I was born in Phoenix Arizona during the apex of the 80's, the middle-child of 5 siblings.
My parents are many things - and they weren't many things - but I am forever grateful for my father the musician and composer and my mother the published artist and thespian. Their creativity and talent helped produce in me a passion and curiosity for all things and an artistic foundation.
I had picked up a clarinet and dinked around on a family piano by age 10, but decided clarinet wasn't as cool as originally calculated and transitioned to the alto Saxophone. I really wanted to play the tenor because I liked the deeper tones - but it was more expensive and I was a skinny twig-boy so I consoled myself by focusing on the fact that lugging around that bigger case on and off the bus probably wasn't worth it.
Fast-forward to Freshman year - Camelback High - then renowned in the state for a top notch Jazz program. I was pretty good naturally, good enough that I made the Jazz-A club as a Freshman and even earned improvisational solos during regular songs throughout the year. I found out that I loved it - the thrill of standing up and knowing you had the freedom to bring to life a unique, sometimes chaotic yet harmonic statement in the middle of so many moving parts and in front of so many people is intoxicating.
I would have continued to play the saxophone but school politics required that a student who intended to play in the jazz band had to also by strict obligation play in the concert band (unless you were special to someone... I wasn't so lucky). I did not want to play another year of concert band (which is distinct from jazz band for all you non-band-nerd-plebs) - and it wasn't the fact that I didn't enjoy the music selection as much as it was the requirement to also march in the marching band. I said no - "I don't want to march next year" but I would love to continue to play in jazz band. They said, "NO HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST SUCH A THING YOU MUST MARCH". So I said, "Okay, I'm withdrawing from band and taking guitar next year." They thought I was joking. But I wasn't.
While that ended my saxophone career as a kid - my talent for improvisation and my desire and passion to perform was growing steadily. I'm not your typical guitar player - and to be honest it is hard for me to even consider myself a guitar player when I compare what I do to the ability of my Father or others who truly play. I was more interested in composition and making something original and meaningful to me that was FROM me - a carryover from my Jazz experience and my love for performing solos. I never wanted to learn somebody else's music - unless it would help me improve my technique or it was a song that was emotionally powerful to me. So I practiced Iron Maiden and Yngwie Malmsteen rifts and progressions and then would just write my own weird music.
Fast-forward a few more years and a local radio hip hop station, the then Power 92 FM started coming to our school on Friday to host freestyle rap battles near the Bell Tower where my crew and I would hang. It was annoying because I loved the rhythm of the hip hop and rap beats but I hated the words and thought I could do a better job rhyming to the beat... like a jazz solo. So out of frustration and probably more so just because it was something fun and crazy to do (and put on a show for my friends) I participated - and won. I had a natural talent for it - that's when I started to write and wrestle with the mental battle of conforming to a culture I didn't have much in common with - or using the instrument of rap to enunciate my own individuality and bring something new to the table.
I chose the latter.