Hammad is a spoken-word artist whose breakout moment came in 2002 on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on HBO. Simmons, astonished by her poem "First Writing Since," about her reaction to 9/11, signed her to be a performer and consultant. She appeared both in the stage show and in the HBO version. Her startling, unforgettable poem "Not Your Erotic, Not Your Exotic," addresses a person who fantasizes about her and her difference, unable to see her as a human being: