After much thought, introspection and research into the corners of my mind I have decided that KaNikki Jakarta poetically known as KaNikki J, Marquis Mix poetically know as 13 of Nazareth and I must be family as I have absolutely no memory of when I first met them. I know it had to be in a poetry venue somewhere in the DMV. I know I met them separately but it seems to me they have just always been in my life. At some point in the future I will compare our family trees and find the connection.
This loving couple has been on the poetry scene for over a decade, each perfecting their own unique style and delivery. KaNikki’s delivery can go from witty to emotional with her topics inclusive of all sides of love and how we as a people need to take better care of ourselves. She has also been known to write Haiku’s on the spot. She hosts Busboys and Poets Shirlington on 1st Mondays. One of my favorite poems:
My first recollection of hearing 13 of Nazareth was wow and maybe I need to put this pen and paper down and stay in the audience. How he weaves words, tells stories and paints pictures is awe inspiring. His love of community and family comes through his words. There doesn’t seem to be video of my favorite piece by him but this one is a close second.
When they perform together they are a powerhouse duo.
Stepping from Behind the Microphone:
KaNikki J & 13 of Nazareth
How did you two meet?
Side note: they both answered the question and tell the same story but I like 13’s extended version better.
13: We met once at the now defunct Virginia House of Comedy in 1999; KaNikki was leaving as I came off stage and told me she enjoyed my poem “The Black Salaam.Man.D.E.R.” Then we met again at my first CD release party in 2002. We exchanged contact info when I told her I would be performing in DC soon after. When my cousin (who KaNikki thought I made up because she didn’t meet her until like five years later) was nowhere to be found on my first trip to DC, I contacted KaNikki and she let me crash on her couch. I was extremely appreciative, we developed a fast friendship and her house was where I stayed when I had shows in the area. I later found out that if her best friend had not been her roommate at the time, she would not have let me stay, so I feel like I owe him a dollar or something. Whenever she tells the story, she says it was a combination of her roommate and the fact that I sounded pitiful on the phone, which may or may not be true, but is definitely funnier.
KaNikki: (she told initial meeting story and then said:) We started a relationship fall of 2002, married in the summer of 2008, and have been best friends ever since.
Sherri: Tell us more about what brought you to writing poetry.
KaNikki: I was introduced to poetry in the womb. My Mother read a lot of Nikki Giovanni poetry to me when she was pregnant. Her initial thought was to name after her favorite poet at the time, but felt she would give me my own name so KaNikki was birthed. I started writing poetry in the 3rd grade. I attended a private, Christian, school called Bethany in Mobile, Alabama where poetry was a class and a competition. I started competing with other poet’s poetry and winning. However, a fortunate loss to a little girl name Brandy won the competition over me reciting the same poem that I had chosen gave me the incentive to pen my own poetry and take it the stage. I continued to write and sharing my poetry whenever and where ever I could. It wasn’t until 1997 when I discovered spoken word in Virginia Beach, Virginia that my performance poetry career began to manifest.
13: I came to poetry by way of hip-hop music. I was motivated to start rapping by a combination of Tupac’s death on my 20th birthday and pressure from my cousin. Initially I was freestyling and writing to popular instrumentals but that got boring because I wanted to create original work; having no connections to or knowledge of a hip-hop community in my hometown I began using the sounds of my environment as music. I also had no understanding of what a bar was and got to the point where all of my verses were the length of entire songs; I eventually converted some of those verses into poems which at the time simply meant I changed the way I said them because I had no knowledge of stanzas either. I literally just made it up as I went.
Sherri: Tell the story of your first experience performing.
KaNikki: Of course you know I started performing in 3rd grade, but there is a different feeling when you are an adult. You know that the audience does not have to clap for you. You find out from that first adult experience if you have the talent, writing skills, stage presence, and potential to continue in this art form. My first experience at Virginia House of Comedy was terrifying. My poem was short, my voice was shaky, and I had an audience full of co-workers whom I’d shared workplace poetry with. I had a supportive, cheering section, but it didn’t help the nervousness. I saw myself walking off stage as I started to read from the lamented paper where my typed words seemed to dance around under the bright spotlight that shinned right into my eyes. The room was dark and the spotlight made me feel like I was being judged. I don’t remember the poem I read, I just remember that once I was able to finish it, people cheered. After words, I felt ashamed within myself; that I didn’t have the confidence and that I would have the thought to walk off stage without using the voice that God gave me. Outside of my co-workers, many people came up to me to compliment my work. It was the words I needed to convince me that I was right where I was supposed to begin.
13: Soul Cafe at Tropical Delights in Virginia Beach, VA on Friday February 5, 1999. I heard at the open mic at a bookstore that I had been frequenting for about two years. I was primarily attending to face my fear of public speaking. The poem I read took all of 60 seconds but I was shaking, sweating and I felt like my voice was cracking, but the ten people who were there told me they enjoyed it. IN the aftermath I just felt relieved that I finished my poem without running off stage and out of the building.
Sherri: KaNikki, you chose not to have a stage name, why?
KaNikki: With a name like KaNikki Jakarta, why would I need to choose another stage name? My mom named me specifically to be a great writer as that is the interpretation of my first name and Jakarta being the capital of Indonesia which means to me that I’m present to be the head and not the tail. So although I sometimes use KaNikki J, I am living up to the name my mom gave to me, striving to be the definition of my birth name, I want the audience to hear “great writer” when they hear me speak. To change my name would disrespect my mom. I love my mom and she put a lot of thought into naming me. That’s why I tell people they must know how to spell my name and pronounce it correctly.
Sherri: Your stage name is 13 of Nazareth. Why did you choose that name? What do you want the audience to know about you when they hear it?
13: My stage name is 13 of Nazareth, I chose that name because the number 13 appears in many aspects of my life and the Nazareth portion comes from the Bible John 1:14 which says “And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” I feel as though if I were to lay out my life before those who have never heard me speak that many would assume “nothing good” can come from me and my response is they should “come and see.” I want the audience to think that even the ugliest and most imbalanced experiences house the potential to produce balance and beauty.
Sherri: Who is your favorite writer? (This can be a songwriter, poet, author or anyone you consider a writer.)\
KaNikki: People ask me this all of the time. They assume that my husband, 13 of Nazareth is my favorite writer and he certainly is one of them. I love how all of his poems brings you full circle, pay attention and you’ll witness what I mean. However, I am my favorite writer because I am also one of my favorite people. I have learned that I have no competition in poetry, only to be a better writer and write better content than I’ve written before. Making myself my favorite writer gives me the ambition to write great and recite greatness that will inspire others and hopefully become one of their favorite writers as well.
13: I do not have a favorite writer, but on the list of writers I enjoy and Tupac Shakur for being my voice in the wilderness so to speak. The first time I heard any names of political prisoners and black revolutionaries was in Tupac’s music and it wasn’t until after his death that I discovered who any of those people were, Thich Nhat Hanh for being able to articulate peace and make it tangible without me having ever actually heard his voice. Paramhansa Yogananda, for communicating the singularity of Eastern and Western religious spiritual philosophy. I could go on but interviews are not memoirs lol
Sherri: You have one hour to have a conversation with anyone in history, living or dead. Who will you choose, and why?
KaNikki: Jesus because He’s Jesus. (Smile) Jesus knew he was going to die and how, yet he was able to live his life and have happiness knowing an end would come. I want to live my life in happiness, fulfilling my purpose and not being afraid of the end, knowing that even in death, there is life.
13: It is a tossup between my mother and my grandmother, both of whom died when I was 13 years old. There are things that they did and or said during my time with them that I want clarification on and I just want to know more about their lives because I believe the knowledge will help me make more sense to myself.
Sherri: Your perfect concert: who are three acts, living or dead, you would like to see perform?
KaNikki: I would love to see 13 of Nazareth with Old Dirty Bastard and Eminem.
13: My first time attending a live performance that was not a part of a school assembly or field trip was the same night I first performed so it hard for me to answer this question without including myself because I don’t want to see my favorite artist perform anywhere near as much as I want to share the stage with them, but if I have to choose… Tupac, Bob Marley, and Michael Jackson.
Sherri: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
KaNikki: My Daddyand both of my brothers were born with 12 fingers, 6 on each hand. The doctor’s tied the extra fingers off and left them with a small bump on their pinky fingers. I, on the other hand was not born with extra fingers, but I was born with a small bump on my left pinky that now matches theirs.
13: I spent the first seven years of my life living as an only child, even though I have six siblings ranging from 1 year older to 25 years younger.
Sherri: Do you have another creative outlet? If not, what is something you have always wanted to learn how to do?
KaNikki: Yes! I am a writer of what I call Real Life Fiction. I have published three novels in my first series: IN REAL LIFE, THE COLOR BLUE, & most recently, THE OTHER SIDE OF PRETTY (available on her website). I’ve coined my writing as “real life fiction” because I am told by many of my readers that they’ve been through something exactly as I have written it. Also, I’m pretty good at American Sign Language and I use to play the clarinet. I can probably still play if I wanted to. Right now though, I’ll make a joyful noise with my writings.
13: I am a graphic designer and self-taught web designer. I am responsible from all of my own cover art. I want to learn to develop apps. I also produced all of the music on my album Stained Glass, but want to learn to play some instruments (drums, piano, and guitar) because I think I could Quincy Jones spoken word if I had a bit more musical knowledge.
Sherri: [Borrowed from Inside the Actor’s Studio] If heaven exists, what do you want to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
KaNikki: I would love for God to not only say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” but also, “The mic is open for you,” now THAT would be amazing.
13: Welcome home, how was your trip and where do you want to go once you finish resting?
To contact KaNikki:
To learn more about 13 of Nazareth visit his website 13ofnazareth.net