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Case Number 07012: Small Claims Court

Buy Def Poetry: Season Two at Amazon

Def Poetry: Season Two

HBO // 2002 // 175 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 15th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson is starting his own show: Def Potato Chip Eating.

The Charge

Spoken word. Spoken truth.

The Case

In 2002, Russell Simmons and HBO unleashed Def Poetry, half-hour-long presentations of poets from all walks of life and locations coming on stage to let fly their unique wordplay. Musician and actor Mos Def hosted the program.

Here, in barebones format (fullscreen, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, zero extras), is Season Two of Def Poetry. This single disc contains all seven episodes of the show—that's a total of 175 minutes of relentless artistic expression. And that's what the show is: an explosion of hard-witting verbal artistry and wizardry. Poets take the stage and let fly their poems in passionate, animated form. The crowd plays a pivotal role, interacting with the poets. This isn't a stifled poetry reading in a cavernous university auditorium—this is full-on poetic symbiosis. Also known as "slam" poetry (for more on that, see the great movie Slam), Def Poetry strives to make the genre living and energetic. The poets themselves come from all around the country to participate, though the majority of talents are home-grown in New York City (where the show was filmed).

Though predominantly African American, the participation is varied. Young street poets and renowned professors and even a celebrity or two (Jamie Foxx and Malcolm Jamal-Warner show up to offer a few rounds) share the stage with a lively audience. And while the inclusion of the word "Def" should clue you into the ethnic leaning of most of the performers and audience, the poets themselves are of diverse backgrounds: Latinos, whites, Asians, everyone gets into the action.

Just as diverse are the topics. The producers were wise to feature an array of poems, not just political diatribes (though there are plenty of those) and not just fodder to serve up to an audience. The works are engaging and often challenging. In fact, one poem quite uniquely harpooned the rap world, labeling it as corruptive BS; it was obvious some members of the audience were uncomfortable. But that's what it's all about, bringing it to the world in your own words. Some poems were about racism, some about drug use, some about life in the ghetto; there are a few humorous pieces about relationships, even a haiku.

From the moment I spun this disc to the end of the last episode I was impressed, entertained, and sometimes moved. And while I may not have agreed with some of the viewpoints espoused, the skill and passion of these poets were not lost on me. If you're a fan of poetry, pick this up immediately. I just wish there were a sliver of bonus content on board.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Performance
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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