28 Days of Black Movies: I think it’s time we all acknowledge that ‘Love Jones’ signature poem, ‘Brother to the Night (A Blues for Nina)’ is terrible

OPINION: Darius Lovehall’s famous poem that set late ’90s Black college campuses and poetry nights ablaze is kind of not good.

"Love Jones" theGrio
Nia Long and Larenz Tate in "Love Jones." (New Line)

Oh, stop, you know it’s true. But let me make the case. Buckle up, Buttercup.

I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the movie Love Jones. I can acknowledge that the 1997 romantic comedy—written and directed by Theodore Witcher—is an undeniable classic. In fact, I think it’s required viewing if you’re into Black cinema even a little bit. It gave us iconic Black characters and archetypes in Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) and Nina Mosley (Nia Long). It gave us the Wild Hare and the dream night for young Black professionals everywhere. I’m almost convinced that Ray J’s video for “One Wish” was shot partially in the rain because of this movie; I have literally no proof of this whatsoever, by the way. It gave us quotables for days; I still say, “let me break it down so that it can be forever and consistently broke,” and “that’s better than an MJ comeback,” among others.

It also provided a marker for women to discern whether or not the men they may have smashed were into them: a cheese omelet the morning after. And in turn, it gave men who didn’t know what to do the morning after something to do to show that they were still interested. It really gave young Black professionals a lot, if you think about it. 

At the same time, I find the film supremely pretentious though that doesn’t really bother me like it did when I was also supremely pretentious. It is heavy on toxicity—I’m talking about Nina, who, with an assist from her horrible friend Josie (Lisa Nicole Carson), was playing more games than Parker Brothers, but that’s another talk show; I never really believed Hollywood (Bill Bellamy) as a part of that friend group (nobody seemed to actually like him and he was a supreme hater; how did he last in that group?); and most importantly, it put bad poetry right into the daily lived experiences of Reading Black America for, like, a decade. And one particular poem is to blame since I don’t actually remember Nina’s poem that well—a shame considering I literally just watched Love Jones last night. 

You know the poem; it’s the classic, “Brother to the Night (A Blues for Nina)” or as I like to call it: “O-Dog took up poetry in prison, got out on a technicality and moved to Chicago to reinvent himself after reading all of the books jam.” 

Y’all, this poem is terrible. It really is. I’m sure you know this, but I believe some of you who don’t think it is are still watching with your Black Romantic Comedy Eyes (and Ears). You see Darius Lovehall up there on stage looking all calm, cool and collected. You hear the upright bass and saxophone accompaniment and hear the lines “I’m the blues in your left thigh trying to become the funk in your right”—aight, that line is fire—and “come on, slim, f—k your man, I ain’t worried about him,” which shouldn’t be as popular, but everybody loves some solid cheating language; the entire R&B industry is propped up on cheating. 

But let’s break down this poem so it can be forever and consistently broke. 

Also, I have to point something out here as somebody who has both written and performed poetry: You can make even the worst poem sound good with a solid performance. Darius Lovehall? 10/10 on performance. To the poem:

Say baby, can I be your slave?

I’ve got to admit girl, you’re the shit girl

And I am digging you like a grave

Can you imagine running up on a woman on the street and opening up your holler with this? Of course not. This is why cell phones can call 911 immediately. Meanwhile, when he said, “can I be your slave,” women in the background were throwing all kinds of “whew” and “yassss” in the background. The venue, as always, is important. These are not bars, though.

Now do they call you daughter to the Spinning Pulsar

Or maybe Queen of 10,000 Moons, Sister to the distant yet

Rising star

Is your name Yemaya? Oh hell nah, it’s got to be Oshun

I happen to love these bars here because I love it when you say things in poems that folks may or may not understand, but because it’s a poem, they pretend like they both get it AND that it’s deep. For instance, “Queen of 10,000 Moons” is an “urban romance novel,” but it sounds like a deeply spiritual state. But everything is what you can sell. I’m fine so far. 

Ooh, is that a smile me put on your face, child?

Wide as a field of jasmine and clover

Talk that talk, honey, walk that walk money

High on legs that’ll spite Jehovah

He performed the shit out of these bars. Also, the combo of deep-poet signifiers with standard-issue Black life talk is good. 

Who am I? It’s not important

But they call me brother to the night

And right now, I am the blues in your left thigh

Trying to become the funk in your right

Who am I? I’ll be whoever you say

Again, I’m fine with this collection of bars. It sounds dope even, and it uses music to tell the story, and Black folks, we love music.

But right now, I’m the sight-raped hunter

Blindly pursuing you as my prey

And I just want to give you injections of

Sublime erections and get you to dance to my rhythm

And here is where it falls apart for me, from here to the end, really. I HATE it when folks just throw shit into things to show they have a thesaurus handy. Also, what the *CENSORED* is sight-raped? What does that EVEN mean? I get it; you can’t see, but sight-raped???? That seems…extreme, no? “Injections of erections” is some open mic poetry gold right there. Half of the poets at poetry nights who have to sign up find some way to wordplay the hell out of sex. It’s never that good to me but guaranteed to get the most reactions since folks love hearing open mic-night poets talk good, awe-inspiring sex. In fact, if you took sex off the list of things you could write a poem about, I think a lot of spoken word I heard in the ’90s would have disappeared. Then again, if you view sex as poetry (it can be), then perhaps spoken word was made for sex talk. Either way, not bars.

Make you dream archetypes

Of black angels in flight

Upon wings of distorted, contorted metaphoric jism

Come on, slim, f—k your man, I ain’t worried about him

Yeah, OK. This is just the part with words that rhyme. I’m actually annoyed when I watch this and hear all of this.

It’s you who I want to step to my scene

Cause rather than deal with the fallacy

Of this dry-ass reality

Can I tell you how much I hate the term “fallacy of reality,” whether it is dry, wet, spry, left, fry, cleft; no matter what the reality is, I HATE IT WHEN YOU GET FALLACY OF REALITY BARS. In fact, I hate it so much that any poem with those words is immediately being poo-poo’d by me. See “Brother to the Night (A Blues for Nina).” Hate hate hate them.

I’d rather dance and romance your sweet ass in a wet dream

Who am I? Well, they all call me

Brother to the night, and right now, I am

The blues in your left thigh, trying to become the funk in your right

Aight, aight….back to the jams. 

So here’s the poem in a nutshell: I’m a deep yet shallow man who has seen a book title or two and heard Black folks talk about spiritual things who maybe can’t see you, but I’m digging you, boo, and I’m trynna smash, but if I can’t do that because reality isn’t real, a wet dream will do. It’s 1997, so there are no camera phones, so I will do my best to remember you. Funk and blues! 

I hate this poem, and it is terrible. But shouts out to Love Jones for being one of the most culturally relevant movies of all time and ensuring that I hear interpretations and attempts at proxies of that poem for years at the open mic poetry night. That is what we call inspiration, and that reality isn’t a fallacy. Or dry. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!