Spoken word artist Malik Yusef was born in Chicago, Illinois. He began performing spoken word in open mic venues in the late 1980s, and had his first big break in 1997 when Ted Witcher, director of the film, Love Jones, recognized his poetry and hired him to coach the film\'s lead actor, Larenz Tate. Yusef received a Peabody Award nomination in 2000 and was the Truth Award Spoken Word Artist of the Year from 2001 to 2005. He was also awarded the Best Poet award by the Chicago Music Awards from 2002 to 2008, and won an Independent Film Project Award for Hollywood Jerome. In 2002, Yusef, along with jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips collaborated on the song \'This Is Not A Game,\' which was selected by Michael Jordan to appear on the album that came with the purchase of limited edition Jordan 17 sneakers. That same year, he performed his poem entitled \'I spit...\' on the second season of HBO\'s Russell Simmons\' Def Poetry Jam. In 2003, Yusef released his debut solo album, The Great Chicago Fire -- A Cold Day in Hell, which featured a long list of production credits and guest appearances that included Kanye West, Xtreme, Chantay Savage, Common, and Bigg Nastee, among others. Yusef released the album G.O.O.D. Morning, G.O.O.D. Night in collaboration with Kanye West. West\'s 2006 release, Late Registration, featured Yusef\'s poetry on the song \'Crack Music,\' and was honored with a Grammy Award. His collaborations with West didn’t end there as he has co-written such hits as “Power,” “Love Lockdown,” “Dark Fantasy,” “Heartless,” and “All of the Lights,” which was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2012 Grammy Awards.