I grew up in the so-called “hood” in between Compton and Rialto, Calif.

I never understood my mom, uncles and big homies pushing me to do the right thing,  especially when most of them were doing the exact things they told me not to do.  I grew up in harsh conditions, so like many others, all I hoped for was money and power. I saw the dope dealers and pimps— they had it, and I wanted that for myself.

Now, as an adult, I finally understand the power to “have” and “have not.”  Many of our young celebrities “have” the life that so many would love to live. The thing is, the days of grooming—preparing, teaching and mentoring—are gone. Today we just throw these kids into the fire. Today, these young people are the have nots. They don’t have fathers, brothers, mothers or big homies to help guide them and correct them when they are wrong.  Today, we have kids with money and power being exploited by the same adults that should be there to offset their adolescent behavior.

Look at what’s been happening with Soulja Boy over the past year, or even Chris Brown. We are sitting around making jokes, social media posts and memes making fun of these young men as they spiral out of control.

Chris Brown is 27 and Soulja Boy is 26, but they were both only teenagers when they entered the business. I understand, to a degree, their experience. As a DJ, I toured with the likes of Tupac, SWV, and Paperboy, at the age of 19. My manager at the time was basically my big brother, Ant. He had been through it all and made sure I focused on the main goal—financial stability. The lessons I learned from guys like Ant, Greg Dixon, and my Uncle Craig helped me guide others when I started my own management company.

Everyday, young artist are presented with all sorts of roadblocks that seem so great at the time—the women, drugs, alcohol, financial mismanagement, as well as any other thing you can think of. The easiest thing for me to do as an artist manager may be the most difficult thing for most—doing and saying what I believe is best for my artist’s well being, and not living off the fear of being fired or having the money cut off.

What’s sad is these young people are celebrities who have the influence millions of kids that follow them. Also, all over our communities, our kids are going without leaders— people to push them on the right path. These people are now making fun of them or, worse, making money off of their behavior.  I don’t see the joke in that.

Being a person who has become successful, or what people would perceive as successful, I think back on the many lessons, chastising, and checking that help get me here. Where would I be if those same folks looked to exploit or extort me?

I had the pleasure to work with Soulja Boy at the beginning of his career.  SB was only 15 years-old when he created his hit "Soulja boy Tell Em." A year later, he was a platinum artist signed to a major record label. I saw how he behaved under label/management Michael and Derek Crooms’ guidance. I also saw the exact moment his downward spiral began. It was when he met another artist who was older than him, but who was perceived to be the hot hood guy.

No longer under the guidance of cats that cared about him, Soulja Boy lost his way when he lost his true mentors, big brothers and big homies who wanted the best for him. Now enablers, dealers and those looking to exploit him for their gain surround him. SB is just one of the many of our young people who don’t have what we used to have anymore—people who truly care about their well-being.

It’s time for us to stop laughing and become what these young people are missing.


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