I can look back as early as maybe five years old knowing that I was special, knowing that I had a purpose and not knowing exactly what it was, but knowing that I was different. I think as you get older and you get around people who may not have the same resources and the opportunities that you have, it makes you aware of what you do have. So I think that mentality subconsciously and in hindsight, being aware of these things is what caused me to try to just fit in, not being confident and living in my purpose.
My life, I was doing stuff nobody really was doing in my neighborhood, (getting involved? Getting a job?) going to DC for college, these are things that people didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to do so I did feel guilty for the longest of that. And that caused me to kinda be in the background in a sense and not want to be pushed to the forefront.
Honestly, being a diamond in the rough who was overlooked, that’s the story of my life for the longest. And that’s what Neighborhood Diamonds is all about and how I try to uplift and encourage other diamonds in the rough. I think the most obvious example for myself would be my trajectory in basketball. I played basketball since the age of 6 up until maybe college. I had the dream of being an NBA player. A lot of people from the inner city grow up having that dream. So middle school, I played and was having confidence. I performed well and thought I had a bright future.
But when I got to high school, that’s when my confidence was really challenged a lot. I got hurt, I had a season-ending knee injury my freshman year, so I was out the whole freshman year. It took me sophomore year to really get back into the swing of things. Junior year came and I still had that feeling of greatness inside of me, but for the longest, I was scared and that’s why I never made it to my full potential in basketball.
I was scared of succeeding more than anything, scared of really giving my all to something and seeing where it takes me. That was the genesis of my having to find my confidence. It started with basketball in the sense of knowing any time that I really shined my light for the world to see and really went all out, it always returned in my favor. But I was a shy and reserved kid, so it took a lot to bring that side out of me. I would say it started with basketball and then it kinda followed and carried into me going to college and me figuring out that basketball wasn’t my end all be all.
So that fear kind of transitioned over into the music. And that was a work in progress of years of not fully being confident in my work, but then taking that next step and taking it serious. And then I saw again, the change that came from me making the decision to really shine my light for the world to see and be confident in who I am and what I bring to the table and it produced good results for me.
The confidence all started in basketball because that was what influenced most of my life up until my adult life is being a part of something, persevering, committing myself, holding myself accountable, being conscious of what I bring to the table and the work that I put in. So all those things I try to transfer over into the music. Once I took that next step and was sure of who I was and what I brought to the table, that’s when everything changed in a great way for me.
The hard work that I put in the music and basketball and just so many life obstacles that came along the way helped me gain my confidence. Seeing through and getting to the other side of whatever hardship I’ve faced helped me understand that certain things needed to happen in order for me to be the person I am today. I contribute all of that together when I refer to the hustle in my music. Having that hustle, that ability to, no matter what, push past my limit and get to the other side of whether it’s fear, doubt, insecurity and not let that define who I am is really what makes me special and what makes me a neighborhood diamond.
Losing my uncle and my cousin, those are the two closest deaths that I had really in life and they both happened to me as an adult. Seeing both of them die suddenly, iit made me realize that we’re all gonna die someday. Tomorrow is never promised, so if that’s the case, then I should be doing all that I can to make sure that my legacy lasts forever. So by upholding their legacy, I’m in a way upholding my own, but also, my uncle was my introduction to music in general. So to still be doing music almost 20 years after he inspired me, he’s that angel that’s watching me and following me. That’s what’s continuing to keep me motivated to be able to push to think about what I’m creating now. If he was here, he would say how he would appreciate the music.
In terms of our cousin’s death, man, that’s still tough to deal with because the path that he was on was a destructive path for the majority of his life there was nothing that I could personally do to help him. There was a time towards the end of his life I distanced myself emotionally from it just because I couldn’t no longer give energy to it. It was counteractive to where I was going. But still, him passing away and so many people showing so much love and genuine love and appreciation for him makes me want to jump on his legacy too. Even in the worst times, he was always about going hard and putting on for your family, for your city and doing it in an authentic way. So I’m doing that by staying true to who I am and being a leader and not a follower and making art that I wanna make and not worrying about what’s the trend and not worrying about what’s hot and what everybody else is doing, but staying in my lane and true to who I am as an artist and an individual.
So I think basketball and music, the intersectionality of both of those is what really got me to this point now. I really can’t say a time that I ever wanted to give up. I’ve obviously had times where it’s like, “This is a lot.” But I think where I come from and my family and my city and just being near situations where I had no choice but to use my mental toughness and emotional intelligence to push through, I couldn’t rely on anything else but that. I saw the benefits of working towards something and then seeing it through and seeing it turn out better than you expected time and time and time again. So I think that’s what kinda always allowed me to continue to persevere despite what obstacle was thrown my way because I know I’m doing something bigger than me. I’m a vessel and a source of light and hope and inspiration to so many others. That’s what keeps me going.
Neighborhood Diamonds is about a worldwide community highlighting and shedding light on people who are letting their light shine for the world to see that may not get their proper recognition. They might not get their proper exposure because of the way society is set up now where everybody goes after stuff that’s click-bait, stuff that’s more trendy as opposed to stuff that’s long lasting. It’s about the whole ideology of shedding light and representing those who are diamonds in the rough, always shining, always doing their work no matter who is or isn’t looking. It’s about shedding light on those people, speaking to those people directly, adding value to them and letting them know their value is being seen and heard in whatever medium or career path they choose. Being diamonds in the rough, grinding in our purpose is a distinguishing quality that connects all of us.
Building this platform is everything because I know that I’m operating in my purpose and the only sure fire way to really understand that and realize that is by seeing so many people are obviously telling me that I’m doing a good job, but also seeing how other people gravitate towards what I do on a spiritual level. Not just on a trendy, oh he’s popping, or whatever, so hop on the bandwagon. Actually on a spiritual level connecting with the ideals and the principles that I put forth, it gives me a sense of affirmation and confirmation that I’m on the right path. That’s enough for me.
Listen to "Neighborhood Diamonds" below.