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1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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 Himself - Host / ... (44 episodes, 2002-2007)
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 Himself (40 episodes, 2002-2007)
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Spoken word. Spoken truth.

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Documentary | Music

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2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Def Poetry Jam  »

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[repeated Line]
Mos Def: Oh, shit, it's Russell Simmons.
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Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #22.97 (2006) See more »

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Mixed but generally interesting and worth dipping into
13 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In a weekly show, Mos Def (and some guy wheeled out at the end) presents a collection of modern poems and pieces of spoken word delivered by their authors. Some are funny, some are rude, some are clever, some are touching, some are thoughtful, some are impressive, some are not, some are great, some are OK, some are poor. And that is how best I sum this up because it is very mixed but is interesting enough to be worth watching if you are fan of hip hop (not hip pop or the stuff from actors playing criminals and fronting all the time). I say this because the show does feature the sort of stuff that will appeal to fans of people like Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, ?uestlove, Jean Grae – real head stuff! This is not to say it is of their quality because it isn't – indeed the show is very mixed. Lyrically the majority of it is interesting and worth listening too and for that alone it is worth seeing it for. However the delivery is a bit of a problem. Too many artists think that raising their volume gives them more meaning or power, whereas really it doesn't. I think especially of the poem by the mixed race girl about her heritage – on paper it is great but her delivery is too angry, her words said it all, her delivery made it feel like ham. I was surprised by how many I actually really liked and took me by surprised by how clever they were – "between these thighs" is very clever and very funny, playing on the black clichés of relationships that are promoted by mainstream hip hop culture; the Korean guy offering himself to be any bit part cliché in any movie was very self aware and the poem "money" was very funny indeed. Of course it is a matter of taste and I imagine that people who dislike this type of stuff and hip hop of this side will be put off by it; even those who are into it will acknowledge that there are weak links in the chain, even if the overall product is good.

Overall, this is a good show that I found different and interesting even if the standard was not consistent across the board. The majority of poems are very well written and are well worth listening to for whatever they make you do (think, laugh, chuckle, reflect, switch off!) but the main weakness is often the delivery. Too few of the poems come across as themselves are the majority seem to be just aping the style of "modern beat poet" – the strongest poems are from those who come across as real people with real words rather than just performers; happily they are in the majority. Very different from the sort of stuff TV serves us up here in the UK and well worth seeing if you are a fan of Mos Def, Kweli, Common et al (and if you're not, you should become one).


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