Diablo Wakefield & Naj GG Interview

Myself (middle) alongside Bronx artist Naj GG (left), and Bronx artist Diablo Wakefield (right).

Before we discuss the interview, let me get something off my chest.

Since conducting this dialogue back on March 17, 2021, I’ve noticed the strides I’ve made as a host.

While rewatching the interview ahead of its release, I learned alot about being the host of a podcast. Things like knowing what to do & what not to do while carrying a conversation.

These first interviews I’ve recorded are allowing me to look back at where I began in this journey, whether they make me cringe or not, and feel good about where I’m at now. 

And that’s always a positive. 

With that being said, let’s talk about the men of the hour.

Our guest, Diablo Wakefield, who we’ve interviewed before, & his cousin Naj GG, are two young men wise beyond their years.

Because of that, this episode was filled with a ton of gems. 

Speaking to them, it feels like they’ve figured out how they should maneuver in the real world.

Already aware of Diablo’s intelligence, I admire the way he carries himself. It’s a mixture of fearlessness and maturity that’s rare to find in a 20-year old.

The same can be said for Naj. This interview was my first time meeting him & I’m glad I did. 

You can tell that Naj is both loyal & official. 

His humble character & demeanor stood out, especially since he didn’t come into the studio expecting to be interviewed. 

When I told him he was being featured on the podcast he was appreciative of the opportunity.

All in all, this was a solid interview. It was an enlightening conversation & I’m glad that the podcast is moving along smoothly at this juncture.

I’m confident the reception of these next two episodes will be great because we’re featuring two stand-up dudes surrounded by great support systems.

Shoutout to Diablo & Naj for believing in the vision & being a part of the podcast. Also, shoutout to the Glorious Gangsters, God’s Gift, and that backstreet they kept talking about because I heard it gets critical.

And as always, enjoy the amazing content coming from Da Hood Journal.

Click here to check out Diablo Wakefield’s music.

Click here to check out Naj GG’s music.

Click here to check out Diablo Wakefield’s YT channel.


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Da Hood Journal

Part one of our interview with Diablo Wakefield & Naj GG.
Full audio from our interview with Diablo Interview & Naj GG.
Part two of our interview with Diablo Wakefield & Naj GG.
Part two of our interview with Diablo Wakefield & Naj GG on IGTV.

The Fearless Boyz Interview

Myself (middle) alongside Fearless Boyz brand CEO Mike (left) & brand ambassador (right).

Today marks yet another milestone for Da Hood Journal.

Today, April 10, we officially unveiled our brand new podcast, Da Hood Journal podcast. Radio has always been a venture I wanted to do, and now, I’m getting that opportunity.

I’d like to give a special thank-you to Zeke, Ms. Pierre, & Black Ivy Media for bringing my ideas to fruition. And thank you to Roki for remaining loyal to the brand as we embark on this new journey.

With that being said, what other way to debut our podcast, than with the duo that first debuted Da Hood Journal blog, the Fearless Boyz.

For those who don’t know, Mike (Fearless Boyz brand CEO) & Sta (brand ambassador) are the faces of the NYC-based underground clothing brand. They’re also good friends of mine.

I interviewed them back in August & wrote an article about the experience. These two helped jumpstart my blog in regards to popularity.

As a brand on the rise, gaining traction across the tri-state area, people were eager to learn about the duo on a personal level. And it showed as the article of them surpassed over five hundred reads.

Such a fun time.

But in the midst of that run, with the positive reception, my work received, I worried about the longevity of this passion, with writing such lengthy articles, especially in 2021, where reading is an afterthought.

Plus, despite how grateful Mike & Sta were for the article, they were in my ear, encouraging me to record my interviews for the world to watch, rather than read what took place.

So, it’s more than fitting to have my first guest on the blog, be my first guest on the podcast. 

The first people to believe in me, this is my sign of appreciation to them.

And six articles & seven months later, here we are. The blog, once my main focus, is more secondary now. 

That’s enough about that topic though. Let’s talk about the actual interview.

I truly enjoyed it.

When the conversation first started, I’m not going to lie, I was nervous.

At the time of the recording, I was still figuring out how to work the equipment I was using, while determining which direction I wanted to take with the pod.

But as we dug further into the conversation & I was able to ask my questions, I felt more comfortable.

The whole three hours I spent with them were genuine, raw, and filled with both deep & hilarious conversation.

Mike & Sta are naturally funny. With them, nothing feels forced. And that’s what I love because it makes for great content.

And shoutout to Diablo & Naj, who accompanied us during the interview. Diablo shared his tidbits of knowledge throughout the conversation while Naj sat quietly & watched.

Their interview is coming up next.

To conclude, I’m really proud of how this whole release turned out.

I think you’ll guys will enjoy the dialogue as much as I did. Editing the audio & video was the best part because I never got tired of watching it. Shows you how charismatic the Fearless Boyz are.

Happy 20th birthday to Mike, make sure y’all wish him a good one. Shoutout to my brother Sta for being such a blessing in my life.

Lastly, make sure y’all tune into the Fearless Boyz latest drop, on their Instagram page now.

Hope you enjoy the amazing content coming from Da Hood Journal.

Click here to visit the Fearless Boyz website.

Click here to visit the Ascendante IG page.

Click here to check out the Fearless Boyz YT channel.


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Da Hood Journal

Part one of our interview with the Fearless Boyz.
Full audio from our interview with the Fearless Boyz.
Part two of our interview with the Fearless Boyz.
Part two of our interview with the Fearless Boyz on IGTV.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Happy Black History Month!

This article is an open diary on what this month means to me. Enjoy!


What’s good y’all! Happy Black History Month! It’s been a while.

I apologize for the long absence, that’s on me.

I’ve been using the past few weeks to prepare for the new semester of school. Online learning hasn’t gotten the best of me, at least not yet.

As a black woman, it means educating people on my people’s accomplishments for twenty-eight days despite me doing so for the entire year.” (In photo: Angela Davis)

Outside of school, I’ve been working part-time, learning how to drive, & spending time with family.

Now that we got the pleasantries out the way, I really hope you enjoy this piece.

As recently as last month, I knew I wanted to publish an article in February. But as luck would have it, I had no idea on what topic I’d be writing about.

I was oblivious to the fact that we’re currently in the year’s most prominent month, (after March, my birthday month) Black History Month.

“It’s a month where people can get more educated on the plight, accomplishments, and beauty of black people.” (In photo: Malcolm X)

In all honesty, I knew it was Black History Month. How couldn’t I?

These twenty-eight days are being celebrated across the country. You can turn on the TV, walk down the street, and see the world completely immersed in the celebration of these four weeks.

Everyone’s doing their part to commemorate this month.

And that’s amazing to see. Anything in regards to Black culture is dope. Why do you think other races enjoy it so much?

“Black History Month to me means honoring all the black people who have died because it was through their efforts that we are here today, and this is regardless of whether we know of them or not.” (In photo: Rosa Parks)

In all seriousness, being educated on the impactful leaders, influencers, and revolutionaries of the African American community has been rejuvenating.

Especially considering how 2020 played out.

We witnessed innocent black people murdered at the hands of law enforcement, while others were mistreated. And if not the police, they’ve were treated wrongly by the Caucasian community.

“It means a time where we value our culture & history & also a time to educate others as well. Black people/voices are constantly oppressed so this is a time where we shed light on those individuals & also to love ourselves & our skin.” (In photo: Tupac Shakur)

And speaking from experience, for a handful of weeks, it was scary to be a black person in this country.

Put yourself in my shoes, or any person who resides in the ghetto for that matter.

If I walk through my block at the wrong time, there’s a chance that I cross paths with the police that patrol my neighborhood, for almost no reason at all.

Who knows how our interaction could end.

“It means black excellence, the black struggle, and the black power.” (In photo: Viola Davis)

What if I come across a young man, close in age & skin color, handling a weapon he has no business using, with murder on there mind.

What is there to do then?

How about when I leave my community & travel to Lower Manhattan for example?

I bump into people a few shades lighter than me, yet threatened by my very existence.

More often than not, it’s a lose-lose situation.

A month where we celebrate black legends & their achievements in history.” (In photo: Muhammad Ali)

Therefore, the month of February, a time where I feel honored to be an Afro-Latino, is needed more than I realized.

I never understood the value of Black History Month as a child. In high school, all that mattered was how short this month was, and our mid-winter breaks.

But as I grow older I’m learning just how significant this month actually is.

“Black History Month is about bringing light to the creators & innovators of history that were denied their chance to shine. Black history is celebrating & enjoying our people who are constantly oppressed by non-POCs.” (In photo: Claudia Jones)

So, I decided to write an article on it.

As you can see by the title, it reads: What does Black History Month mean to you?

It’s a question I thought of while showering.

I presented this question to the friends of my social media accounts, to see how they’d respond.

Their answers, which will remain anonymous, are in quotes under the pictures of the African-American historical figures found in this piece.

“A month to appreciate those before us who helped make our lives easier.” (In photo: Madam C.J. Walker)

But, before I asked the question, I thought about what this month meant to me.

And here’s my honest answer.

There are three reasons.

First, it means learning more about the trailblazers who came before me.

Second, it means discovering inspiration from the biographies of my idols.

And third, it means proudly representing the Afro-Latino community to the absolute fullest.

After listing those reasons, I decided to dig deeper & ask myself the question from another perspective.

“It just means the African Americans can be recognized but somehow the craziest things happen this month it’s the shortest month of the year.” (In photo: Clarence Avant)

Why is Black History Month important?

Personally, it traces back to the point I made, about what the month means to me. Learning more about the pioneers before my time.

But when I say pioneers, I’m referring to the under-the-radar heroes.

I’m familiar with greats like President Obama, Malcolm X & Martin Luther King Jr., and the role they played in breaking barriers for my generation. Who isn’t?

“It’s pretty much is world history. Black people have had their hand in everything.” (In photo: Joey Bada$$)

But that’s all I knew growing up. Deep down I knew there were more pieces to puzzle than what I was being exposed to.

That’s not to discredit the achievements of Dr. King or Malcolm, but what about Angela Davis? Or Henry “Box” Brown? Or Kalief Browder?

Their stories deserve to be shared as well. Not to say that they haven’t been, but they should be revered as equally as their counterparts.

As we transition, the last thing I’d like to touch upon is what should be done during February, or every month for that matter.

“Celebrating African American culture & accomplishments.” (In photo: Frederick Douglass)

Just to ensure that we do our part to inflict change within our circles.

First, support black businesses. Give back to the establishments that give your area character. Whether it’s a restaurant, clothing brand, or a service, show your appreciation by investing in them. Rather than a Caucasian-owned corporation.

Next, acquire information. Take time to research the historical figures that paved the way for you. Possibly an African American leader created something essential to your life or stood for a message you’re in agreement with.

Find out who these people are.

“A celebration of cultural excellence & unity on shared experiences & acknowledgment of those that worked to pave the way for generations to come.” (In photo: Harriett Tubman)

Lastly, spread the love. Pay it forward, and do what you can to educate others on black history, black culture, and black excellence.

You wouldn’t know who Rosa Parks was unless someone taught you about her. It’s only right you teach someone about her as well.

I hope that’s what I’m accomplishing with this piece.

And I’m not saying you have to take my advice. They’re merely suggestions at the end of the day.

“Black History Month to me means exploring liberation, and ways we as a people (globally) have continued to resist & exist. Since the development of colonialism & racial capitalism, the use of African peoples as capital, our ancestors have always fought for freedom. Our history doesn’t begin with slavery, but our future depends on us ending it.” (In photo: Kwame Ture)

However, it doesn’t hurt to try. You never know the impact you may have on someone’s life.

Nonetheless, those are some of my thoughts on Black History Month. I hope you enjoyed reading my open diary on this topic.

Be sure to check out those quotes I mentioned earlier in the writing. There were some really insightful answers to the question I asked.

To conclude, Happy Black History Month once again!

“It’s a month of empowerment & a reminder of how great our history really is. Feel like we should not only focus on black trauma during black history month but our accomplishments & influence in America instead.” (In photo: Kobe Bryant)

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Da Hood Journal


Special shoutout to those who shared their response to what this month meant to them.

Happy One-Year Anniversary

Sketch of our new, improved logo for Da Hood Journal.

Happy New Year from Da Hood Journal! Welcome to our first piece of the year! We hope you enjoy it.


December 26th, 2019. The first day of my new job. I was a cashier at this small business on Canal Street.

I reached the store and underestimated the amount of downtime I had. A handful of patrons came to shop each hour. The clock quickly reached 4 pm, but the last customer I remember helping was at 2 pm.

The idea of starting a blog was on my mind for some time, but I was waiting for the New Year to execute my plan. I felt more than prepared for my introduction to the journalism industry. 

Just had to wait for a few days.

But, I had so much free time. My shift spanned till 7 pm. So, I decided to use that time to my advantage. 

I launched my blog right then and there, from my phone, nearly a week before I intended to. 

At that moment, my life changed forever.

The original logo for Da Hood Journal, formerly known as Andy’s Buckets.

A sports blog, “Andy’s Buckets” as it was called then, covered all topics related to the NBA, my favorite sports league. 

The very first article I published discussed news relevant in early 2020. The death of former NBA commissioner David Stern, and the upcoming retirement of future Hall-of-Famer Vince Carter, to name a few.

I enjoyed the content I was releasing. 

The peak of that first stretch had to be my piece following the death of Kobe Bryant & his daughter. Up in the wee hours of the morning writing that tribute, the reception to what I wrote felt so rewarding. 

It felt good to be a comforting spirit in the wake of tragedy. 

A similar scene played out less than a month later when Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke passed away in February. 

Our first guests on Da Hood Journal. Photo of I (right) alongside Mike (middle) & Sta (left) during our interview on August 8, 2020. This duo is the CEO & brand ambassador of the Fearless Boyz, respectively.

One of my favorite artists, I spent two days writing a piece about the role he played in my life, and within the hip-hop industry.

To this day, that’s still my most-viewed article. Surpassing almost eight-thousand reads, I was reaping the benefits of my hard work while doing something I loved, writing. 

If I continued on this uphill trajectory, then 2020 would be MY year for sure, I told myself.

But March came around, and then the COVID-19 shutdown began. And for some time, things appeared bleak.

The beginning of quarantine had its highs & lows. Highs being, a couple of dope pieces on experiences I enjoyed the year prior, and an article about the docu-series “the Last Dance” that’s still being read months later. 

I even created my own website & “Andy’s Buckets” first official logo.

Photo of I (left) Kameron (middle) & Mike (right) at a link-up in December 2020. Photo courtesy of @Tombstvne.

My lows, however, were a frequent lack of motivation to write. 

And the times I did write, it’d be about boring topics, like how I was coping in quarantine. I did write a few tribute pieces, most notably on the untimely murders of George Floyd & Brandon “B-Diddy” Hendricks. Those pieces helped me want to continue writing even when I didn’t want to.

I’d say my lowest point of 2020 in regards to my writing came in July when I wrote an article reviewing Pop Smoke’s posthumous album “Shoot for the Stars, Aims for the Moon.”

That piece, although a great idea, in actuality, was completed poorly on my behalf. 

I rushed it to completion and noticed several crucial errors after its release. I also didn’t like the feeling of bashing Pop’s work.

And to add insult to injury, around that time I was running out of topics to write about. For the first time, I felt stagnant, worrying about the outlook of the blog in the back of my head, because I felt as if it had run its course.

Photo of Roki, Creative Director of Da Hood Journal. Look at her sweater. 

That’s when Roki came into the picture.


Whenever I released an article I’d expect a message from Roki, expressing support for what I wrote. 

It was after I published “Let’s Put the Guns Down”, that I received that routine text from her. 

Only this time, she took things a step further. 

We spoke a bit about the piece, and then she asked if I had an editor, another set of eyes to skim my work before a release.

I responded to her with a resounding no. Till that point, Andy’s Buckets was a one-man show. 

Roki asked if she could play that role as my editor. As I read her text, I immediately had doubts.

Photo of Kameron, CEO of the brand, Good Kid Bad Intentions. The second guest on Da Hood Journal, we held our interview with Kameron on September 5, 2020.

I wasn’t keen on the idea of having someone critique my work, and “editing” the points I would try to make with my writing.

But then I thought about it. It’s always nice to have someone else scan what I write, and catch any mistakes I myself may have missed. Plus, Roki was someone whose judgment I could trust. 

For those who may not know, we attended high school together, and she’s someone I’ve grown to respect.

I’d be dumb if I didn’t allow her to help me improve the blog.

That’s how she became my editor. 

As soon as she came aboard, her impact was felt. Right away, she proved that the title of editor sold her abilities short. 

Photo of Anyelina, CEO of Kaizen By A & Sweat by Angeles. The third guest on Da Hood Journal, we held our interview with Anyelina on October 4, 2020.

In December 2020, she became the creative director of Andy’s Buckets. She’s been crucial to the development of the blog, helping me with promotion, new article ideas, and more.

I wouldn’t have reached a year with my journal without her. Thank you Roki.

Moustapha, brand ambassador of Fearless Boyz, is another person I owe an abundance of success too.

Back in mid-July, when the NBA season was restarting, Sta & I would have weekly arguments on who’d win the NBA title.

My money was with the L.A. Clippers, while he had faith in the Los Angeles Lakers. We decided to settle our debate with a friendly bet.

This was the original agreement.

Photo of I (right) & artist Diablo Wakefield (left) following our interview on October 11, 2020. Diablo was the fourth guest on Da Hood Journal.

If the Clippers managed to win the NBA title, Sta had to give me a piece of Fearless Boyz merchandise, at a discounted price.

If the Lakers managed to win the NBA title, I’d have to write an article, dedicated to Sta, supporting his theory that the NBA was rigged.

We ended our conversation shortly after agreeing to these terms.

About fifteen minutes later, he texted me again, asking to change the conditions of our bet.

I was willing to hear him out.

He said that if the Lakers managed to win the NBA title, I’d have to give him and Mike, the CEO of Fearless Boyz, an interview, with a coinciding article.

I thought about it for a second. I was immediately intrigued by the idea, whether it came in the form of a bet or not.

Photo of I (left) & artist James Esco (right) following our interview on December 5, 2020. James was our fifth guest on Da Hood Journal.

Our conversation felt like a perfect storm of events. As the concept began forming in my head, my excitement grew when I thought about the heights I’d potentially reach.

By interviewing rising black influencers & sharing their stories on my blog, I could give back to the African-American community by supporting amazing individuals, while building relationships with entertainers or brands I have an affinity for.

I let Sta know of my interest in interviewing him & Mike and gave them a date for us to meet.

I presented the idea to Roki & she was on board. She helped me work out the kinks in regards to how we went about performing these pieces.

After we got situated with the format of this project, all we needed was a title for this new “series” of articles we’d now be crafting.

Photo of Awa, hairstylist & CEO of Awa Stylez & Supplied by Awa. Roki held an interview with Awa on December 25, 2020. Awa was the sixth guest on Da Hood Journal.

We went to the drawing board. I asked Roki to brainstorm some potential names, and I did the same. 

A day later she gave me a list of titles she came up with. There were some good candidates but one stood out to me amongst the rest.

Hood Journal.

I loved how it sounded. The name effectively summed up the goal we aimed to accomplish: utilizing our blog as a platform for inner-city minorities to strut their stuff and promote their talents.

Everything was slowly coming together. This marked a new, clean state for “Andy’s Buckets.”

In August we conducted our first official interview, with the Fearless Boyz, and it was a major success.

It was cool interacting with Mike & Sta on a personal level while learning fascinating details about their brand’s origins.

Photo of I (left) & Carlos, creator of YouTube channel InspiredKicks. He interviewed Da Hood Journal on December 23, 2020. Shoutout to him.

And the reception to the article, once it was released: unbelievable. Readers were entertained with how I shared their story, and others were wondering how they could be featured next on our blog.

September 1, 2020, the day that piece was published, is one I’ll remember forever.

For the first time since Andy’s Buckets creation, or “Da Hood Journal” I should say, the blog carried an identity that was fresh, and sustainable. I was confident that this new beginning would help the journal grow into something beautiful.

Since that first interview with the Fearless Boyz, we’ve interviewed Kameron, CEO of Good Kid Bad Intentions, Anyelina, CEO of Kaizen By A & Sweat with Angeles, Bronx artist Diablo Wakefield, Bronx artist James Esco, and Awa, hairstylist & CEO of Awa Stylez & Supplied by Awa.

And despite the various types of guests featured on Da Hood Journal, they all share that hunger & determination to be at the top of their respective fields.

Most importantly, we believe in their dreams and are confident they’ll do just that and more.

And for Roki & I, that’s all that matters.

Photo of (from left to right) Sta, Mike, I, & Kameron, following a link-up in December 2020. The photo comes courtesy of @Tombstvne.

After publishing our Diablo Wakefield piece, I noticed the blog slowly growing in popularity. Readers, supporters, strangers, they were really noticing us now.

On December 1st, 2020 we formally changed the name of the blog to Da Hood Journal (also Roki’s idea). 

And to legitimize our branding & the changing nature of the journal, we decided to update our logo as well.

At the time of this article’s release, we remain in the process of developing the logo. However, we assure you that it will be new, improved, and well worth the wait.

We’ve also begun renovating our website, organizing future giveaways, and discussing plans for unveiling video interviews as soon as this summer.

With all that being said, when I first created this blog I never imagined it being as successful as it is today.

I remember the early mental battles. I thought I was lame for writing in my free time, and I would get upset when people didn’t read or share my pieces.

But over time I realized none of that was important. With what I have going on, I’ve put myself in a position to make a significant impact in my life, and in the life of others.

I’m proud to say I have a blog, THIS blog, and proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish thus far.

Thank you to those who read and support our pieces. Thank you to my close friends & family for always encouraging me. And thank you to the man above for giving me the strength to do what I do.

It’s only up from here. Stay tuned.

Roki (right) & I (left) during my high school graduation in June 2019. The future of Da Hood Journal rests in our hands. Who would’ve thought that would be the case when we took this picture.

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Da Hood Journal.


A special shoutout goes to Kadija, Hajj, Carlos, Abdoul, Afiya, KJ, Ziera, Jaden M, the Breesh Boys, Marcel, Jourdain, Will, Cripford, Rickey, Mercy, Brandon, Autumn, Taylor, anyone else who read or supported our blog, and the guest we’ve featured on Da Hood Journal. You all played a major role in our success.

Introducing, Awa Stylez

The official logo of hairstylist “Awa Stylez.”

Hello everyone! This piece will be the sixth installment of my series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.


Roki: “When was Awa Stylez created?”

Awa Stylez: “I started doing hair in 8th grade, but I wasn’t really trying to take it seriously because I was playing basketball. Then I got into high school & I stopped playing basketball. I started focusing on hair more.

I started braiding because I figured out that you could make money off it, doing hair. You could promote people in the school running businesses, and I started realizing that I could make my own business myself. 

Then, that’s when I started braiding.”

Awa, CEO of Awa Stylez & Supplied By Awa.

Roki: “Talk to me about your childhood.”

Awa: “Growing up I never really asked for much, because you couldn’t really ask for a lot. I wound up just doing everything on my own. I was just very considerate of other people.

You didn’t want to bother them or stress them out. That’s how considerate I was. I always put others before myself. I started thinking, I’m going to just do it on my own.

That’s how I really built my character up. I just started handling things on my own.”

Roki: “How’d you get the name Awa Stylez?”

Awa: “My sister helped me pick out my name. She said it needs to be creative, and then, I couldn’t really put anything together. I saw “styles” (name of hairstylists) everywhere, with an “S” at the end. I said why not do Awa Stylez with a “Z” at the end, so it could be different.”

“Even though I’m not the best yet, I know I put my effort into my work.” — Awa

Roki: “What’s the best & worst part about doing hair?”

Awa: “The most difficult part is balancing the time you do hair, and your schoolwork, and your personal life. Finding time to manage all of those things because hair is very time-consuming. 

It’s not one, two, three. You have to dedicate a whole day to doing hair. The hardest thing is organizing your schedule to make time for everything.”

Roki: “How’d you perfect your craft?”

Awa: “I practiced on myself & mainly my sister. Then I started practicing with other friends, asking them if I can do their hair because I was still trying to learn. I would do my friends without charging, and then practice on my sisters, and then practice on myself.”

Roki: “Where’d you gain your knowledge of hair from?”

Awa: “Definitely YouTube.”

One of the many customers that received knotless braids, done by Awa.

Roki: “You see yourself adding someone to your team in the future, or carrying on the one-man show?”

Awa: “With braiding, I plan on doing this by myself, only because I feel I can already handle it. But in the future, I plan to stop braiding & doing other stuff like running a shop. 

Of course, when I run a shop I’m going to have other people helping me, other people working for me. But as of right now, I like working by myself because I know my schedule.”

Roki: “Talk to me about “Supplied with Awa?”

Awa: “That is another side business for me to get into, what I really want to do. I really want to make stuff, and invest in things and sell them, because that’s what I always wanted to do.

I’m doing that with braiding, so when I get bigger, everybody already knows I sell stuff, I do hair, I’m running different stuff. They already know, it’s all the same brand. It’s all Awa Stylez, but in different things.”

“Get away from the nonsense. start doing things to benefit you and start doing things to benefit your future.” — Awa

Roki: “You’ve transitioned from a home-based hairstylist to having your own salon. What’s that been like?”

Awa: “It was a good thing that I changed from the salon & home, because now I offer more services, like washing people’s hair or doing boy braids. I could expand. 

At the same time, it’s more comfortable at home. It’s kind of different because when I’m at the shop, I have to leave, I have to go to the shop, I have to braid there, I have to pay a commission. I’m not getting all the money that’s earned for my work. 

I like doing hair in my house. But at the same time, the shop creates different opportunities I wouldn’t be able to have in my own home.”

Roki: “Where do you see Awa Stylez in five years?”

Awa: “In five years I see my brand, not me doing hair, I see it as a shop, a salon. I see myself selling more stuff because, during that time, I’m going to be in college and stuff, working on bigger things. I’m not going to be based in, where I’m from. I’m not going to be New York-based. Hopefully. 

I’m trying to go to a bigger place. Expand much bigger. Have people working for me instead of working for myself. And being a big boss.”

Folk locs completed on another happy customer, done by Awa.

Roki: “What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?”

Awa: “The best part about what I’m doing is I’m very independent. I’m making my own name, I’m making my own money. I’m buying all the stuff I need. The best part of it is I build myself. And also how happy I make clients. 

Because when you do people’s hair, and they love it, when you transform somebody’s hair and they start smiling, it makes you feel good. I gave her that extra confidence, I’m doing her hair, and she’s happy. It’s not all about how I build myself up.

I love how I help people out, and being reasonable with my prices so they love coming to me, and perfecting my craft.”

Roki: “Why do you charge clients less than the competition?”

Awa: “It’s mainly because you don’t want to go to the salon, and pay $150 to do your hair. You wanted that to go towards other things. You didn’t always have $150 to go do your braids. Especially if you have siblings. 

Another main reason I started doing hair is so I could take that extra cash off of other people, and just do it for myself, for way cheaper. When I started doing hair, I used to talk to my mom about my prices. She told me don’t charge too much, because you got to remember if that were you would you want to be charged that much?

It’s like why not make that easier for people. And it’s not like I provide the hair and stuff. I gotta be reasonable. I gotta think about everything and how they getting hair, how they getting back the hair. 

Because even though braiding is really time-consuming, and it’s really tiring, it’s still worth it because what you’re doing is making them happy.”

Current prices of hairstyles done by Awa Stylez (as of December 2020.)

Roki: “Compared to your start & where you are now, what’s been the biggest improvement in your work?”

Awa: “Parting. My parting is really nice now. Before it wasn’t as neat as it could’ve been. But now I really put pride in my parts and stuff like that.”

Roki: “What’s your number one style of hair?’

Awa: “I’d say my knotless braids. Because that’s something I do a lot. It’s on my page a lot. That’s something people really say about me. That’s a popular style now. And I don’t charge much for it.”

Roki: “What’s something you’re clients can say you pride yourself on?”

Awa: “I hold a lot of pride in how neat my work is, and how I perfect it. Even though I’m not the best yet, I know I put my effort into my work. Nobody can I say I rushed their head. Nobody can say I was rude doing their hair. 

When my clients sit down I make sure I perfect their work, and I make sure I make them feel comfortable. I don’t let them just sit there quietly, I make sure they’re comfortable, have what they need, charging their phone, everything. 

I make sure they set when they get their hair done. They can always say that my service is professional and comfortable.”

“If your doing it with a good heart you’re always going to win. Everything good is going to come to you. ” — says Awa when asked the secret behind her success.

Roki: “Ever been a time where a client didn’t like your work?

Awa: “I never really had issues with clients but I do recall one time I did somebody’s hair. 

You know how your braids are not set, how it is loose and stuff, she told me & I handled the situation professionally. I told her instead of me redoing that one braid you come back and I could give her a new style. 

It was the right thing for me to do because when I did her hair I was modeling her for a new style I never did. I couldn’t get mad that the style wasn’t perfect, because I never did it before. 

When that situation happened the best thing for me to do was do another style. I knew how to do it, which is box braids and knotless and I gave her that so she could be happy, and so I can have more stuff to post.”

Roki: “Ever been a moment where you considered not doing hair anymore?

Awa: “There were definitely times where I wanted to stop doing hair & running businesses because it’s too much, especially when school started again. It was too overwhelming. 

But one thing you need while running a business is somebody to talk to, somebody to give you good advice. Somebody to tell you you need to get going, and I have that. Somebody who really helps me out.

It’s not like you can handle a business by yourself strictly. Because you have to really be strong mentally, and physically to be doing that. You really need somebody to talk to. You can’t just hold it in. 

If you are tired you need to give yourself a break. If you need somebody to talk to, you need to talk to somebody you trust and someone that’s going to give you good advice. 

And also you can’t hang around people that give up easily. Once you are around them you are going to have that mindset. You have to be around people that keep going no matter what.”

Expect big things from Awa Stylez & Supplied By Awa heading into 2021.

Roki: “How’d you describe yourself to someone that’s never met you?”

Awa: “I would describe myself as very strong-minded. I would describe myself as very considerate, or very kind, and caring. Last thing I would describe myself as is independent. 

I say I’m very independent because I make sure I’m able to handle everything myself. 

I run my business alone, I get everything I need alone, I invest in my businesses alone. Every day even if I’m not braiding, business-wise I’m very independent. I do everything on my own.”

Roki: “How’d you describe your family’s support of your business?”

Awa: “They’re very supportive. I know they get tired of me being in the living room so much doing hair. But they’re very supportive of what I do. They help me out a lot. 

They give me space for me to do hair and stuff. My sisters, it’s good to express how tiring it is to do hair to them. They somebody you want to complain to. Like “oh my god I’m so tired I don’t want to do nothing.” They’re just people you can talk to about anything.”

Post from Awa following her one-year anniversary styling hair, on December 11th.

Roki: “What would you say to the young ladies interested in becoming hairstylists?

Awa: “What I would say about upcoming stylists in New York City is that it’s very competitive. People aren’t as considerate as you might be. People want to always just be ahead of you.

What I’ll say to you is just make sure you’re determined in what you’re doing. You have to be very determined or you’re going to want to give up. You see too many people doing it, or you think she’s doing it better than you. 

Or see she’s got more followers than you. You can’t look at people having followers, you can’t look at the clout. You can’t look at stuff like that. You have to look within yourself. 

Do you really want to do this? Are you going to love doing this? Do you see yourself doing it for a long time? Think about that. You can’t be doing it because other people are doing it. You have to do it because you want to do it”

What I would tell myself is to just stay who I am. Not get overwhelmed in becoming bigger. And just always stay Awa Stylez.” 


*Quick-Hitters

Hometown: Bronx, New York

Age: 15

Address of Shop: 1404 Castle Hill Ave

Favorite Hairstylist: Braided By Lici

Celebrities Hair You’d Want To Style: Saweetie, Mulatto, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Tjay.

Dream Location To Style Hair: Atlanta.

Favorite Artists: Lil Baby, Toosii, Rod Wave, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Megan Thee Stallion, Nicki Minaj.

Who do you want to see on Da Hood Journal: Hannah’s Boutique.

What do you say to the haters: “Stay mad, I’m going to continue doing what I got to do to be successful.”

Ladies get your hair done with Awa Stylez!

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to Khoudia, Nafi, Aissatou, Roki, & Farouk. You all played an instrumental role in the success of Awa Stylez.

Introducing, James Esco

Up & coming rapper, Highbridge’s own, James Esco.

Hello everyone! This piece will be the fifth installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy & please share it with your friends.

  • This piece is dedicated to, in James’s words, all the people watching, but that’s not saying anything.

Andy: “Tell me about your childhood.”

James Esco: “My childhood was interesting, I ain’t going to lie. It was fun, but at the same time, it was really hard. I had a lot of traumatic moments, just growing up in the household I did, and in my family. A lot of the stuff at the time didn’t affect me, because I didn’t really know what was happening because I was a kid.

As I got older, it ended up affecting me a lot more & really shaped me into the person I am today. I would describe my childhood as fun, but also a tough experience.”

Andy: “Let’s talk about your family.”

James: “I have a Dominican family. My mom & dad were both born in D.R. & immigrated (to the U.S) in ‘96, ‘97. My family is very separated in a sense, but they’re also very connected. They’re definitely charismatic, but problematic.”

“Expect everyone to start tuning in like they should’ve. Should’ve been tuning in.” — Abu, James friend when asked where he expects him in 5 years.

Andy: “What role do they play in your life?”

James: “Growing up, there were a lot of problems between my mom & dad. My dad was abusive towards her, so seeing that was really hard. I don’t talk to my dad anymore, even though we were close.

The role they played, just makes me want to go harder, I don’t want to go through no shit like that. I know if I ever was to start a family, I definitely wouldn’t want to put my family through it. I definitely wouldn’t want to leave my kids & have them not talk to me. It’s definitely a motivating factor in my life.”

Andy: “Which point of life did your father’s mistakes impact you most?”

James: “I’d say my 6th-grade year & 10th-grade year. My 6th-grade year is when my mom finally kicked him out of the house. She was really going through a depressed-like stage because they were in a relationship for 22 years. 

My 10th-grade year really affected me the most, because me & my dad were really close. My 10th-grade year is when I became depressed. Everything I went through started crashing down on me & everything that was happening to people in my family. I was trying to figure it all out, I was trying to figure myself out.”

Andy: “When you start writing & making music?”

James: “The summer of 2018, so June of 2018. I always used to write from time to time, but it was so bad when I first started out. Then one time, in June of 2018 I was in the park with Kwame & my friend Imanol, and we were talking about one of our friends who was making music. So I said, what would y’all think if I started making music. They said go for it.

That same night we were on a PS4 party (party chat) and I wrote a song & I rapped it to them over the mic. They said it was fire. Ever since then I’ve been writing.”

Cover art for the song “Esco Gang Freestyle”, by James Esco.

Andy: “Why’d you start writing?”

James: “Besides from my friends really inspiring me, being able to write & getting a good review from the first thing that I actually tried to write, it encouraged me to keep going. I was also enjoying what I was writing, it wasn’t a feeling that I had before.”

Andy: “What’s the first song you ever recorded?”

James: “I don’t even know, the first time that I ever went to the studio, I don’t remember the name. It was a personal song, but I sounded so bad that day, I was so nervous. It was my first time rapping on the mic, I got so discouraged after that day I said “bro I don’t even think I’m a rap anymore.

That whole day I was just thinking about it. Then the next day I just went in & I said I have to do this. I went in with confidence & I actually recorded the first song I ever dropped, which is Tate Ave.”

Andy: “How’d you get the stage name, James Esco?”

James: “So my full name is James Escolastico. My last name has 11 letters in it, so I wasn’t going to put that in my name. 

When I first started rapping I was just thinking, I’m just be called James, but that was plain & boring, no one was going to listen to me. So I just thought of James Esco, added a little flavor to it.”

Andy: “What role did the neighborhood (Highbridge) play in your upbringing & music.”

James: “It played a huge role. Growing up I seen some crazy shit. You hear a lot of crazy shit. You see a lot of crazy shit. I try to bring it up in my music as much as I can but in a positive way. I just try to motivate people, tell them that they don’t have to be stuck in that environment forever.

Not only in my music, but it’s also played a part in making me the person I am today. I always have my head on a swivel. You never know what’s going to happen. It makes you a tougher person.”

Photo of James alongside a family member during his early childhood.

Andy: “What’s the creative process when making a track?”

James: “I need my MacBook, I need YouTube, I just search up any type beat. Let’s say I’m looking for something, I’d look up a Drake, or Lil Durk type beat. I need to make sure my TV is on to a certain level so my mom can’t hear me. 

If I find a beat, I usually know within the first four or five seconds of the track whether it’s going to be something I’m going to write to. But if I can just come up with a rhyme right away, then I know that beat is a good beat for me.”

Andy: “What’s been your most recent release?” (As of December 2020)

James: “Self Reflection, that was back in April”.

Andy: “Why’s it been so long since you’ve last released?”

James: “First, the pandemic kind of ruined everything. My mom had COVID, when it first came out, back in April, she almost died from it. I was her caretaker. Then I ended up getting it (COVID-19). It didn’t affect me as bad, it kind of affected me in a way. Also, it’s hard to get studio time & I was dealing with college stress. I was trying to commit, finding out what college I wanted to commit to.

When I did try to write, since I was distracted at home all the time, I didn’t really have any inspiration. It was really hard for me to come up with something that I was enjoying myself & that I would put out to the public.

Now that I’m back home (from college), I have a plan now. It’s much easier for me, I’m much more motivated.”

Photo of me (left) and James (right) following our over two-hour long interview.

Andy: “Explain the meaning behind my favorite song of yours, Intro?”

James: For that song, I remember first finding that beat, I said “god damn, this the hardest shit I ever heard.” I said I really got spit fire on this because I really like rapping, that’s the 90’s side of me I guess, the influence of the 90’s music. Then everything just falls into place after that. 

That’s why I talk about selling out shows & going overseas. Then I talk about my relationship with my mom a little bit, how me & her don’t always see eye to eye, but things are going to get better. I know there’s frustration & tension between us sometimes, but eventually, they’re gonna get better.”

Andy: “What’s been your favorite song to record?”

James: “I’ve had a few. The Esco Gang Freestyle was kind of funny because we were all high as hell in the studio. We were just laughing during the process & it was just an uptempo beat, so it was fun.”

Also “Phases” which is going to be the first single off of the project that I have coming up. I recorded that back in August. Making that song was crazy because I remember writing it & I finished writing it after four days, and that shit was lit. I know that’s the one.”

Andy: “What are studio sessions like?”

James: “They usually filled with my biggest friends. I usually try to get acquainted with the engineer. Most times it’s been really hard because the studio I go to, it’s kind of anti-social. 

So it’s hard to really communicate with them sometimes. But yeah most of the time it’s fun. We all in a little space, whether it’s smoking, chilling, or whatever.”

“I want people to be able to go back to it a year later, five years later, and still feel like it got better over time, I wanna make timeless music.” — James

Andy: “Is it easy, or difficult to balance school with the music?”

James: “It’s hard, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s much harder than I make it, it’s much harder than it should be definitely. Because in school, especially in college, the professors don’t really care, they just assign work. 

Not really having your own space, your own room, not really having my own space to really write & shit, it’s just hard for me to write. It just makes it hard for me to really focus.”

Andy: “How does it feel when someone expresses their support for your work?”

James: “That shit feels great I ain’t gon lie. I be saying thank you because you ain’t have to say that. Even if you don’t mean it. You didn’t have to say it. It feels great. Whenever I get a comment from anybody, I just try to show them as much appreciation as I can. I say “Bro, thank you. I really appreciate it, you didn’t have to do it.”

Andy: “What’s a common misconception that people have about you & your music?”

James: “I think people, even before they hear my music, they see I have my music on SoundCloud & it’s not the most popular, it doesn’t get the most plays. I feel they say, I’m not even going to listen to him, he probably trash, he probably just another SoundCloud rapper. 

I remember when I dropped my first song, some girl from my school, she hit me up, she said, I’m not going to lie I only clicked on it to see if it was trash, I was expecting it to be wack but it wasn’t. I knew that was the mindset that a lot of people would have.”

Cover art for the song “Intro” by James Esco.

Andy: “What’s the hardest part about making music?”

James: “Writing. That shit will stress you out. Recording it too, because I’m a perfectionist in a way. Trying to make it sound how I want it to & how I hear it in my mind, and when it doesn’t come out the way I want it to, I just get discouraged for a moment.”

Andy: “Since becoming an artist what’s been your biggest accomplishment?”

James: “Just being able to keep it real. Not allowing my own thoughts & hate to stop me from doing what I want. Not letting my family discourage me. Not letting people discourage me. Just putting out music that I enjoy myself.”

Andy: “How does the family feel about the music?”

James: “My cousins, my brothers fuck with it. My mom doesn’t understand it. But the thing is, she doesn’t want me to do it, because she comes from a place, where she probably didn’t receive the support she deserved. 

Along with other things, I just feel her family is not as supportive as they should’ve been, or not as loving as they should’ve been. She probably put that upon us, because that’s all she knew. 

So she doesn’t really believe in following dreams, she just feels like you got to work. I understand her reaction towards it, she doesn’t want me to chase music & fail. But I tell her that as much as I love you, I don’t want to struggle like you.”

As long you’re paying attention to me I know I’m doing something right.” — James

Andy: “At what point did you consider music a passion?

James: “Probably when I started writing. I knew right away once I dropped my first song. Because right after I dropped my first song I had an in-school performance, in front of a different school inside of the (Taft) campus. It was received well. I think performing is my favorite part.”

Andy: “Talk to me about your upcoming EP that’s dropping in a few months?”

James: “So basically with that, I’m just trying to give little pieces & bits of my story, while also trying to uplift people around me. Definitely, as far as right now, I have an estimation of probably January or February, February seems a little more realistic right now. 

There are certain things that are kind of setting me back right now, but definitely February. If not even if it comes a little later, I’m just trying to make it as good as I can. Definitely excited about it.”

Andy: “How many songs are on the EP?”

James: “Right now, I have about 6. I’m thinking about 6. I have about 3 or 4 songs that I know are going to go on the project for sure. 

Andy: “What should we expect from the (currently) untitled EP?”

James: “Consistency. Authentic material. Just a lot of gems.”

James aspires to have his music recognized across the globe.

Andy: “What’s your ultimate goal in the music industry when it’s all said & done?”

James: “I’m trying to be considered as one of the greats. Even though that sounds so far-fetched, just thinking about it, we see people doing it but it just seems so far away. 

Hopefully, when it’s all said & done, I want that to be what people think about me. I’m one of the greatest. One of the most real.”

Andy: “What do you want your legacy to be?”

James: I just want people to look back on me when I’m gone, to not even just mention the music but mention who I am as a person. When you die that’s the only thing people have, memories. Say “he was a good person, he was kind-hearted, good friend.” That’s really what I want my legacy to be.

I want people to feel like I always keep it real. I’m just a good person overall. With music, I just want to be remembered. I want my music to be timeless. I want people to listen to it whenever.”


*Quick-Hitters

Hometown: the Bronx, New York (Highbridge)

Favorite Artists: A-Boogie wit Da Hoodie, Lil Durk, G-Herbo, Drake, 50 Cent, Lil Baby.

Least Favorite Artist: Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert.

Favorite Albums: Nothing Was The Same (Drake), Artist (A-Boogie), Love Songs 4 The Streets 2 (Lil Durk).

Dream Collab: Drake, A-Boogie.

Dream Performance Venues: Madison Square Garden, Rolling Loud, Nelson Park.

Who do you want to see on Da Hood Journal: Flexxo, OMB Paris, Mondenfeux.

What do you say to the haters: ”Just keep watching, I know who you are.”

“Once I come back I’m never leaving. No more hiatuses.” — James

If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to Abu, Kwame, Janielis, Steven, Brayant, & John. You all played an instrumental role in the success of James Esco.

Meet, Diablo Wakefield

Official cover art for Diablo Wakefield’s latest mixtape “Goblins”, released on October 31, 2020. Click here to download now.

Hello everyone! This piece will be the fourth installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.

  • This piece is dedicated to Diablo’s late father, Errol.

Creative. Passionate. Hard Headed. Quiet. Observative.

That’s how Tavion, a close friend of Diablo Wakefield, would describe the personality of the rising Bronx rapper, who he met, as Armani

During our two-hour interview, which was conducted in Tavion’s car (an interesting experience!), he spoke proudly about the evolution of his friend’s sound.

Tavion described his music as energetic, lively, and from the heart. With each single, or project Armani releases, he, and fans from all walks of life, notice the improvement in his work.

And Armani, who is grateful for the support he’s received, isn’t surprised by the reception of his music. 

When we spoke, he shared that he’d spend his last on music, and would rather work on tracks than eat, or even sleep. 

That passion & commitment to the grind allows Armani to remain hungry in his pursuit of stardom.


Born on January 29, 2001, Armani lived on Anguilla Island, and Atlanta in his early years, before settling down in the Bronx at the age of nine.

Armani, rising Bronx rapper known professionally as Diablo Wakefield.

In the borough, he moved to the neighborhood of Wakefield, where he still resides. Today he stays with his mom & his sisters.

His father, Errol wasn’t around much when he was young but always made his presence felt.

A notorious drug dealer, Errol spent multiple stints in jail. But when he was home, he’d buy his children gifts, and tell them they were special every chance he got.

Errol was important to his family, and their lives were impacted drastically after he passed away.

Midway through his sophomore year, Armani received news that blood had been found in his car and that he’d gone missing.

Errol, who was living in Jamaica at the time, had been deported a few years prior. Hearing about his father’s whereabouts, or lack thereof, left Armani mildly concerned.

He didn’t think much of it. He just assumed that Errol had gotten into some trouble and was handling business beneath the radar.

Armani felt like he had nothing to worry about, despite his concern slowly growing the longer he didn’t hear from him. 

“We be falling asleep in the studio, and wake up to a banger” — Armani

Unfortunately, before he knew it, his life would change forever.

One day while in school, Armani got a phone call from his mother, saying she’d pick him up.

An unusual occurrence, he knew something wasn’t right.

When his mother arrived, Armani bombarded her with questions, wondering why she was even there. 

His mother pulled him to the side & delivered the devastating news.

Errol had been murdered in a gang-related crime in Jamaica.

Armani was hysterical. Struggling to control his emotions, he began crying non-stop.

Errol’s death left a large void in Armani’s life, and as a result, caused him to mature.

Refusing to follow in his father’s footsteps, he looked to use his free time productively, in an effort to stay out of trouble.

As he mourned this tragedy, Armani began to reminisce about the special moments the two spent together.

One of his dearest memories with Errol came while he was young. Armani recalls his father singing an array of different songs to him.

Moments like those are what he’ll cherish forever. 

Photo of Diablo & I following our two-hour interview, which took place in his friend Tavion’s car.

And these experiences, coinciding with Errol’s murder, would transform Armani into the person he’d eventually become.


Armani & I met while attending middle school at the Eagle Academy for Young Men, in the Bronx. We were classmates for three years.

 Back then, I remember Armani having a laid back, reserved personality. Mostly, to himself, he picked and chose when he needed to talk.

That calm composure he exhibited fascinated me from afar. Whenever he spoke, you had to pay attention, because whatever he said was worth your while.

For Armani, his tenure at Eagle was the best seven years of his life. 

Spending his adolescence in the school, the academy offered a high-level education and an environment surrounded by several students he now considers brothers. 

Under that roof, he developed a handful of strong friendships, including with the first interviewee for Da Hood Journal, Mike.

All in all, he credits Eagle for introducing him to the idea of politics, and other important topics outside his own interest.

His only regret with the school is that he wishes he took more advantage of his time there in regards to music. 

Knowing what he knows now, he would’ve begun rapping his freshman year, so he could better utilize the resources the school had to offer.

On the flip slide, he recognizes that everything happens for a reason.

He would start his rapping career towards the end of his high school career. Around graduation is when he released his first tracks, with those friends he made at Eagle by his side for moral support.

Despite Armani just recently entering the hip-hop scene, his earliest memories of rapping came a half-decade before. 

“At the very tip-top of the world bro, if not at the top or very close.” — says Armani where he sees himself when it’s all said & done.

When he was thirteen years old, he would spend a lot of his time in his cousin’s home. In an attempt to pass the time while still having some fun, they would all battle rap.

Armani would lose to his cousins in their early competitions. But being the sore loser he was, he’d begin practicing his rhymes while he was alone so whenever they battled, he’d come out victorious.

His practice would pay huge dividends.

Armani began defeating his cousins two, three, four times in a row, with ease. Tired of all the losing, they quickly realized he was no longer a novice in this sport. 

He had some legitimate talent.

In spite of the success he enjoyed winning against his cousins, he didn’t truly understand the magnitude of that talent until he got around his clique.

Dubbed “Sex-Money”, this group of skilled individuals Armani kept around him shared similar aspirations to reach the top in their respective fields of interest.

All hailing from the neighborhood of Wakefield, he credits the group, as well as the older heads in the area for pushing him to become a rapper and also influencing his sound.

After dabbling with music as a part-time hobby, he decided it was time to fully embark on this hip-hop journey.

Now, all he needed was a stage name, something that represented who he was.

Armani was often nicknamed “Diablo” in his youth because he would repeatedly engage in mischievous activity that got him in trouble.

He wanted that same malicious aura to follow him in the rap game, so he could strike fear into his opponents, and gain their respect.

But, Diablo by itself just didn’t sound right. He needed more.

As Armani returned to the drawing board, he began to think about the things in life that were the most meaningful to him, aside from music.

That “thing” was Wakefield, the place that raised him, and the community where he honed his devilish ways. 

The perfect combination, he found a stage name that perfectly embodied his character & background.

And with that, Armani became Diablo Wakefield.

Photo of Diablo (middle) alongside his friends in his Wakefield neighborhood.

Diablo Wakefield recorded his first track more than two years ago, with his friend “Blizzy” who’s currently behind bars.

Although unreleased, the track headlines a lengthy list of dope songs he’d eventually record.

His first official release would be a song titled “Listen” which can be found on SoundCloud his account. A worthy listen, the song is a far cry from the content Diablo is known for today.

His sound is inspired by rap heavyweights Eminem & Lil Wayne, two of his favorite artists. 

But to be frank, he doesn’t sound like either of them. In my opinion, Diablo most resembles a grittier, grimier, more rugged Juice Wrld, another artist he admires.

Diablo, like Juice, uses instrumentals in his tracks that stretch from hard-hitting & fast-paced, to upbeat & melodic. 

The makeup of their lyrics is also similar. 

Diablo rhymes consist of his adventures with love, battles with mental health, and frequent references to drug use.

That brutal honesty is what separates him from other artists.

In today’s age, rappers bore listeners with track after track about money, entertaining multiple women, and senseless gang activity.

Diverging from the norm, Diablo prefers to speak the truth in all of his bars. It’s the only way he knows how to make music.

And he has no problem explaining the meaning behind tracks.

He admits the recurring mentions of drugs in his songs stem from his own personal use. 

Fully aware of the harm it could cause him, he’s working hard each day towards eliminating his usage of it.

Another thing you may notice is the dark, intimidating storylines in his tracks.

That darkness stems from the crimes that go down in his neighborhood, and the death of his pops, another frequent mention in his music.

He uses many of his songs to continue furthering the legacy of his father’s life.

On the hook of the track “Lessons” from his first EP “All 41”, Diablo raps “they took my OG out the game, but bitch I’m still it.” The term “OG” is in reference to his slain dad.

Official cover art for Diablo Wakefield’s first EP, “All 41”, released in January 2020.

With each performance, Diablo strives for his music to be both real and raw to the core.

 For some, his sound isn’t necessarily relatable, but the average listener can appreciate the thrilling energy of his tracks.

A bit of that energy can be attributed to his alter ego, also known as “Lil A.”

Lil A”, is a persona of Diablo’s, one where he feels indestructible, invincible, and untouchable.

It’s also the persona that produces some of his best work.

For Diablo, one of the reasons he enjoys making music is crafting songs he and his friends love.

Creating a track can take him between fifteen minutes to two hours. It all depends on his mood during the process.

But whenever he’s in the studio he rarely fools around. He goes into the booth, only with intentions to work. He takes that time very seriously. 

Time is money after all.

While in the studio, Diablo prefers to freestyle on the majority of his tracks. 

Visiting the studio every other day, he owns a catalog of unfinished songs, many that his friends are urging him to complete.

Usually in attendance during these sessions, his clique shares their critique here & there, but mostly keeps Diablo sane when he enters his work mode.

“That’s the beautiful part about music, you don’t have to listen to me” —  says Armani in response to listeners that don’t prefer his style of music.

Another reason he enjoys the rap game is the support he receives from his growing audience. It motivates him whenever his music is reshared on social media, or when someone tells him they’re a fan of his work.

Instances like those place a smile on his face.

Life as a rapper isn’t all positives, however.

The difficult part of being an artist is the amount of time music consumes from his everyday life. 

With hip-hop being his primary source of income, each week, he’s forced to find the best route to take musically, in order to subsidize his expenses.

That stress starts to build up fast.

He doesn’t allow that to halt the progression.

Since Diablo’s begun releasing music, the biggest difference he’s discovered is how comfortable he is entering the booth and recording. 

He’s developed a business-like mentality with his craft.

And he emulated that same attention to near perfection in the past twelve months.


In January 2020, Diablo released his first EP titled “All 41.”

The twelve-minute long EP is named after a phrase he and friends live by (All for one, 4 to 1) and the main street that centers his Wakefield neighborhood (East 241 St).

He recorded the entire project in one studio session. The EP is where he discovered his trademark flow & distinctive sound. Tracks like “Hard to Love” & “Keep It True” were notable standouts.

That quality sound reached another level following the release of his first official mixtape “Goblins” which debuted on October 31st, 2020.

Flyer for promotion by Power 105.1 radio. Diablo had his music played on the station back on September 18th.

The nine-track mixtape features an impressive selection of beats, combined with that patented fast-paced delivery from Diablo.

While working on the project he saw the wordplay on his songs improving, as each succeeding track featured harder metaphors and punchlines.

The vocals on his tracks also sound super clear. Diablo does an exceptional job articulating his lyrics. 

Tracks “Run Em Over” & “Turn Me Up” were my personal favorites from the mixtape.

The entire project contained the toughness, intensity, and effortless braggadocio that separates Diablo from the rest of the pack. 

As his discography gets longer, Diablo continues to defy the many odds stacked against him all his life.

What do I mean by that?

Well, many would have crumbled in defeat after the loss of a parent at such a young age, or by the drugs, violence, and hell he was exposed to in Wakefield. 

But Diablo didn’t allow that to deter him at all. He turned his rough situation into a favorable outcome, and that’s being reflected in his music.

His determination also opened a multitude of opportunities, including having his music played on the Power 105.1 radio station back in September.

With that being said, he & his friends don’t expect it will take too long for him to reach where he wants to be.

Tavion, Diablo’s aforementioned right-hand man with a clothing brand of his own, says his story is one of inspiration.

One day, he envisions his friend on the mainstream, being played on midday radio, performing in big shows across the world like Coachella and Rolling Loud, or at Dazzles, a popular lounge in Mount Vernon. 

Diablo anticipates a similar ascent.

“Get to know me before they don’t believe you do” — Armani

When it’s all said and done, Diablo wants to be remembered as a pivotal figure in the rap game, and a role model mentioned in the same breath as icons like Kobe Bryant & Tupac.

And he’s working relentlessly to put himself in a prime position to, in his own words, “conquer the world.”


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to Tavion, Mike, Moustapha, Julian, and the Saint Peters Church. You all played an instrumental role in Diablo’s success.

Meet, Kaizen By A

The official logo for the brand “Kaizen By A.”

Hello everyone! This piece will be the third installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.

  • This piece is dedicated to Anyelina’s mother, and all her “Angeles”.
  • Esta pieza está dedicada a la madre de Angelina y a todos sus “Ángeles”.

When Anyelina was four years old, she helped save the life of a dying stranger, in her hometown of the Dominican Republic.

It was late in the evening, and she was traveling through the city alongside her mother. 

Transporting on a motorcycle, Anyelina notices a trail of blood on this narrow, dirt road. Oozing with curiosity, she motioned for her mother to stop the vehicle so they could inspect the area.

Anyelina, CEO of fitness program “Sweat with Angeles”, and clothing brand “Kaizen By A.”

As they parked, they heard the cries of someone groaning in pain. 

Following the sound, they found the man with his leg caught in the barbed wire that surrounded the road. He had flown off his own vehicle minutes before. 

Although alive, he was unconscious and bleeding slowly.

Calm at first, Anyelina became overwhelmed, feeling sympathetic for this stranger nearing his death. 

As she weeps, her mother attempts to get the attention of traveling drivers & motorists, who ride past her.

From their location, the nearest hospital was ninety minutes away. The two begin to worry as this man waits in extreme discomfort.

Anyelina’s mother finally contacts her uncle, who lived nearby, for assistance. He quickly arrives at the scene. 

Fed up with their pleas for help going ignored, the uncle stops one driver, who had no interest in pulling over.

As the driver steps out of the vehicle, the uncle explains to him that this dying man is in need of medical assistance.

Wanting to go about his day, he tunes the uncle out, not caring for the sob story.

“Because when I found the word, it was in my head 24/7, every single day. I couldn’t begin my workouts without saying that word.” — Anyelina, when describing the importance of the word “Kaizen.”

As a last resort, the uncle threatens the driver with his gun, urging him once more to take this stranger to a hospital.

A young Anyelina witnessed this entire episode unfold. She forgot what happened next.

That evening was her first real look at the harsh realities of life.

She questioned why it took such extreme measures for someone to help a stranger dying in front of them.

Never knowing how naturally selfish humans were, from that point on, she dedicated her life to helping others.

Two years later, she crossed paths with the same stranger whose life she helped save.

As they spoke, he expressed his appreciation for the act of kindness she committed that night.

That conversation changed Anyelina’s life and planted the seeds for the person she’d grow to be.


Born in the Dominican Republic in 2001, Anyelina grew up with a large, tight-knit family, in the city of Santiago.

She was an active, free-spirited child, infatuated with nature and the animals that roamed the country.

The Dominican Republic is also where she developed her confidence. 

Thin, and underweight for most of her childhood, she still walked with high spirits, despite being surrounded by beautiful, curvy women each day.

“Once you start working out, you just start changing everything around you” — Anyelina.

Anyelina learned many of the morals and values she lives by, from her biggest role model, her mother. 

A fearless woman, her mother was someone that took every task in front of her head-on. 

Well-rounded as a young adult, she owned a sandal shop, worked as a party planner, and coached a softball team for the girls in their community.

Armed with a hustling mentality, Anyelina admired her mother’s strong work ethic.

Anyelina would move several times from the Dominican Republic to New York City, where her father lived, ahead of her freshman year of high school. 

She enrolled in Frederick Douglass Academy, where she & I both graduated in 2019.

Merely associates during high school, we developed mutual respect following graduation, and became good friends, supporting each other’s endeavors as we navigate our college careers.

For Anyelina, high school was the best four years of her life. 

Already a social butterfly, she easily made friends and participated in extracurricular activities, where she gained a number of valuable life skills.

None would resonate with her more, than what she learned while on the track team.

Joining the squad in her sophomore year, Anyelina struggled mightily from the beginning, lacking the proper technique needed to excel in the sport.

Despite the rocky start, she never became discouraged. 

Around this time is when she established a relationship with Suki, the team’s captain.

An exceptional athlete, Suki led by example, running as fast as she could during each practice, always trying to push past her limits.

Her drive and determination helped her become one of New York City’s top runners.

Inspired by Suki’s discipline, Anyelina would use that inspiration to her advantage.

“You have to support people so they support you,” said Anyelina during our two-hour interview.

Ahead of her junior year, the only thing on her mind was becoming the team’s top athlete when she returned to school.

That summer, she trained each day in Inwood Hill Park, from sunrise to sunset, improving her endurance. 

If she wasn’t there, you’d find her at the Joseph Yancey Track and Field, building stamina and increasing her speed.

Her effort paid dividends. When the team reconvened at the start of the school year, her coach and teammates saw a noticeable jump in her performance.

That season, she surpassed the times she had made as a sophomore by a sizable margin, racking up her first award in the process.

Her upward trajectory continued when she became a senior, as she was named the team’s co-captain.

She had come a long way within the track program, from where she first started less than two years ago.

Unfortunately for Anyelina, life would take a turn for the worse.

Midway through her senior year, one of her uncles fell victim to cancer. Her first time losing a relative, his death sent her into a downward spiral.

The next few months were unremarkable. She stopped attending her classes, quit her job, and eventually left the track team.

And being a part of such a large family, the thought of enduring this emotional pain over and over again, scared her.

This tragedy sparked the beginning of a dark, depressing period for Anyelina.

Luckily, Kaizen would become the blessing that lifted her out of that dark place.


The definition of the word “Kaizen”, is continuous improvement within the workplace, as each employee in an operation plays a key component, to the success of the whole.

Originating from Japan, Anyelina discovered the term during the aforementioned “Summer of Redemption” between her sophomore and junior year.

“When you place yourself in uncomfortable situations, you get more shit done.” — Anyelina

Whenever she needed motivation, she’d return to that term in particular.

As she mourned the death of her uncle, she incorporated the concept into her life.

For over a month, Anyelina would simply post “Kaizen” on her social media, as a reminder to steadily improve.

Whether it was in school, or in her social life, each coinciding day was an opportunity for her to get better.

As a result, she gradually came to peace with her uncle’s passing, even though the thought of him still brings her to tears every now and then.

However, she learned that death is inevitable, and it’s crucial that she lived life to the fullest.

From that point on, that’s exactly what she’s been striving to do.

Anyelina found a new job and eventually returned to the sports scene.

She joined FDA’s lacrosse team as a manager, finding a family outside her own that helped her regain that competitive spirit she yearned for.

The team also consoled her emotionally as she continued to grieve.

Slowly but surely, Anyelina would get back on her feet.

Around this time is when fitness became one of her several passions.

Today, Anyelina works on her body every day, for at least an hour, enjoying the pain that comes with each exercise.

And just a few years ago, she would train alongside friends and associates willing to accompany her. 

Over time, she lost patience for workout partners who repeatedly failed to attend sessions.

To prevent her time from being wasted, she began charging people for workouts.

A photo of Anyelina performing a stretch, while at a nearby park in her neighborhood.

And with that, “Sweat with Angeles” was born.

Officially launching this past Summer, “Sweat with Angeles” is Anyelina’s fitness program, where she changes the lives of her clients physically, and psychologically.

The program’s moniker stems from an excessive amount of sweating clients do from her workouts. 

The name “Angeles” (ahng-he-les) means “angels” in English and is also Anyelina’s middle name. She refers to her clients as her “Angeles.”

Thus far, the program has been a success. Currently, she’s training almost thirty clients and is booked for the remainder of this year.

Her program features both indoor and outdoor training. 

Outdoor sessions include cardio workouts, which take place at Inwood Park. These hour-long workouts consist of squats, jumping jacks, sprints, very few water breaks, and meditation.

Indoor sessions consist of rigorous weight training, which is performed in a nearby gym.

Anyelina’s favorite part about her fitness program is the body transformation of her clients. 

A vast majority of her “Angeles” are women, and most of them notice a significant change in their bodies after three weeks. 

Photo of a model sporting a black & white “Kaizen” t-shirt, and black & white “Kaizen” shorts.

Anyelina enjoys posting “weekly transformation” photos, like this one, on the program’s Instagram page.

These pictures help build her credibility and is proof to potential clients that her training brings desirable results.

She also enjoys getting to know her clients internally. 

At times in the midst of a session, some clients give up when exercises become difficult.

At that point, Anyelina encourages them to dig deep and push as hard as they can go.

Some “Angeles” climb these mental hurdles, while others break down, exposing vulnerability. 

When this happens, Anyelina becomes comforting and supportive, allowing them to open up to her.

By doing this, it ensures that her clients feel comfortable in her presence, regardless of their emotions.

One of her pet peeves when training, is clients who aren’t committed to the grind and don’t return after a few sessions. 

She’s already envisioned how your body will evolve before you begin training.

By walking away from her program, you’re robbing her of that vision.

Anyelina enjoys working with all her “Angeles”, but one, in particular, stands out: her first client, Myangel.

Myangel began her training this past summer, initially struggling to get through workouts. 

As the two continued to train, Myangel slowly opened up to Anyelina.

You see, a handful of Anyelina’s clients suffer through personal trauma, which prevents them from reaching their goals. 

An Instagram conversation between myself & Myangel, one of Anyelina’s many success stories within her fitness program. Myangel spoke about the immense impact the program had on her life.

Exercising with her helps turn that negative energy into something positive.

For Myangel, once she confronted her demons, she took off.

Her body began to change, her diet improved, and she started completing her own workouts at home.

Sweat with Angeleshelped Myangel grow into a new person, for the better.

I think it’s safe to say that Anyelina is making her mark through her fitness program. 

However, that’s not what she ultimately wants to be known for.

Despite fitness being one of her passions, deep down, Anyelina sees herself as a philanthropist, on a daily mission to help others.


Kaizen By A”, Anyelina’s clothing brand, officially launched in the summer of 2019. 

She always enjoyed wearing activewear while exercising but got tired of wearing brands like Nike & Adidas. So, she decided to create clothing of her own.

More than a year since its inception, Anyelina has released compression shirts, resistance bands, and leggings, all of which can be found on the brand’s website

She’s also sold lifestyle garments, like shorts and t-shirts for her loyal customers.

A nice touch, the brand’s official logo, a gold dragon, is a sign of honor to the Japanese culture.

Although Kaizen By A is an activewear brand, Anyelina says there lies a bigger picture behind the operation.

Recently on the Kaizen By A Instagram page, Anyelina’s been highlighting black scholars, influencers, and businesses, that deserve recognition.

During our two-hour interview, she explained to me that clothing is a starting base that will eventually fund her plans for the future.

Just look at the brand’s official slogans:

  • “One percent better every day.”
  • “There’s always room to improve.“
  • “Kaizen.” (continuous improvement)

By reading them, you can easily sense the type of mindset Anyelina carries every single day.

You also notice it through the impressive goals she’s set out for herself.

Ultimately, her vision for Kaizen By A is a program that works with youth in the underprivileged neighborhoods where she grew up.

In ten years, she hopes to build athletic compounds across New York City, so its children have a safe place to play sports recreationally.

She also plans on building a school in the Dominican Republic, one that offers students creative freedom, and grants them the opportunity to explore different career fields after graduation, a luxury not common in the country.

Watching from a distance, I’ve seen the steps Anyelina has taken to achieve her goals. She’s the walking definition of Kaizen.

And, Anyelina is well aware of the time & energy she’s been exerting.

She admits that her lifestyle is difficult to maintain, as she enjoys completing multiple projects simultaneously. 

Nonetheless, she assures me that she hasn’t reached this success alone.

“When you changes somebodies life, it like changes you inside as well” — Anyelina.

She credits her accomplishments to an abundance of amazing people.

First, her family, “Seven out of Seven.”

The seven of them (herself, Dee, Mata, Unique, Kiara, Janel, and Maria) met during high school and built a strong bond throughout those four years that still remains today. 

The group is supportive & cheers on all of Anyelina’s achievements.

She also gives credit to her public relations manager, Sira, who manages the social media accounts for “Sweat with Angeles” & “Kaizen By A.” Sira helps make her life much easier.

Outside of her fitness program & brand, Anyelina has aspirations to attend law school.

Her reasoning is to acquire the knowledge necessary to maintain the many business ventures she’ll create in the future.

She also wants to utilize that knowledge to battle the politicians in these urban communities and fight for its residents. She hopes to be the voice for those without a platform.

When it’s all said and done, Anyelina wants to be remembered as someone who strives for greatness continuously, while helping others.

And she’s already laying the groundwork for just that.

Over the past couple of weeks, on the Kaizen By A Instagram page, Anyelina’s been highlighting black scholars, influencers, and businesses, that deserve recognition.

And in the coming months, she’ll be unveiling a few collections of clothing, with special importance to her.

With all that being said, Anyelina is truly working her behind off to make sure her complete vision comes to fruition. 

It’s honestly a sight to see.

“There are many things that I’m going to achieve with Kaizen, and I say I’m going to, not that I want to, but I’m going to.” — Anyelina.

I know I speak for many when I say that I’m very excited about what the future holds for her, and Kaizen


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to her family “Seven out of Seven”, Dee, Mata, Unique, Maria, Kiara, & Janel. Shoutout to Davon, Sira, Zujein, Fatima, Aicha, and everyone that’s supported Kaizen. You all played an instrumental role in Anyelina’s success.

Meet Good Kid, Bad Intentions

The official logo for the brand, “Good Kid, Bad Intentions”.

Hello everyone! This piece will be the second installment of my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.

This piece is dedicated to Kameron’s younger sister Shania, the most important person in his life.


The game of basketball has also allowed me to cross paths with some unbelievable people in my life.

Like my guy Kameron.

Or Kam, as I like to call him.

My boy Kam, the mastermind behind underground clothing brand Good Kid, Bad Intentions.

Kam, the mastermind behind the underground clothing brand Good Kid, Bad Intentions, and I, met three years ago while at basketball practice.

It was midway through our junior year. One day, my high school’s varsity-B squad was in the early stages of a two-hour workout.

Before sprinting drills, our coach introduced us to a student who’d recently transferred to Frederick Douglass Academy, my high school.

Being his first day there, he’d be joining us in the basketball program.

That student was Kam.

Hoping to make a good impression on the coach, I wanted to be the first player to befriend Kam, and show him what our program was all about. 

Following the workout, I went to introduce myself. 

Shy at first, Kam quickly demonstrated the infectious energy that still resonates with me today.

In our next time practice, while working on defensive techniques, Kam stole the show.

During the drill he slid his feet & was physical with other players, much to the delight of the coach.

After watching him go to work, he earned my respect with his hustle, and tenacity on the court. 

Despite Kam leaving the basketball program shortly after we met. we managed to remain, friends, as time went on.

Still good buddies three years later, I’ve been blessed to see Kam reach the accomplishments he’s enjoying today. 

“Living in different places, you always gotta feel people out. You always learn different characteristics of different people.” — Kam

Who knew that our friendship would be established after just one basketball practice?

And that’s not even the most important part of this story.

You might be asking, how did Kam, a Harlem resident, end up in FDA?

Well, because he got in trouble. I’ll explain in a few paragraphs.

See, Kam has never been a “bad” kid. There aren’t any hateful bones in his body. If anything, he’s misunderstood. 

Kam is someone who cares about others and knows the difference between right and wrong.

In my eyes though, he’s always been a “good” kid.

However, occasionally when things aren’t unfolding how he envisioned, or, if people take advantage of his kindness, it could trigger some of his “bad intentions.” 

Some people won’t ever understand that.

As you continue reading, you’ll notice that being a good kid, sometimes with bad intentions, seems to be the story of Kam’s life. 


Born on Christmas Day in 2000, Kam lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his mother, who he describes as a hard-working and resilient woman, along with his aunt & younger sister.

“I always thought to dress different and be weird, being weird is just natural.” — Kam

Kam moved around frequently during his youth. His nomadic upbringing helped him build relationships across the country, which is crucial in his field of work. 

He moved to Queens, New York when he turned seven, then moved again, this time to Atlanta, where he started fourth grade.

For Kam, living in Atlanta was an eye-opening experience.  It’s the city where he discovered the game of football.

After seeing his friends play the sport in his neighborhood, he decided to give it a try.

His group tried out for the Norcross Blue Devils, a park league team in their neighborhood. It was Kam’s first opportunity to play the sport competitively.

Kam spent a couple of years suiting up for Norcross. Playing the cornerback & safety positions, he enhanced his skills, and built relationships with teammates on the field.

Shirt that reads “Love Us Like You Love Your Culture”, which Kam created in the midst of the Black Lives Matter Movement following George Floyd’s murder.

Around this time is also where Kam became enamored with the game of Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, his favorite football player & role model.

Despite the progress he made in the Peach State, Kam would move yet again, prior to his seventh-grade year.

He moved back to New York City, but would attend boarding school in Illinois to be closer to his grandparents, who lived nearby.

Kam yearned to spend more time with his elders, and this would be his chance. 

Unfortunately, he found himself devoting more time than he wanted with his education.

The institution was extremely restrictive, as Kam felt cooped up, unable to live life as a youth should.

He despised that academy, but it wasn’t all negative.

Kam joined their football program, sticking around through high school.

As he grew older, Kam showed massive improvement on the field. He racked up statistics & team awards for his defensive talent.

Unfortunately, that athletic success came to a screeching halt in his junior year.

“Why not mix money with something you’re passionate about, you never know where it can go.” — Kam

Although a blessing in disguise, this roadblock would change the course of his entire life.

One night, Kam was relaxing in the dormitory of his boarding school with his roommates.

Suffering from boredom, his roommates felt like smoking, an activity prohibited in the dorms.

The marijuana they’d be using was already in their possession, they just needed something to smoke it with.

Scavenging through Kameron’s room, they came across one lucky item, the mouthpiece to his trumpet, which they’d be using, in order to get high.

Kam wisely decided to sit out the festivities.

The next day, he took back his trumpet, to use for his music class.

Midway through that class period, Kam was playing the instrument like normal, when his music teacher noticed a peculiar smell. 

The room reeked of marijuana.

The teacher halted instruction and searched his classroom for the culprit. 

That smell of marijuana had been coming from the mouthpiece of Kam’s trumpet, the same one his friends used the previous night.

He was quickly sent to the principal office for questioning.

Despite Kam and his friend’s consistent pleas towards his innocence, it did nothing to sway the principals decision.

He would be expelled from the boarding school, and sent back home to New York City.

Do you notice that good kid, with the so called bad intentions?

Kam innocently allowed his friends to use his mouthpiece, only for it to be what got him kicked out of school.

Ridiculous.

His expulsion proved to be a bittersweet moment.

Flyer for a pop-up shop Kam put together in the summer of 2020. Brands like portal2mymind and more were in attendance, sharing their work to the world.

Yes, he was leaving the institution he initially dreaded, but he’d found his niche at the school and was improving as a football player.

Nonetheless, he was en route to Harlem, where he enrolled in FDA for the remainder of his high school career.

He chose the FDA amongst the many schools in the area, due to the academy’s strong football program.

Unfortunately, by the time he began his first day there, the football season was nearing its conclusion.

With the sport no longer being a viable option, Kam quickly needed to find an outlet where he could exert all his energy.


Anyone who takes the time to help Kam is near and dear to his heart. He’s an appreciative person.

That appreciation is what helped him find that outlet he was seeking: fashion.

Near the end of his junior year, Kam began attending a college preparatory program at Columbia University.

The program allowed him to network with professionals from several well-known companies, so he could figure out his plans following graduation.

One of those networking opportunities included participating in an internship with Adidas.

When he got news of this, Kam was ecstatic. Adidas was a brand he grew up wearing, especially while playing football.

Throughout his internship, he connected with Adidas representatives, and also created his own prototype basketball sneaker.

“Seeing other black creators around me doing good is pretty dope to me.” — Kam (right)

All in all, working with the brand offered Kam the hands-on action he craved.

This experience also opened his eyes, triggering his increasing interest in clothing.

As his senior year quickly approached, Kam became more assertive with his outfits, carefully selecting which pieces complimented each other.

He even engaged in a few modeling opportunities, including one with his friend Ella, creator of the streetwear brand The Series.

Kam’s closest friends, already involved in fashion, began noticing his evolving style. Those comrades, as well as a handful of strangers, would shower Kam with compliments.

For him, that was an unbelievable feeling.

Oozing with confidence, Kam felt obligated to step outside his comfort zone and share his imagination with the world. 

After some thought, and with the encouragement of his friends, he decided to do something that seemed impossible over a year ago while in boarding school.

Create his own clothing brand.

And thus, struck the birth of “Good Kid, Bad Intentions.”


Kam chose the “Good Kid, Bad Intentions” for his brand because he felt like it represented the life he was living. Plus, it was catchy, and simple to understand.

Photos from Kam’s first official release in November 2019. On the left is his “Wild Child” long-sleeved t-shirts. On the right is rising model, and friend, Amira.

He wishes that his first official release, which took place in November 2019, was as simple.

Originally planning to launch his clothing brand on Halloween, due to the impressive concept of his first pieces, Kam admits he wasn’t prepared in time.

He’d eventually get on track and enjoyed a decent amount of sales during opening week. 

Ahead of his first release is when Kam met his right-hand woman, and fellow fashion designer Fatima, CEO of the underground clothing brand portal2mymind.

The two met on social media, and instantly clicked after realizing they shared the same hunger to prosper in the clothing industry, and see others flourish alongside them.

Kam credits Fatima for improving his work ethic, and pushing him to become bolder with each succeeding release.

Kam also credits his upbringing for leading him to where he is today. 

After returning to New York from boarding school, he resided at the Polo Grounds Houses, in Harlem. 

He witnessed poverty in each corner of the housing development. Living there gave Kam the determination to make it out that environment.

As of today, Kam’s released numerous t-shirts, including these rhinestone jawns, hoodies, sweatpants, and trucker hats for his loyal customers.

In the future, he’s interested in working on cardigans, shoes, and women’s clothing, like dresses and skirts. 

“Fatima is a tough designer, but also as a friend, that’s like, my dawg” — said Kam when describing rising clothing designer Fatima, shown in the photo above.

My intrigue began to grow as I listened to his plans during our interview.

For Kam, the hardest part about owning a clothing brand is the heavy workload. 

He’s currently running a one-man show, which he prefers, since he gets the final say in each decision, even though it can become overwhelming working alone.

On the flip side, he benefits greatly from the amount of time he spends designing his clothing.

Over the last year, he’s noticed the quality of his production improve drastically.

He’s also developed a higher sense of accountability with his brand Good Kid, Bad Intentions

During our two-hour interview, he emphasized that he’s came a long way in terms of promoting his clothing, and conducting his releases.

Despite his growth, Kam can’t help but feel overlooked within the underground fashion industry. 

He compares the feeling to how fans overlook J.Cole, his favorite hip-hop artist, in favor of flashier names.

Feeling like Cole lacks the mainstream recognition he deserves, Kam admires how he fuels that anger into his music. 

Kam looks to fuel his anger into creating exceptional clothing.

“Once you connect to your community, you can connect to anybody.” — Kam (right)

In five years, Kam hopes to become wealthy, with Good Kid, Bad Intentions thriving.

He hopes to collaborate with fashion designers Rick Owens, Telfar Clemens, and Kerby Jean-Raymond, founder of menswear label Pyer Moss.

He praises how Kerby pushes the African American agenda, by collaborating with other black creators, hiring black models, black interns, and more.

With that being said, Kam didn’t anticipate this type of success when he decided to create a clothing brand.

When first embarking on this journey, he expected this to be merely a side hustle.

But now, he finds himself living comfortably off his hard work.

Ultimately, Kameron wishes for his legacy to be an influential figure who helps others.

His goal is to pave a path for rising fashion designers like himself & become that mentor he never had.

In my opinion, he’s already on his way.

Whenever we discuss his work, I can sense that passion he has for his clothing, and fashion in general.

I’m truly excited to witness what’s in store for my guy, especially given his turbulent past.

And, regardless of what the future holds for Kam, and his brand, he’ll assure you one thing. 

“A part of being a good kid with bad intentions, sometimes, it’s being reckless” — Kam 

Good Kid, Bad Intentions will live on forever.


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


Special shoutout to Kevin, Alexis, Kim, Reno, Astro, Nigel, Yaya, Tianna, Amira, Khaciff, Hamzah, Santana, Ian, Marcel, Leo, & Fatima. You all played an instrumental role in the success of Good Kid, Bad Intentions.

Meet the Fearless Boyz

The official logo for the brand “Fearless Boyz”

Hello everyone! This piece will be the first in my newest series titled “Da Hood Prospects”, where I’ll introduce readers to inner-city youth that are rising stars in their respective fields of work. Enjoy, and please share it with your friends.

• This piece is dedicated to Shaiquan Wilson aka “Sha Glizzy” (1999–2020).


Aside from my senior year, seventh-grade was by far the most fun I had in school. 

During that period I enjoyed a growth spurt, finished with a ninety-overall grade point average, & was brimming with confidence.

Not to mention, I was arguably the top thirteen-year-old basketball player at the Eagle Academy for Young Men, my middle school. 

And being an all-boys academy, the competition each day was fierce.

Whenever we had gym class, my friends and I would rush from the lunchroom to the locker room, to forty-five minutes of straight hoops.

The highlight of our day, it got to the point where we’d create our teams of five, & keep tallies of our victories.

Our gym class felt like the NBA Finals.

And being one of the top athletes in my grade, I would cook most defenders with an array of moves driving to the rim, and a streaky, but steady, mid-range jumper. 

However, there was one person I could never figure out.

“You can’t win in life without being fearless” —Sta

My boy Moustapha.

Moustapha, or Sta as I call him, was by far my toughest competition.

Back then, he was this skinny & lanky kid who quickly moved down the court. He used his long wingspan to his advantage, and to my disadvantage.

Each time we went head-to-head, I would fail to get in a rhythm. 

Sta blocked or altered all my attempts, and being underrated offensively, would finish every shot near the basket.

Despite my troubles, these were some of my favorite memories playing the sport.

As I got older, I discovered my niche outside of basketball, which is writing. I became aware of my passion for putting pen to paper, which led to this blog you’re reading today.

And, due to unforeseen circumstances, Sta would find his niche outside of basketball as well: clothing.

During his high school career, Sta attended multiple schools without a uniform policy, forcing him to assemble outfits each day.

Despite being outside his comfort zone at first, that time period is when he discovered his love for fashion. 

This photo was taken during the three-hour interview on August 9th. Mike gifted me this t-shirt.

He would attend school with the sole purpose of impressing classmates with his evolving wardrobe. Every day was a fashion show for him.

Those four years were crucial in helping Sta find his unique style. 

Around this time is when he met Alex and Stefan, two aspiring fashion designers who were classmates of his while attending school in Connecticut.

The two encouraged Sta to begin designing clothing himself, and discover where that could lead him.

However, it wasn’t until he met this one person, where he realized the heights he could potentially reach.


It was a chilly February day in the Bronx.

For some time, Sta had been keeping tabs on someone who’d been making waves throughout the borough.

That someone was Michael, or Mike, as his friends refer to him. 

“It’s more than a clothing brand bro. This shit is really a lifestyle” —  Mike

Mike is a deep-voiced fellow, who’s smooth & laid back by nature. Once you get to know him, he’s the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.

He’s also the CEO of the clothing line titled “Fearless Boyz”, which began its inception in January 2020.

Sta, Mike, and I share the distinction of being Eagle Academy alums, despite not attending simultaneously.

On this February day, the two met through a mutual friend, so Sta could purchase a yellow hoodie, one of Mike’s earlier releases.

During the transaction, the two shared a lengthy dialogue. Mike was familiar with Sta’s social media and was intrigued by his style. Their conversation would spark the beginning of a strong friendship, & partnership.

Six months following that interaction, the Fearless Boyz brand is better than ever.

And formerly an admirer, Sta now finds himself as the line’s first & only brand ambassador.

An Instagram post from February 2020 that ultimately sparked the friendship between Mike & Sta.

Mike selected Sta because he believed in Sta’s growing potential, and ability to effectively promote the line.

The two were able to create a bond through their support for one another, & through clothing.

In spite of that, Mike’s life story began with hoop dreams as well.

Born in Queens, he lived in the infamous Queensbridge Houses until the age of nine, around the time his father passed away.

He moved around until landing in Soundview, where he still resides today. 

With his father absent from his life, he credits the older heads in his neighborhood for playing a big-brother role in his life and helping him grow up faster than he wanted.

Throughout middle school, Mike was always taller than his peers. Even today, he stands at six feet five, the size of an NBA shooting guard.

“He’s weird,” Mike said while describing Lil Uzi Vert. “But everyone should be weird though, if you not weird then you shouldn’t be here, that’s what makes a person.”

Despite this, Mike never had serious aspirations of playing ball professionally, explaining why his tenure at Eagle Academy got off to a rocky start.

He enrolled at the school with the intention of playing varsity basketball, after being recruited by team coaches & friends. 

However, early on in the season, he realized that competitive basketball wasn’t his passion. He preferred playing recreationally.

He left the squad midway through his freshman year, much to the dismay of his teammates.

Instead, his stint at Eagle is where he discovered his love for clothing. The school’s uniform gave him a chance to be versatile with complementary pieces like shoes, sweaters, & jackets.

Even during dress-down days, he’d attend school in subtle footwear that still caught the attention of envious students.

Today, Mike considers high school to be the best years of his life. 

At Eagle, he felt comfortable in his own skin, which was important following his father’s death.

There, he was surrounded by several young men whom he considers brothers, cut from the same cloth as him.

Despite Eagle Academy helping him find his passion for clothing, Mike credits well-known celebrities like ASAP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, & Young Thug, as inspirations behind his love for fashion.

“This first piece that’s coming? It might shake New York City” — Sta when describing his upcoming clothing brand.

But, celebrity stylist Bloody Osiris is someone he idolizes.

Mike marvels at his spontaneous personality, the versatility of his pieces, and the confidence he carries in each of his outfits.

Bloody even inspired Mike to begin investing in stocks and finding different sources of income to subsidize his clothing.

The way Mike respects Bloody is exactly how Sta cherishes popular 80’s rock musician Billy Idol.

Billy is one of the few people Sta admires, both as an artist and a fashion icon. He adores how Idol was himself at all times and sought happiness in his life, rather than fame and fortune that came with his profession.

Idol was someone who didn’t care about the opinions of others and embodied the free, fearless lifestyle that Sta and Mike live each day.


The origins of Fearless Boyz stem from humble beginnings.

Mike’s vision for the brand came as a child. Growing up, he carried a notebook & jotted down sketches of any ideas he had, including ones for a potential clothing line in the future. 

Photo from a recent Fearless Boyz photo shoot in August. The photo features fashion designer Si.Bando (left), Sta (middle), and rising hip-hop artist Diablo Wakefield (right).

The inside of that book resembles the popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. He still owns the book to this day and looks through it occasionally.

The notebook represents a time in Mike’s life where he remained to himself. He feared opening up to others and lived through the book.

Now, those same ideas are coming to life.

He still struggled to open up ahead of his first official release in January. 

Mike was worried about the initial reception of his clothing, especially since he dedicated tons of money and resources to create his pieces.

That fear quickly left after his first drop sold out in a few hours. From thereon, the line has been trending up.

Mike has blessed customers with t-shirts, hoodies, sweaters, and trucker hats.

As he continues to establish himself, he intends to diversify his garment collection by releasing bubble jackets, sweatsuits, skullies, and more.

Sta is on a similar trajectory. 

Despite being committed to the Fearless Boyz, he has plans on venturing into his own brand, specializing in denim jeans.

“Niggas wanna get on the wave but they can’t ride the wave” — Sta

Sta was customizing denim before meeting Mike but went on hiatus to regain focus and add to his asset base, in order to improve the quality of his clothing.

Sta has some special ideas he’ll unveil to the world in the coming months. It appears he has something brewing on his clothing Instagram page

In spite of the accomplishments of the Fearless Boyz, there are always roadblocks to the path of greatness.

For Mike, the toughest part of having a clothing line is finding the balance between devoting time to the brand and enjoying life as a young adult.

And with the brand’s ever-growing popularity, keeping up with orders can become overwhelming.

However, he recognizes that the energy he’s exerting will ultimately help him, and the Fearless Boyz reach their goals.

Sta realized this as well. Back in March, he left the Bronx Community College to further pursue his passion for clothing.

With the newfound free time, he’s using it to help Mike cook up new ideas for the brand, and create attire for himself.

“That’s the thing about fashion, You gotta take risks to be fly” — Mike (middle)

Don’t be surprised when you see Fearless Boyz being worn across New York City. This duo is working diligently each day to make that happen.


During our three-hour interview, Sta explained that the reason he became Mike’s brand ambassador is because of the vision he saw for the line.

See, Sta carries himself like a prophet. He’s quick to notice something before anyone else, and he always voices his opinion.

He sensed the potential of the Fearless Boyz, & wanted to be a part of the journey.

And although it is recognized as a clothing line on the rise, this brand represents a lifestyle for Mike & Sta.

In their own definition, to be a “Fearless Boy” is to be weird, and do what you believe is cool, contrary to how the majority thinks.

As a result, the duo lives life freely, and without any fear.

The duo have big things in store for the clothing lines future.

Ultimately, Mike wants his legacy to be defined as being one of the most influential, and well-dressed people on the planet.

His goal is to put the Fearless Boyz on the mainstream, and when his name is firmly entrenched in the clothing industry, he’ll return to Soundview and give back to the residents of his neighborhood, who think highly of him.

For Sta, he plans on continuing his upward ascent. He’s not sure of what the future will hold but says that time will dictate what his legacy becomes.

However, he guarantees that his denim brand will be one of the most sought out brands in the world.

As far as the Fearless Boyz is concerned, in five years Mike and Sta envision the line being displayed at fashion shows, amongst illustrious streetwear brands like Off-White & VLONE.

They see their hard work resulting in a lavish lifestyle, filled with private jets, vacations, and lots of pampering.

With that being said, begin buying stock in the Fearless Boyz.

The year 2020 represents the beginning of a new era within the underground clothing industry, which prominently features Mike & Sta.

I could sense that hunger they have to destroy the competitors in there path. 

After meeting with them, I left the interview with nothing but faith that the duo will surpass the marks that they’ve set out to reach.

Stay Fearless everyone.

Soon, all of New York City will rep “Fearless” across their body.

But in the meantime, from the words of Mike, get prepared for some real “weird shit.”


If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!

Best,

Andy


*Shoutout to P.J, Darius, & Rayvon. Special shoutout to Imran Potato, Alex, Stefan, Wendy, JDA, Diablo, & Si.Bando. You all played an instrumental role in the success of the Fearless Boyz.