People have asked me where I get my determination from. Why I always push myself as well as those that I know that I feel have gifts and could be doing better, doing more. It would be poetic to say that i was raised like this or that this sense of self was programed into my dna. While the latter may be somewhat true the gist of it is determination is my life support.
Everyones life is has its trials. Mine is no different. Since mine is mine it is my struggle that is different from everyone else. My life hasn't been easy. Nothing has been comfortable. Nothing has been easy. No silver spoons here. Many physical disabilities, civil injustices and poverty have changed my life which have made life and prosperity difficult. It has hindered my ability to provide for myself as well as my family. I live with that burden. As it stands it is my legacy. However, ever since I was young I always wanted and chased more. Believing that I deserve it as long as I work for it. My work ethic is an exercise of desperation. A desperation that has manifested itself in duality. Who I am and what I have to do.
15 was a transformative age for me. At 15 I found out I have chronic back problems that I would have for life if I didn't have surgery. I was also diagnosed with being manic depressive. I also joined a gang and started a part time life of being involved in illicit activities. Knowing this and living life until this point changed. I had always been head strong, always been entrepreneurial, but now I felt like I had to fight. Fight myself. I was raised in an era and, quite frankly an area, where you did not seek help with problems. This was a sign of weakness. My therapy had to be resolved by some other means. I found solace with “being the man”. I had to prop myself up to deal with synapsis in my mind instantly telling me I am nothing. I had to fight this with success and the way to do such was through hard work and determination. I had no idea that what was ahead of me were a series of life changing events and injustices that would test the thesis I was writing for my life.
Between the ages of about 16 and about 26 this determination would be not only tested but almost destroyed. I became a father, twice. I was arrested for a crime that I shouldn't have been, lied on in court, paid lawyers, plead down to a misdemeanor and was denied employment after finding out that the misdemeanor I accepted was filed by the state as a felony. A denial that would follow me for the next 20 years including today even though such was deemed unconstitutional. I was shot at more than 15 times, I had 2 contracts put out on my life. Strong arm robbed 3 times. Held shaky relationships with both family and significant others. Battled with continued health problems. Was under investigation by various law enforcement agencies. Dropped out of college. Fought literally and figuratively racism. Harassed by the police being pulled over more that 200 times as well as being taken into alleys and beat up by the boys and blue on numerous occasions. All this while trying to maintain my sanity as well as be a father and a role model for the 2 most important people in my life and chasing the dream I had at age 4 sitting on the edge of my parents bed, watching Dynasty, striving for the life I saw on tv that was so different from the life I saw outside my window. I was determined to fight. Fight for myself. Fight for my children. Fight what stood in front of me. Fight myself. Fight. Good was never good enough because I had to cover so much ground to make up for the bad. Everything had to be better. The biggest competitor I faced was myself because no matter what I was going through I had to get myself to safe ground.
So…fast forward, what the hell do I do now. Im physically and mentally challenged, Im a felon, I cant get a regular 9-5, tired of looking over my shoulder street hustling, it will take a ridiculous amount of money to clear my name, have to and cant take care of my obligations like providing for my life as well as the lives of my children, have a deep seated desire for financial security, am entrepreneurial but have no seed money, been forced to put many of my life goals on hold, feel isolated and betrayed by some including myself. How the hell does one make sense of all this. For me…it ended up taking all the qualities I have established for myself, everything I have been through, what it is I have learned from a technical standpoint and what I am passionate about and transforming such into one thing. That one thing ended up being a life long love, the arts.
I always drew as a kid, I always loved music…any music [except country, blues and reggae]. I decided to do what I could to turn my love into a business. I had tried rapping and was actually exceptional at it. Especially free styling off the top of the head. However, when younger my closest circle discouraged me instead of encouraging me at a fragile time in my life which lead me to giving it up. I did some spoken word poetry and was able to express myself in front of 10s to 100s of people on stage. I still loved music and became friends with great musicians and djs and, through my company, Guilt Trip Entertainment [ ironic, I know] was able to give them a platform in order to express themselves and their love, educate and entertain people as well as do something that I wanted to entertain myself and make money from. Also…Since I was the one doing all of this I could once again, by my own standards, be the man. Selfish selflessness.
As my popularity grew and outward as well as inward influence increased I realized I was helping people. I was allowing people to have a platform for them to be themselves as well as educate others. Make things better. If good was good I had a system where I could make things great. This also meant challenge. Challenging myself to do this for more people, Challenging those that I brought in to do better than they had done prior. I could right some of the wrongs that had been done to me and make people feel better and in turn they would do for me and help me better my situation. I was resurrecting my love and skills in the visual arts and could not only give those that had lack of opportunities to exhibit their work the chance but I could have them do the work live in front of people which would educate them to what a artist goes through in order to create. * Side note, in Chicago, I was the first person to organize a weekly live painting event for crowds 12 years ago…yes I am standing on it and regaining the credit I should have been given, Collective Reasoning…look it up, ask somebody. * Continuing, I could express my artistic abilities as well. Expressing myself, giving opportunity to others, being in the spotlight, pushing myself, learning more, pushing others. It all became a became a drug. It became the narcotic that began to heal the ailments of my past. Providing a platform and standing on this platform as well became my life mission. Selfish selflessness, doing something that benefits me but benefits others at the same time because the intentions are pure. I figured it out, finally. Or so I thought.
The funny thing about doing for others…many times they don't do for you in return. People, not all but, want to be entertained without engaging. They want to be given opportunities without creating them for others let alone those that have done for them. They want support but don't give it. They want you to spend on them but don't spend on you. They want you to be invested in them but not return the favor. Now, the average person would give up and say forget them. Im not getting anything out of this so I give up. There was only one problem about this train of thought. I was determined. I was determined to set myself different than the norm. I was determined to make a difference. I was determined to continue to do for you and figured that my over-giving would elicit giving. I drove myself drunk with this mission. The fact that others would ascend to levels on my back and once they got there they would act like I never existed infuriated me. The manic depressive me started to show face once again after years of keeping him under wraps. Thoughts came in. Self inflicted attempts on my life re-manifested. I say re-because it has always been a constant strain in my DNA. In total, 13 attempts. Many have tried to take my life, I joined the club, all of us failed. Why, determination.
I will be greater. I will have influence, I will make a difference, I will do everything I can to help people not make the same mistakes I did, I will be a better man, I will be a better father, I will be a great artist, If you don't want to give me the opportunity I am going to split my time between making my own opportunities and grabbing you by the neck and choking opportunity out of you until you are blue in the face. I haven't gone through all this shit not to get it. I haven't had kids to show them anything less. My people, I am building an army and we will take your consciousness to make a better world. I am going to make the youth see the failures that are trying to invite them in and teach them how to reject them. I am going to build a legacy. A Dynasty that may never play out on television but will play in the hearts and minds of those that I touch. And If I know you, care for you, love you, I am going to teach and pull out of you the same thing because this is a big world and I cant do it all by myself. I am going to push you. I am going to encourage you to do greater, I am going to mentor you to achievement. I am going to be there for you even if you haven't been there for me. DAMMIT WHY? Because if I don't I don't have reason to be here.
Look, no matter what I have done my life has been fucked up and hasn't gotten much better. Im talented but don't get the support I need to get to the next level. Still poor, Still manic. Still fight life, for and against it. Still haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But I am still determined. Maybe because I have been for so long I don't know any other way to be but I still am. If I can GIVE determination, through thoughts, words and actions I have given some validity to my life. If me and my art is the tool to give someone some hope in what they want to achieve, so be it. If the same is the reason some kid doesn't go down my early life path and get themselves locked up or killed, so be it. If my struggle creates the next “ big thing” because I inspired them, so be it. If people look at my work and say “ I don't understand, he’s black but his work isn't about black stuff” and then they realize that black people have so much more to say than “ black stuff” so be it. If my determination is planted into the minds of my son and daughter, the core principals, and they are able to achieve what they father never could get right…well, thats everything.
People have said I am an elitist, pompous, arrogant, materialistic, self centered, etc. Others have said I am thoughtful, philanthropic, gifted, insightful, inspirational, talented. You're both right. And all these traits can be quantified into one word. Determined. Determination is the IV. It is the life support that keeps me living. Enough will never be enough for me, be that in myself or in others. That is why I am hard on myself, hard on others, hard on my city, hard on anyone that is complacent. I am complacencies number one enemy. I am not going to sugar coat it. Not going to coddle you. I am going to bring out the best in you because it is the way for me to bring out the best in myself. Selfish selflessness.
Many have heard how I deem myself and my mission but for those that haven't I will give my summation. Now… more than ever, the majority of people are sheep. They follow. It is my life mission to give them something to follow. People are also wolves, these people feed off of the sheep. It is my life mission for those that are detrimental fall to the wolves so that the remaining can prosper. Many ideologies can be read into this but now is not the time to go into what my utopitarian vision is. Just know, I am determined to fulfill my mission, my charter…
I train the wolves when I am not saving the sheep.