Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Based on a Tony-winning Broadway production, Def Poetry Jam was the brainchild of Russell Simmons, the same man responsible for HBO's improvisational ethnic comedy series Def Comedy Jam. Hosted by rapper Mos Def, Def Poetry Jam was taped live at The Supper Club in New York. A vast array of performance artists, ranging from poets to actors to musicians to comedians, most but not all African-American, were given full license to express themselves in the most emotional, uninhibited, and sometimes obscene manner possible before a large and enthusiastic live audience. Sometimes the poetry was presented "straight," without adornment; and sometimes the recitations were part and parcel of a mixed-media presentation. Hilarious, biting, profane, tender, offensive, but never dull, the series was an expert encapsulation of the feelings and sensitivities of minority artists in post-9/11 America. Also known as Russell Simmons Presents: Def Poetry, the half-hour Def Poetry Jam made its HBO bow in June of 2002.
poetry, reading [recitation], stream-of-consciousness