Novelist, playwright, poet, actor, and outspoken activist Benjamin Zephaniah was born on April 15, 1958, and spent his early life growing up in both Jamaica and Birmingham, England.
Though he had been writing poems his entire life, he was also dyslexic, and he quit his formal schooling as a young teenager. In 1979 Zephaniah moved to London and released his first book of poetry, Pen Rhythm, the next year. In 1983 his debut album, Rasta, was released, followed by 1984's Us an Dem, 1995's Back to Roots, and 1996's Belly of de Beast. A prolific writer, Zephaniah was also the recipient of honorary doctorates from numerous universities in England, a Writer in Residence at the University of Cambridge, and on the shortlist for the 2005 British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year. In 2003 he refused a nomination for the prestigious Order of the British Empire, sending a letter to the Guardian that explained his reasons for declining the award. In 2006, Zephaniah released Naked, an album of his poetry performed over dub and trip-hop beats. ~ Marisa Brown, Rovi