Joshua and I are talking in the lunchroom of Innovations High School, the school he graduated from a few months ago. A ring of lockers lines the large room, and everything echoes. The space is dank, but no one seems to find it depressing. When kids come through, cracking jokes, jostling each other, pushing each other into the lockers in jest—it’s hard to hear the together young man with the large square glasses.
He’s talking about his future.
Lately I’ve been making a lot of pop songs. I want to be an artist, a big artist, a mainstream artist. I’m talking to a lot of big people, but we just talking. I’m still local. I got a lotta local fans. Musically, Chicago is known as known as a hater city. They’ll hate on you before they appreciate you, but it’s slowly opening up ‘cause through the recession, people realized, We all in this together right now. Like, the recession broke everybody down. So you got people that are sad, people that are happy, people that just need to be entertained. One thing you’ll always need, you always need business. You always need entertainment, and you always need your hair done, you always need food. Entertainment is something you need, but I also feel like I have something that’s rare. It’s one thing where you find a person that can sing but can’t perform. I feel like I can perform, sing, as well as write my own songs, as well as produce my own music. I’m learning how to engineer right now, so it’s like I’m becoming All-American as far as music, and that’s a rare thing. That’s making my value go up, and I refuse to be a less valuable person. I’m a MVP at what I do.
My little brother, me and him real close. My little brother just turned 18. I talk to my little sister a little bit, but me and her got more close this year ‘cause this is her first year in high school. I try to keep in touch with my little brother ‘cause he remind me of me so much. Physically, he looks like me and does certain things that I do. We just encourage each other.
One thing I always tell my brother is, Manhood is not something you’re born into; it’s something you make. I say that because everybody uses that I don’t have a father as an excuse. My father—you know, he just wasn’t in our lives. He was physically there, but as far as being at baseball games and all that, he wasn’t there. So we always kinda say we had no father. But you can’t use that as an excuse, OK? So your father, he not there for you, or you feel like he not there for you? You make sure when you have your son you be there for him. You evolve. Manhood is an evolvement from a boy into a man and there’s a maturity level that has to be brought with it.
My dad was just in and out. He was always in and out. He never stayed put. He and my mom separated early, so he was never officially in our life for a long time until we got older. Now, me and my father are real close.
Some boys come into the lunchroom, where we’re having our conversation. They start chiding Joshua, teasing him about needing to come back to school. He comes to visit fairly often.
I used to play basketball with them I was on the basketball team. I was the star player [laughs]. Oh no, they showing me love, they showing me love … .
Do you want to have kids of your own some day?
Yeah, I want to have at least three, I think probably two boys and a girl, but I want to have a girl last. But I’m not trying to rush.
You’re pretty happy where you are?
Yeah. I like it here. If you feel like you belong, like you’re a city person, I recommend places like Chicago, New York and stuff like that because you stay busy out here. Your survival skills get stronger, you know what I’m saying? People nice out here but at the same time they not gonna cut you no slack just because.
This one guy I saw was a prime example. Guy was homeless and he was like, You should give me some money, I’m homeless. He told this girl, You should give me some money, I’m homeless. She was like, So is the other four people that’s around you, so should I give all of them money? It may seem mean but at the same time, she right. It’s like an instinct should click on when you’re in Chicago, like you should get on your job, you should be doing what you’re supposed to do.
The city is more involved so you should be more alert. I’ve always said Chicago is a good place but you gonna have crime. Crime is everywhere, like somebody’s getting killed in Japan right now as me and you are speaking. Crime is something we can’t stop. We can slow it down but we can’t stop it, so you should be more on top of your game, know your surroundings, know what you’re capable of, find your strengths and make your weaknesses your strengths.
This sounds cheesy but people make crime because—it took that one person to kill somebody to start this whole thing, everything. Everything the first man do would trend off to the next, so somebody killed somebody… . Everybody else thought it was another person that kill somebody, then somebody find out that person kill somebody, then that person come and kill somebody. For example, say I’m in a gang and I shoot somebody in another gang. The common thing for the other gang to do is to retaliate, and try to get back their meat. After they get back their meat, or kill somebody else in my gang, then retaliation keeps going on. It’s an ongoing thing. It never ends. I hope that it slows down, I hope and pray that it slows down, but it’s something that’s gonna be here.