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Buddha of Bridgeport
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Back in the late 90’s, when Khalid El-Amin was leading UConn’s men’s basketball team to new heights in the NCAA Tournament, Buddha LuvJonz was enjoying his fair share of campus fame, as well, it just happened to be for something completely different. While his good friend El-Amin was becoming known on a national level for his skills on the court, Bridgeport native Buddha LuvJonz was becoming one of UConn’s busiest DJs and most talked about poets.

According to LuvJonz, diversity and the art of self-expression are the key elements to everything he does. The latter can be seen written all over him in the eleven tattoos that cover his arms, while the former can be found in the topics of his poetry, which deal with everything from stereotypes to relationships, and his choice of music while behind the turntables, which can include everything from classic hip-hop to James Brown, to Etta James, to Def Leopard. There’s even a bit of diversity in the way he became Buddha LuvJonz as the name actually came to be in stages.

LuvJonz earned the Buddha part of his name during his high school years when the Laotian artist appeared in class one day with a shaved head. The LuvJonz part of his name, however, happened thanks to a famous film that was released while he was in college. Love Jones was the movie and 1997 was the year it hit theaters. “A lot of people were tagging me as that Love Jones poet,” LuvJonz remembers, “always trying to woo the ladies with some poems. One day when I was up on stage somebody just called out ‘Buddha LuvJonz’ and from that point on it just kind of stuck on me and I’ve been rockin that tag ever since.” Rockin the tag, yes, but was the assumption that he was always trying to woo the ladies true? LuvJonz laughs when he thinks about it. “I didn’t know any better. I thought that I could woo the ladies, try to seduce them some way some how through the art of words. It was good maybe 30% of the time.”

While the attempts at wooing may not have worked as often as he might have liked, LuvJonz’ talents have earned him far more than a few hookups as they’ve launched him into both the local and national poetry scenes. For the past three years he’s toured as a part of The Male Ego, which is a show that features five male poets from different backgrounds breaking down the male perspective on a number of topics, “issues such as racial tension, struggles, political views, relationships, sex, and so forth.” There’s also an added element to the show as LuvJonz notes “what makes it interesting is that it’s in spoken word format, not just strictly poetry. There are little scripts here and there which segue into the poems.”

Although he’s a lifelong hip-hop head, LuvJonz chose poetry over rapping due to the added freedoms it affords him as a writer. “With rap you’re kind of limited sometimes,” he explains, “with poetry, with that freestyle kind of vibe, you can just go on from the top of the head and there are no boundaries, it’s just releasing stuff on that paper and keeping on going until you’re done.” Once he’s done releasing onto that paper LuvJonz hopes he’s made a point and made it clearly. “I’m trying to make a change,” he says “to motivate and educate folks, especially with Asian history because there’s not too much that’s being explained within the school system.”

When people see LuvJonz perform his poetry it generates a healthy amount of applause. When those same people see him perform as a DJ they applaud, as well, but many do it with a look of shock on their face. “When they see me up there rockin the ones and twos it’s like ‘oh shit, I can’t believe this Asian dude knows our music!’” Because of this, LuvJonz has realized how important his role is when he plays out. “As a DJ,” he explains, “I’m able to draw that cultural connection and overcome certain barriers.”

LuvJonz hopes he can continue to break barriers in an even bigger way with his company, LuvJonz Entertainment (luvjonz.com), which is a collaborative effort involving LuvJonz and his friends Travis Bivans, Mitchel Noel, Ajani Housen and Bridgeport emcee Chase Davis. The goal, according to LuvJonz, is to “diversify the game.” “I felt there was a need for an outlet to really try to do something new, to provide some kind of platform for people to explore their inner thoughts and release themselves.” LuvJonz hopes to do this through coordinating events such as fashion shows, talent shows, parties and showcases, all with the main focus of “providing some kind of eclectic avenues for people to really express themselves through art.”

Whether it’s putting together an event, DJing a set, jumping on a stage to recite a poem, or getting a new tattoo, hip-hop has always been at the backbone of it all for LuvJonz. “Hip-hop has no boundaries,” he states “it has no color, so me being born into the hip-hop generation, I’m just trying to change the game, have a good time, share my feelings and share my love for the art of self-expression in any way I can.”

Many in the area are connecting with Bridgeport native and already have quite the love jones for his work.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 10:23 AM  
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