Those of you who know me, know family is really important to me. My journey begins in Toronto. I was born in North York and moved to a north Ectobicoke neighborhood called Rexdale when I was 8. Rexdale had a reputation for gang activities, gun violence and drug trafficking. I want to offer you another perspective.
I went to a school called elmbank, a predominantly black school with a predominantly white staff. The same lack of representation was present in the law-enforcement which heavily police the community. This isn't just a ratio it mean something. It mean something when you're unable to see yourself in a positions of prestige. It means something when you don't see yourself in the children whose future you shaping. It means something when you're endowed with the responsibility to serve and protect a community that doesn't look like your community.
I can tell you from experience. My grade 7 teacher laughed at me when I said I wanted to be an engineer, in front of the class he asked me 'Do you even know what an engineer is'. We were told that we didn't have a future. I even remember the days when I could hear the kindergarten teacher yelling at a toddler to shut up. School wasn't only abusive and it's day-to-day actions but also in its policies. At the time the Toronto District school Board was being sued by several international human rights organizations for racist policies largely effecting black students but that's a story for next time…
Moments like being sent to the Office for not having a pencil or being sent to the office for whispering a response to a classmate had an effect on me. It made me want to be small, invisible, quiet; and that's what I tried to do every time I enter the school. That's one of the things oppression does, it takes away your voice.
Thank god for family. We are such a large group that I was able to use that as a small but important safe space. Where I could realize who I was and not carry the feelings of worthlessness being given to me by the school and other institutions. That's why they're so important to me.
Music with another safe place for me. Been quiet was exhausting… Back in the Elmbank days I was usually the first in my family to come home from school. I would burst in the house and immediately start yelling NWA lyrics at the top of my lungs.
At the time I was just as shocked and confused as you probably are right now. I realize now it was therapy.
As I grew older and began to like rap music more and more I started to write my own lyrics. And that's what's responsible for where I am today. Both in terms of being in University and being alive. I saw the mistreatment we received from Elmbank and the world break self-esteem's and push some of my peers away from the classroom and closer towards gangs, guns and drugs; a lifestyle that mainstream media gave them full representation in. I saw that claim lives.
Music saved mine. In my lyrics I was able to create a world where I was invincible. I had all these amazing qualities that no one could match and I use them to achieve anything. I was my own superhero. I was using all the superhuman abilities to reflect on the problems I was experiencing and defeat them. I was a king, I was at god, I wasn't a victim, I was in control. I kept reciting that to myself and that's how the person I am today was created.
I have rap to thank for that. Both indulging in it and producing it. However, both of those activities were incredibly difficult for me. Intellectual-property rights made legally owning music completely out of reach for me being a poor kid from Rexdale. The same financial barriers made it impossible for me to produce my songs and after writing consistently for years, as far back as 10 and still now, I was only able to produce this one song when I was 16.
That's how LOUD was born. From remembering how music was able to save my life. I wanted to create a project that would make that accessible to people experiencing the same thing I experienced, now. I wanted to be able to give them access to music and the opportunity to heal through it. That meant I had to find a way to break down the barriers both to listening to music and producing it. Being aware of the fact that black music in the United States alone is an estimated $1 trillion Industry I also wanted to create LOUD in a way that would also allow the black community to benefit from the art it creates.
When LOUD becomes everything I envision it to be. It will be a place where people with marginalized experiences are able to be fucking LOUD.