J. Ivy offers healing words for Black pain, fatherlessness and self-hatred

J Ivy Photo Credit Sergio Richardson
J Ivy (Photo credit: Sergio Richardson)

Performance poet, spoken word artist, recording artist, and author J. Ivy talks moving to Los Angeles, gives backstory on collaboration with Coodie & Chike and crafts a special poem for rolling out readers.

We need to catch up. Where are you living now?
After living in New York for 10 plus years and always getting back home to Chicago a lot to soak up energy, I’m now residing in LA. Over the years I’ve always wanted to live in LA, but now more than ever I wanted to tap in to the West Side, lock in an agent, take advantage of the creative energy, the warm vibes and explore more acting opportunities and musical collabs. There’s so much I want to do with my poetry and seeing how things are moving out here I knew this would be a good place for this chapter of life.

How has your creative voice evolved since you started your career?
I always look to stay rooted in where I started. I loved the rawness I had back then. Now I add my experience, my growth, my precision, and my confidence in my craft to that rawness. My ear is a lot better. I’ve always known what it should feel like. Now I’m much better at knowing what it should sound like. I listen for that sound, keep it raw, and create.

How did you end up on an NAACP Image Award-winning project?
My guys, my brothers, Coodie & Chike, who directed Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ, called me up one day and was like, “J, we need your help on this Ali film we’re doing for B.E.T.” It’s not everyday you get a call about doing something for the Greatest of All Time, so I was hyped to say the least. They asked me to write and poetically perform my “In the Ring” narration. The fellas snapped with the direction and the feel for this film. When I began building with them on it, I sat with them in the edit room for days at a time while we discussed direction, timelines, research, history, and what Ali meant to us as Black men in America. It was an honor working on this. It was amazing seeing it air. It was incredible to win an Image Award was the icing on the cake. Much love, Coodie & Chike!

What emotions do you illustrate in your book, Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain?
There were a lot of different emotions that I went through on the journey called Dear Father. From me being a naive kid on the South Side of Chicago feeling confused by what I witnessed inside and outside of my house to the anger I felt as a young man after my Pops wasn’t around for over 10 years to feeling depressed and unwanted, lack of confidence, to a deep sadness after he passed, to finding joy after learning that there is so much power when we learn how to forgive. The emotional roller coaster was real, but in the end I’m grateful for it all and constantly reminding myself to live in that gratitude and purpose.

How did living in Chicago prepare you for creative success?
Chicago prepared me for everything. This is a hardworking town with good people in it. Our hard nose, hustle, go get it mentality pushes you to go hard after whatever it is you decide to do. There’s a certain confidence that is engrained in you growing up here. There’s wit engrained in you. There’s a never dying pride that constantly urges you to shine bright. My grandfather would always say, “If you can make it in Chicago, you can make it anywhere.” God rest his soul; he was more than right.

Name four people you favor in terms of collaborations.
I have a whole catalog of music I’ve written and recorded with singer, songwriter and my wife, Tarrey Torae, so she is definitely at the top of the list. The magic in her voice, the stories and concepts that she comes up with always amazes me. I adore her sound and her ear and it’s always fun to see what new fresh idea we’ll come up with when we get in our creative mode.

Kanye West and Jay Z are a given. Not only did the record, “Never Let Me Down,” move me like no other record I had recorded at the time, but it has stood the test of time and has touched millions around the world. It was a life changer and to this day gives me inspiration.

John Legend and I recorded and performed a version of “So High” that was so ridiculous. I love that record. It’s fun, refreshing, clever, soulful and just dope.

And fourth, I have four — a really dope record I did with rapper Smoke DZA called “Black Independence.” I love the subject matter, the lyrics, and the beat is crazy. I got a crazy joint with Slum Village called “Windows.” That joint goes hard. I did a joint with Estelle on her “True Romance” album called “Time Share,” which shows another, sexier side of art. And I have a very beautiful uplifting song with Marsha Ambrosius that hasn’t been released yet that I really love!! I could go on, but I chill for now…

What five music artists are on your playlist?
Tarrey Torae
Kendrick Lamar
Alabama Shakes
Tribe Called Quest
Kanye West
And THAT NEW J. IVY … My Daddy’s Records COMING SOON!!

Share how using our creative mind can change how we see the world.
Creative minds bring light and new perspective to world. It allows us to see things in new ways, which sparks new ideas. Ideas lead to new opportunities, innovation, love, healing, and connection with other like minds.

What are your favorite U.S. cities?
Chicago, New York, Nashville … still getting a feel for L.A. but it’s moving up the list fast.

Who are your two favorite poets? Share why.
Abi Odun Oyewole of The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. There’s so much freedom in their words. They showed me how to find my own freedom.

Who’s your favorite conscious MC?
All time for me is Common, but Kendrick is truly something special. He is exactly what the world needed.

Please curate an original poem conveying the importance of Black lives.

Each step taken is a leap of progress,
Hate has no logic,
Beauty is objectified,
Hated on,
Folks hate what they don’t understand,
With jealousy in hand,
Their ignorance has reigned,
But we push for change knowing that love is supreme,
Our beautiful beings hold precious pieces to the puzzle,
Imbalance is juggled,
As we struggle and fight until injustice is shattered,
Because our Black Lives have and will always Matter …

Finish the sentences:
Black fathers should … embrace the responsibility of taking care of their reflections, equipping them with the tools they’ll need to succeed in a world that is already against them.

My father … was a great and gifted man, who may have been flawed by a traumatic childhood, but did the best with the love he carried for his own. I pray, I know he is resting in peace…

Love is … that undying, unconditional wave of emotion that crashes on the shores of others knowing those pure feelings shared will gladly and naturally trickle back to the source.

I am a poet because … God gifted me with a craft, a love, a passion, that would allow the voice of my soul to speak out, touch, teach, learn, heal, and connect with others.

Munson Steed
Munson Steed

Founder and publisher of rolling out's parent company Steed Media Group.

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