ve learned to accept that responsibility. I have a gift that can help this person, or encourage this person. I’ve had people tell me they hear a poem and it saved their life.
“At some point, later in the career, when things got bigger, it was a little heavy for me. I learned to accept it; God doesn’t give me anything I cant handle. I definitely get that from my mother. She rides a motorcycle. She has an RV that she takes around the country. She’s just one of those special ones.”
J. Ivy has an impressive resume that includes delivering arguably the best verse in a Kanye West song that also featured Jay Z. He has worked with industry heavyweights such as RZA, Talib Kweli, The Roots and Erykah Badu, collaborated with the NBA, MTV and Verizon and modeled for LRG. His full bio can be found here.
J’s album “HERE I AM” launched yesterday, September 21! Find out more about it by visiting his site.