I was that kid. The one you have cold sweats about at 2am in the morning. The one who spends their time acting the clown for class approval and just doesn’t care how much they get sent to see The Head.
"The one you know has potential – if only you knew how to harness it."
I grew up in 1980s Brooklyn. Raised by a single mother working all the shifts she could. Surrounded by drug and gun crime every which way I looked.
So how did I swerve the arm of the US law and end up talking to you today?
I attribute a lot of that to my mother. She threw me into every extra-curricular activity under the New York City sun. How could I get into trouble if I had no time to get into trouble?
Through those clubs, I developed a passion for sports. And music. And reading
I read. And read. And read. I started writing lyrics at age 11. And would spit bars to entertain my friends. (Often getting myself into trouble that way instead!)
As an only child, she said I needed to spend more time around people and learn them. People and my ability to read them, understand them, and engage them would be my ticket out of the ‘hood.
I remember her words to me:
‘Once you know how people are, it’s up to you to work with them.’
That was an eye-opener.
And it was exactly what my most memorable teachers did. They knew how to tap into my hungry and creative mind and get the best out of me. They didn’t patronise me. They didn’t treat me as a kid.
They were honest. They talked to me as an adult – what I call real talk.
Those after-school clubs got me a scholarship to a good school. Which got me a scholarship to a good university.
And it blew my mind.
At university, I studied International Politics and History followed by a MA in Community Organising. I then became a teacher in a NYC public high school and coached two school basketball teams through to city playoffs – an achievement you can probably tell I’m particularly proud of!
At the same time, I wrote and recorded my own music. In 2000, I left the USA and spent five years touring Europe and the UK, supporting acts such as Rodney P, Del la Soul and Burning Spear.
On moving to London in 2005, I knew I wanted to help other young people attain the same opportunities I’d had. The only way to do that was to talk to them how they needed to be talked to.
Tell them what they need to hear in the way they need to hear it.