What is it that separates me from you? Could it be destiny? My heart being colder? My background? Or just the results from what I’ve been through? I couldn’t picture life without this. This, pain. It’s so hard to fake a smile on the outside, when on the inside, you’re really dying. 

~  Russell Scott Bradshaw

As far back as I can remember, the first sign of a problem in my life was around the age of 6, when getting off the school bus, walking into the house, going up these three little wooden steps that brought me into the kitchen, and to my left, on the other side of the stove, was my dad, who had my mom trapped in the corner, choking her. I still remember this vividly. But before this memory, it was just mom and dad, and a normal kid life.

A few months later, maybe a year later, I can remember my dad crying on his bed one day when I got off the bus. For the first time ever, something happened that I didn’t realize was possible. Mom left dad. My world was tilted.

From there, mom wasn’t the same mom that I was used to. The mom that never drank or did anything wrong was gone, and replaced by a new, upgraded mom who was ready for a dangerous world. She seemed perfect before this, but a physically and emotionally damaged woman was scarred for life, and the innocence was gone, and she was never the same.

Fast forward a few years, life became fast for all of us. Mom stayed out late, some times never coming home. At 8 years old, maybe 9, I could remember getting me and my little brother dressed for school without any help. Nobody making sure I was up, nobody was there, or they were sleeping from late night partying. But this was my world — I had it under control. I didn’t think anything of it. I would find our clothes, throw it in the dryer to get the wrinkles out, and me and brother would get on the bus.

Fast forward a few more years, to a life where this was reality. I’m 13, 14, 15. A life where I’d get off the bus, to a house blaring techno music, with strangers all around, with people I never met before. These people didn’t sleep, they were like zombies. I’d go to Oakshire, the neighborhood with all of my friends, and play basketball until late at night. I’d head back home, and once I arrived, those same people would still be there, music still blaring, and I’d try to go to sleep. Eminem and Nas would try to drown out the techno. That techno sound still haunts me. It brings me back to a child that’s vulnerable. I’d go to sleep, and try to wake up for school, and those same strangers would still not have went to sleep. It was extremely weird to me. At the time, it was just weird. Years later, I understood: it was crystal meth.

I was never good in school. Obviously, looking back, I was pretty damn smart to juggle all of this and still maintain decent grades. At the time though, I thought that I wasn’t smart, and I wasn’t as fortunate as everyone else. I made C’s and D’s and I managed to get by. I settled for C’s and D’s because I knew that I could still graduate and move on. Looking back, I could have done so much more. If I would have at least tried, I could have pushed myself to be one of the smartest in school. But life got in the way I drifted through school until it was over.

My mom was heavy into the drug scene, she distributed to everyone that was anyone with drugs or who wanted them. She lived her life, and that was that. She managed to live that life, and still look perfectly normal. She was great, and funny, and my friends loved her. And she was beautiful. Her life was just fast, literally, she moved and talked 100 miles an hour. I was used to mom not being able to keep up with me. She’d run laps around me.

I just had a flashback of me, at a very young age, maybe 11-12, going sign up for a free throw contest at a local gym, where you need a parents signature, I think my friends dad signed me up, and I won the free throw contest, got a trophy, and it went in my room, and my family never really knew about it. The trophy just sat in my room, lonely from any acknowledgments. The scene changes to my dad. A man who was part time. He came into my life when I either needed to get away from mom’s, or when it was convenient to him. He was angry a lot, and when he wasn’t angry, he was funny, and clever, and thoughtful. My first surprise from him, way before I knew mom was into drugs is one day, around the age of 13, I was using his bathroom, and behind the shower curtain was a bong and weed. This was my first introduction to what drugs looked like.

I prefaced this story that far back to bring you to me and the decisions I made that sort of molded me into who I am today. At the age of 17, I was a kid realizing that there was nothing here for me, and I wanted more out of life. I didn’t want to graduate high school and still be coming home to this trailer with the same music and the same strangers popping up. I wanted more. So I talked to a recruiter and joined the Air Force.

Before joining the Air Force, and before graduating, things were faster than ever. Mom was in so deep, and dad, he was the biggest drug pusher in the south. He had a white Expedition, that he would travel from Texas to Florida, to anywhere that needed him, and deliver and pick up $60-$70,000 worth of weed and heroin, and any other drug you can think of. If you Google his name, which is my name when adding Sr to it, you’ll see that he was in way too deep. And mom, soon before graduating, well, getting off the bus — my stories always begin when getting off the bus, I can base a whole book on the surprises I’d always face when simply getting off the bus” — one day, in my senior year, I got off the bus and strangers were in my trailer, like usual, expect these strangers seemed different this time. They were under cover cops, or FBI or whatever the most important people could be to me at the time. I believe they were DEA. They took my mom away from me. And my mom was gone. She was headed to prison, and I was headed to the Air Force.

The full preface was me knowing that I couldn’t give you what I’m about to give you without you knowing the back story. The music is what I escaped to. First it was listening that made me escape. Then it became clear that I could do it too. And that’s when telling my story began. At the age of 17, with my mom in prison, I recorded this. And while she in there, I asked her to leave me a voice mail. Little did she know, and this is where my cleverness started coming together, that voice mail was intended for a song. And that voice mail shaped so many powerful songs from me. So, this is the beginning. A young kid, who’s trying to learn how to rap, and has a story. My delivery sucked, my breathing exercises sucked, I couldn’t do more than one complete sentences without taking a breath. Now I can almost do a full verse and never think about it.

Welcome to My Life” (song isn’t included)

So here I am, in the Air Force, and mom’s in prison. I’m going through basic training, she’s behind bars. We were both locked up, in a completely different environment than either of us were used to. So we wrote, and she would send me books to read, and we grew closer, because what happened? She was able to slow down. It saved her life.

There was one letter I received during basic training that impacted me more than any of them. My mom told me she was pregnant. In prison, being pregnant. Craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. And she asked me to name the baby. So for weeks, I’d spend my days thinking of a name for the baby, that turned out to be a girl.

That was 2005, marching in line, with many other soldiers. So many kids so far away from home. I remember thinking will I ever see my family again?”, I’m sure we were all thinking that. It felt so hard to focus on training while knowing my mom was in a parallel situation. The only difference was, her basic training was behind bars. I would argue that my experience was worse than hers, but I can’t. Can you imagine living in a jail cell during your entire pregnancy? Anytime I felt like basic training was too hard to handle, I would think of my mom and everything she was going through. That was my motivation. She was my inspiration.

The thought of this opportunity made me feel on top of the world. Naming a baby girl, giving her the identity she will carry with her through her entire life. The thought of this became overwhelming. Every day from that point on, I would think of all of these different names with a meanings behind each one. It became a very challenging process, but yet so addicting. It was hard for me to memorize lyrics and rhythms in my head for long periods of time, but names were perfect. Thinking of little girl names helped me get through tough situations. I couldn’t wait to meet this little girl. I wondered what she would look like. What her first words would be. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever get to meet her. I named her Nevaeh, Heaven spelled backwards. Because I knew that this would change my mom’s life, and my life, and it did. Once Nevaeh was born, my mom’s sentence was dropped from multiple years, to basically being done, and having to go to the halfway house in Bayou Vista called Clair House. My mom, Skiler, and Nevaeh (both of my sisters) got to be together, and they were a family again. Not much longer from that, I was medically discharged from the Air Force, and I moved to Bayou Vista to be close to them, and every Sunday I would go to the visiting hours with them and we all became a family again. Still to this day, Sunday is our family day that I treasure. Everything you read in this paragraph is ground breaking. I went from never really having a mom, to actually having a fucking family day. I was 19, and felt like that 13 year old boy looking for a mom, and I finally got one.

Which brings me to the next song. It was Mother’s Day, and I spent the entire day making this, and then when I was done, Clair House played it very loud for her.

Dear Momma” (song isn’t included)

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