Welcome again to the Rule Your Nation Awards. This month we have an all male cast in honor of No Shave November. Yes, they both have facial hair. Let’s get started.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Naugatuck, Connecticut in Lantern Park Condominiums(Also known as LP to Naugy heads- Ed.). A lot of kids running around when I was growing up, so we explored and did stuff that kids do. Never less than six of us.
I understand you played football for Naugatuck. What position did you play?
Starting running back and corner back my freshman, sophomore, and senior years. I didn’t play my junior because I was actually expelled at the end of my sophomore year.
Why were you expelled?
I got expelled for selling weed in school. I got caught smoking in the bathroom and I had more on me.
So where did you go to college?
I went to Western Connecticut State University for three years to be an English teacher. I started as a business major, and I switched to be an English teacher. I’m in school now to be a social worker at Springfield College. I live in Waterbury now, so it’s like an hour away.
I hear you’re a gospel rapper now. Is that true?
Yeah, if that’s what you want to call it.
What would you want to call it?
I just want to be a rapper. I would rather be called a rapper and just let it speak for itself. Ice Cube never called himself a gangster rapper but you knew what he rapped about. I just want people to know that I rap about Christ because that’s what my life is.
What inspired you to rap about Christ?
I always rapped. I remember writing music. Music was a part of my life since I was seven years old, whether I was singing or rapping. I turned my life to Christ when I was 18. One of my boys was joking, “What are you gonna start rapping for Jesus now?” I was like “No, nobody does that.” Three years later, I felt God saying “That’s what you did back then. Now you’re going to use it to glorify me.” After I heard Da Truth’s a capella, I was like, “Okay, so people can rap about Christ and be good.”
What legacy do you want to leave behind when it’s all said and done?
I just want people to know that I wasn’t perfect, and I think it’s foolish to think someone’s perfect, but I tried to better myself and I lived a life according to the Scriptures. Even though I failed sometimes, I got back up and kept kicking.
I just want my newborn daughter Kylie to know her father loved her and was as good a person as he could be.
Any advice for anyone who sees you as a role model?
You cannot do this on your own, but you need to prayerfully seek the team God wants you around because I’ve been a part of a team when in the beginning I thought it was the Lord telling me this was it, and then circumstances told me it clearly wasn’t the Lord. Then I tried to do it myself, and you know that’s not the plan. It’s all about who you’re going to minister with, fellowship with, who the Lord has you around.
What advice do you have for your past self?
Find out who you are sooner.
When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?
In order for you to rule something, you have to be secure with who you are because you can’t lead without knowing who you are. I think you’ll be a bad leader if you don’t know yourself. What can you do to empower other people to think for themselves? That will impact the nation.
A lot of people in this nation, we want to fit in. We just want to be quiet at times when maybe we should speak out on certain things. You can’t do it alone, so how can you empower other people to do the same thing as you but with the type of person they are? We all have our different personalities and God made us individually, so how can I empower or encourage you to stand with me to make a difference? Standing with me is not becoming me, it’s not conforming to me, it’s being your own self and doing this together.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Stratford, CT.
I heard you were quite the basketball player. What made you start?
I started playing when I was a little kid. It was really one of those things when your parents just enrolled you in Sterling House Sports(A basketball league in Stratford, Connecticut -Ed). I was an active kid who played with the kids on my street, and with my father as a sports coach, my parents just enrolled us. I played just about everything, and when I went to Catholic school basketball was like the main sport, and the catholic schools take basketball very seriously. They have national tournaments.
I think that was when I took basketball seriously when I went to St. James. It was super serious. Practices were super serious, and I wasn’t prepared for that and I got cut the first year. They made us run sprints and do all kinds of drills, which they didn’t do at Sterling House. I came back the next year after having culture shock, [and] I realized I had to play for real, practice and take the sport seriously, and that was when I really began when I made the team in sixth grade, and played all the way through high school.
So what was your high school routine?
By the time I was in high school, I was very serious. I would do shooting drills, layup drills, strength and endurance drills from box jumps, to line jumps, to suicide sprints, pretty much everything we would do in high school basketball practice, I was already doing. I went to summer camps at St. Joe’s and Sacred Heart University that were pretty intense before I went to high school, and that gave me a bit of an edge over some of my teammates. I don’t think they were training the way we were training at the summer camps. I think I had a little bit of an edge because of that, especially because I wasn’t naturally as athletic as some of the other players.
What was your best attribute on the court?
Shooting and having the advantage of being left-handed. Being left-handed tends to throw people off in sports in general. Being able to shoot on the spot and off the dribble were my main advantages. On defense, I was slow. I was able to dunk while standing under the hoop by my senior year, but shooting was my strength. I was able to make 40 footers like they were 12 footers.
So you’re an avid writer. How did you start your journey into the writing field?
I was always interested in storytelling. When I was a kid, I made movies with my friends. One of my friends’ father had those old camcorders where you put the tape in and record, and we would make our own Mortal Kombat movies. I wrote my first short story in sixth grade, but put it away when sports consumed my life, especially basketball.
Writing didn’t really come back around until my junior year. I had been working on a video game with my friend Mike, but I didn’t have programming skills, so it was really difficult but I liked telling the stories. I realized that I don’t have the programming skills, but I can write a novel because all that needs is Microsoft Word. That was during my junior year at Stratford High school. I wrote my first book during my junior year, and I wrote two sequels, a trilogy, right off the bat. By senior year, I had this trilogy.
What’s the title of the Trilogy?
The Masters of the Sky.
Where are you now?
I’m in Los Angeles. I’m a screenwriter. I still write novels, short stories, and novellas. I get to basically sit around with other writers and think of scripts for studios. It’s pretty much a dream come true. I didn’t think I’d be here a year ago. I’ve since written eight novels, four scripts, three short stories in the past two months, and written one novella.
My days are pretty much spent in story meetings developing films, most of which are for my company’s products but some are for studios. I work for Hydra Entertainment. We’re a development company. We develop stories and make them awesome before they go into production.
What inspired you to write?
I think the reason why I got into writing was because it was free. The main thing is storytelling is something I’m passionate about and I would pursue things I didn’t have the financial or educational capacity to do. I was forced to do this to bring stories to life that I didn’t have the means or skills to bring to life in other avenues. I had to go and just write the story, and that’s really how it began, and I realized I don’t need budget, I don’t need actors, I don’t need these things. I can just write the story, and I’m not constrained to these limits. All I needed was my imagination, which is limitless.
Is there a specific legacy you want to leave behind?
I definitely want to have created stories that have changed people’s lives. I definitely want to create multiple things that have brought real cultural and social change. Part of me wants to have fun and entertaining ideas, but another part of me wants to do things with purpose. I really want my work to have impact on people’s lives, and certain ideas that I write about have impacted the world. You see legitimate, tangible, and practical change through my stories, and I think stories can do that. You know they call the Gospel is the greatest story of all time, and whether you believe it or not, that story has impacted a lot of lives.
I want to have raised up people to pursue their dreams, to have personally mentored people to go after the things they are passionate about and never look back. Tons of people die with a lot of regret because they never pursued their dreams.
Any advice for someone who may see you as a role model?
It’s okay to fail. Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t confuse failure with “this isn’t for you.” I think with writers, the thing you’re going to experience is rejection. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t like what you’ve written, even if what you’ve written is the next Harry Potter huge franchise. The lady who wrote Harry Potter experienced tons of rejections when she wrote her first book, and then a small publisher picked up, and it became a sensation, but she had to fight through a lot of failure.
What I want an aspiring writer to learn now is how to deal with failure. I think it’s important to not give up. Take failure for what it is. It didn’t work out this time, but that doesn’t mean you quit. If an aspiring writer determines himself to never give up, he can watch his dreams come true. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you you’ll never be good enough. Every good author and screenwriter, their success is built on a ton of rejection letters. Just don’t give up.
Do you have any advice for your past self?
Get out and experience as much of the world as you can because I feel like in my own personal journey, a lot of my life experiences come later on, and I think it’s just because a lot of my twenties were spent in my room hanging out, writing stories, and playing video games. Now I feel like I’m playing catch up. I think it’s so important for a writer to have lots of life experience, and that doesn’t mean experiencing terrible things, but travelling, being curious, hearing new ideas, not acting like your world view is the only worldview and you have it all figured out.
When you hear the phrase Rule Your Nation, what comes to mind?
Basically mastering yourself, you know? Going out and becoming the best version of yourself that you can be as well as accomplishing the things that are in your heart to do, and not giving up until they’re done. If you want to be a writer, [it’s] being a published author, and writing novels for one of the big five publishers, mastering the craft of storytelling and getting it done. Becoming the best writer you can be. Really becoming what you want to be, taking control of your life, and making your dreams come true.
There you have it, folks. Both of these guys couldn’t be any more different, but they’re desire to live their lives passionately is identical. I hope you enjoyed hearing their stories as much as I enjoyed interviewing them. We can all be blessed by it.
Rule well, my friends.