Black Jewelz…..His craft….His Life
Normally one hears the stories about an up and coming rapper, how they have street cred, discovered by an already established artist in the game, or even an actor or ball player trying their hand, thinking they too have “bars.”
But this is a story that paints a different picture. It speaks of an artist who began composing lyrics at about 11-12 years of age. Who would have lunch money, but skip eating lunch to save up the couple dollars to buy the next rap CD he wanted. Whose lack of a steady, positive influence in his life yielded rappers becoming his role models and mentors. Whose lack of a steady, positive influence in his life yielded rappers becoming his role models and mentors. From the depths of street life to open mics, to building a makeshift studio in his closet with the bare essentials to hone his sound. The result of his sacrifice and study of the craft, he was the recipient of the 2014 International Music Entertainment Association (IMEA) award for hip-hop rap album of the year for “Black Market.” During our interview, he spoke with an experienced vision like those musicians he’s watched over the years…..
CW: Reading up on you, one thing that really grabbed me was that you write poetry. Can you share with our readers about that part of you? I started writing poetry because of Tupac. At first I never knew he wrote poetry, when I found out it inspired me to try to write poetry myself. I was around 14 years old; I never thought I’d actually ever be considered “a poet.” Writing poetry seemed like something completely farfetched and intangible for a kid like me. Surprisingly, when I tried it, it just kind of flowed naturally. It became a new habit and method to express myself as a kid. I never stopped and over the years have gained a reputation for having an arsenal of poetry at hand. I still write poetry; most of the poems I’ve written have never been heard or even seen. And might never be, until I’m gone.
CW: Many of the artists that are out talk about a street life, yet yours wasn’t just about talk. How has that season in your life affected you? The streets was basically the only place I ended up being able to turn to as a kid. I was always an outcast, always rejected and put down; never really fit in like I’d wished. And I hated being at my place of residence. The streets became the only place I had to go, & the first place I ever felt really welcome. Mix that with the “cool” factor reinforced by Hip-hop culture (which basically says when you’re from the streets you’re officially cool) and it just became my life, who I was. I am the streets. I lived the street life & all that came with it. I literally lived in the streets. Like, literally. Not like people who talk about running the streets because they drive through streets to go clubbing or get some drugs from my people … the first time (of countless many) that I slept outside (all alone) I was 15–and there were piles of snow outside. That’s 100 facts. And I don’t find it to be anything to brag about. At all. It’s not cool, like people try to make it sound. I’ve seen some grimy stuff, I’ve seen crimes that never made the news. I’ve seen friends become enemies out to kill you, and I’ve seen friends disappear into the afterlife. I am the streets, and I’ll never abandon the streets. The gutter. I rap for the streets; to uplift. Rappers act like rapping for the streets means reinforcing/bragging about the nonsense that keeps people ignorant and destroys communities–such as guns, drug-dealing, reckless sexual behavior, disrespecting women, etc.–NO. That’s not rapping for the streets, that’s rapping for the beast AKA the prison system. That’s not helping anyone in the streets! That’s only killing them! I don’t care what anyone says, I rap for the streets. If I’m talking knowledge, it’s for the streets. If I’m spitting raw, if I’m spitting something abstract or futuristic–it’s for the streets. I want kids to see that you can rise up not only from that environment but, more importantly, from the mentality of the streets. No matter how far I go or how my style progresses, I rap for God and the streets. Period.
CW: The fact that you didn’t let that setback deter you from graduating high school, is a testament to your tenacity. You have a true “no quit attitude deep within.”True indeed, thank you. I owe that all to God. I actually didn’t care about school at the time, I was always getting in trouble. Always. Somehow I made it to senior year, then I got arrested in school during the second week and was expelled. Shortly after that I became a true Christian and everything changed. I found hope. When I was out living that life it was because I was hopeless & felt completely worthless. Now I gained hope–I found purpose. God gave me motivation to be much more than I was at the time. So I graduated high school then a few years later graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences. I went from being hopeless to now being relentless.
CW: How did it feel, when you stepped on stage, at the Apollo? Your first thoughts? My first thoughts were, “I don’t care what they say, I ain’t rubbin’ that crusty old tree stump.” LOL, and I didn’t … the second time I did that though, they started booing just because of that but the host chilled them out then I started spitting, ha. I was definitely honored to be there each time.
CW: Well since then, you’ve been everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Yeah, I’ve definitely been getting around, thanks to Jeremiah’s Kall Productions. I’m trying to get my voice heard and face seen at as many places as possible.
CW: It’s said that your skill is fire with acapella flow, which is apparent in The illeat, Real Rapp, and Murda Ink. Where does it come from? What does Black Jewelz tap into to bring that out? That comes from being broke, haha. I didn’t used to have any recording equipment whatsoever or any access to a studio. I didn’t have a laptop, or even a fancy iPhone with apps that make beats or record. All I had was ambition and lyrical ammunition. So I would just write bars and freestyle all day, and I eventually started hitting up open mics. Then I began writing what I called “lyrical compositions”–not exactly spoken word poetry and not exactly a 16-bar rap. It was like a hybrid of the 2. They weren’t just “poetic raps” because there was usually a specific theme or concept at the core of each one. I would also still write straight up raw ill raps but because I was now performing them I constructed them in a way that was more suited for that purpose. When you just write spontaneous bars, it doesn’t necessarily need to have, like, a definitive opening or closing line. The last bar is just the last bar. These joints were now actual compositions with a kind of beginning-middle-end structure. They had a mental flow as well as a verbal flow. This greatly advanced my style and skills without me even knowing it. And, obviously, I had to memorize them all so I was always ready at any given moment to unleash some lyrics that are meant for a cappella performance. As opposed to a rap that only sounds right with the corresponding beat behind it. So I kind of became known for this sort of unique style and delivery. The crazy thing is, like I said at first, it all came because of a major lack. But what often seems like a setback is really a setup to help mold you into who you’re meant to be.
CW: So much is going on in the Hip Hop realm today. Do you see it as a lost art, or just one diverted off its true path? I see it as both, most definitely. It is a lost art because it has diverted off its true path. I don’t think cats really took it seriously when Nas said, “Hip Hop is Dead.” I remember there was a whole bunch of clamor and criticism about him saying that at the time, but it’s true! I’ll go as far as to say this, and I truly believe it: if Hip-Hop continues as it’s going now, there will be no more Hip-Hop in 15-20 years. (Drop the mic. Walk off stage.) I’m sure that sounds absurd and outlandish to Hip-Hop newbies but guess what … It sounded absurd when they said it about Jazz. It sounded outlandish when they said it about Disco. Even Rock & Roll! When I was a kid I always thought rock was “white people music.” That’s what most black people believed. Little did we know that when it first started, Rock & Roll was known as “African Music!” That’s a quote from the Architect of Rock & Roll himself, Little Richard. But when a style of music is robbed of its heart and depth, and gets exploited simply for commercial interests (AKA money) it becomes like any other good or product for sale. Eventually the next hottest product replaces it. Kids today don’t even know what Hip-Hop is. Literally, they’ve never even heard of the original five elements of Hip-Hop. Today, battle rappers don’t (& can’t) even freestyle off the dome anymore! These dudes be in video-recorded interviews reading lyrics off the phone for the cypher segment! A lot of self-proclaimed Hip-Hop/Battle Rap heads today have never even heard of Supernatural. I saw an interview with LL where he said he meets kids who like Hip-Hop & have never heard of LL Cool J … What?! The stuff they call Hip-Hop today is a complete joke. The common “Top 3” rappers today would’ve been just about average in the previous era. The game, at large, is already in a major decline. People don’t care about the real art form anymore, they just want to hear something they can hump somebody in the club to. Or use to make a dance routine in a video–put on some hoodies and feel like they’re down with the streets. Where’s the realness? Where’s the honesty? Where’s the message for the people? … If people don’t wake up and stop being complacent, and just blindly taking in what the media & these labels put out, don’t be surprised if you no longer see or hear “Hip-Hop” in mainstream outlets in the future.
CW: The talent, the ability to stand on what you do, and the drive is there. What’s in store for Black Jewelz? What’s in store for Black Jewelz is just more progress. More exposure, more art, more BARZ! And, most of all, more love to give to the people.
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