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My dad was the first man I met with a hustler’s spirit – but he wasn’t in the street. Aside from his full-time job driving trucks, he was selling pretty much anything. People would always come to the house looking to buy something. Whether it be some CD’s, DVD’s, clothes, shoes, jewelry, whatever – he had it and he made sure he was getting paid for it.

Knowing where he was from though, I know he knew about life in the streets and he probably had a chance to take that route, but he didn’t. And I respect him for it.

Both my parents come from the city of Philadelphia, but my brother, sister and I were all raised in the suburbs of South Jersey. First Delran, then Willingboro. Then, after my father passed, it was Mount Laurel for 9 years.

Before I started traveling on my own, I had never been to a hood. I had always wanted to go though because I felt like where I was from was boring. Everything about that shit to me was lame. Niggas especially. They were all goofy to me.

At first it wasn’t a street nigga I was after, I just wanted somebody kind of rough around the edges. I didn’t care about your background, you just had to have some shit with you. Like teach me something I don’t know…. what are your dreams? What are you into? What was it like growing up for you? Just keep it real with me. But rarely did any nigga ever. Nor were they even interesting or cool enough, at the least.

It was April 07 when I met Vi. If you read Love, you know the details on how.

He was just like any other nigga to me at first. I wasn’t easily impressed with everybody but once I really got to know him, I fucked with him. What really caught my attention about him at first was that he was a rapper. As an artist myself I respected it and at that time I was going through this phase of trying to make beats.

He could actually spit though, too. Had he not really had talent, I wouldn’t even have been that interested. But he was talented. And in that way, we were similar.

As time passed I learned a lot about him, shit that took him a while to even share but I understood why.

For starters he was from Newark. Once I knew, from jump I knew he grew up completely different from what I was used to. Plus he would always say he didn’t have a childhood. I never knew what he meant by it but I would never push him to tell me. I knew that he would let me know when he was ready so in the meantime I just observed him. He had a strong mind. He was very persuasive – even manipulative at times but I caught on. He was stubborn but I was the same way… a bit of a hot head too, so we clashed sometimes. He was sensitive though. Kind (when he wanted to be) and funny. He was confident with a lil charm about him. But most important he was honest – and that to me was rare, because not everyone will keep it real with you. He was a gem.

Although his reputation was wild I wasn’t going to pass him up over some hear-say. And when it came from him himself it mattered even less because he stayed true.  One thing about him though was that he was a lil player. Real popular with the bitches, but I wasn’t scared because I knew who I was and secretly I liked the challenge.

Once I started coming around, I observed a lot of other shit too. For one thing he always had bread. Hella clothes. Hella weed. Before we started seeing each other in person he would always say he was smoking – so I assumed he was just a heavy smoker. And he was – but once I seen him with his lil strap I knew exactly what I had gotten myself into. Still wasn’t scared though. I guess I could already sense the shit.

By this time I figured I was in kind of deep and he was serious about me. I knew he wasn’t one to play people too close, but we had a strong bond by this time. I felt special and I had every reason to. He started getting real protective of me. He encouraged me a lot to stay in school when I was getting fed up. He checked up on me. Constantly wanted me to come see him. Always bought me snacks and little gifts. He was so sweet. When I shared any of this with anybody though, they’d be like What?? Who?? HIM???  Once people knew who I was fucking with I kind of felt like they chalked me up to be this dumb, infatuated little girl blinded by love, but it was so, so opposite. I knew the real him, and once he finally opened up to me like I prayed for him to, everything made sense.

I remember the pain he expressed when he told me he grew up without his mother and father. The hurt in him when he told me the lady he was adopted by died suddenly. The numbness I sensed when he told me how much loss he suffered… and how he himself came close to death a few times. The lack of love when he reflected on how many times he had been fucked over. The anger in him when he wouldn’t even say shit, he would just zone out sometimes – leaving me thinking like “What else?” But I never asked. Because sometimes he’d never be ready to share some shit and I understood.

I don’t know how someone so beautiful came from some fucked up shit like that, but it made it more beautiful to me. I seen much of myself in him because I too suffered loss, grew up without a parent and felt really fucking alone at times. I never stopped using art as an outlet though, and he was the same.

I remember when he would record in this studio around the way and I finally got to go with him. He was so well known and respected it was crazy. They had this man’s face on the wall and everything. Like he was the face of the whole shit. Everybody loved this man and his music. That’s when I knew this motherfucker was a star because not many people are gonna dick ride some shit if it’s not hot. So either these people actually feared this man or he was on some shit.

In the beginning, when we were young I didn’t pay too much attention to the words in his music. I just knew I was talking to some rap nigga and he was actually good at it. Once I could really say I knew him and he kept on recording, I thought the shit was dope – because none of the shit he said in his raps were lies at all. It’s rare for somebody to actually be able to channel some shit like that into art and have people fuck with it on top of that. That’s another thing I admire about him too. He’s a man of action. Although he doesn’t do everything I would like him to do, he does what NEEDS to be done. And he can always make some shit happen for himself.

He put me on to a lot of good music too. Before I got into the Trap shit, I listened to a lot of regular rap. Not too much mainstream, but shit like Tupac, Biggie, the Wu-Tang Clan, NWA, Nas, Jay-Z, Jada, Styles, Snoop, etc. I only fucked with the classics mostly. I fucked with with 50 heavy. A lot of Old School shit too. Like real old. My dad is responsible for all that.

Vi used to bump a lot of Gucci and Gotti around me. I remember some Waka too. Jerry, Future, Young Scooter. Then once Chicago got poppin it was Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Fredo, Lil Reese, Lil Bibby, G Herbo and all them. I fucked with this shit not only because it was hard but because it reminded me of him. I could appreciate the shit because I could relate to it on a different level. You can feel where they’re coming from if you know a nigga in the trap. You can tell they literally put their lives into that shit and they show you that when they put their minds to some shit, they will deliver.

Even listening to a nigga like Meek Mill is crazy to me because he’s basically from across the bridge.  I would listen to Flamers heavy – back when his shit would get all the air play. Had the whole truth-state bumping before the world knew. Compared to where he is now, it’s obvious he put in a lot of work and look where it got him.

No I don’t know if all these rappers tell the truth in their lines but these niggas motivate me. They motivate the people where they’re from too and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Making a difference.

Obviously my nigga not the only nigga that’s been through some shit. My nigga not the only nigga in the streets. My nigga not the only nigga with the ability to make it an art either, but it’s because of him that I have a general love and respect for every nigga like him. Living that life. Taking the risks. Doing what they have to do to provide for their families… making it happen regardless. Because if it wasn’t for him I’d probably be one of the motherfuckers on the other side judging him.

It’s crazy because he always says how much better off I would probably be had we never got this far, but I feel like I’m blessed. Coming from opposite sides I’m sure we showed each other completely different ways of life, but at the same time taught each other that we’re still the same in many aspects.

Even if we stop fucking with each other, I’ll always appreciate the impact he had on my life. Aside from the fact that I have his son, I’m forever connected to him because he plays a big part in why I view life the way I do now. I know niggas like him don’t make the best choices or do the right things all the time – but there’s beauty in everything.

I found beauty in something motherfuckers told me to stay away from. I found beauty in a street nigga – and in return he made my life a work of art.