"I remember it like it was yesterday... if I would’ve took his advise, I wouldn’t be writing to you right now."

I am Dre.

04.26.2015

[continued]

I’m gonna tell you a lil bit more bout my experience in the streets so you & the viewers has as much clarity as possible.

Like I said earlier, the things I’ve seen growing up became normal to me. I had plenty of good people in my life, they were just doing things that are considered bad. I would go to school & come back & be exposed to everything that was goin on. At a really young age I started getting fascinated with the street lifestyle; smoking weed; drinking; selling drugs; women; gangs; and guns. The fact that I seen everyone around me doing it, and the fact that I wasn’t because my mom tried to keep me away from all of it made me want it even more.

I started hanging with my older brothers & a couple older friends of theirs and that’s when I started smoking weed & drinking. I started smoking first. I first smoked when I was 8 years old and I was addicted ever since. Anytime I had money I would spend it on weed. It was fun & exciting to me and it felt good. Plus, I seen everyone around me doing it. That’s not an excuse though. But I had to at least try and see whats to it. And when I did, I couldn’t get enough of it. I tried drinking when I was 9 or 10. I never liked it though, so I pretty much stayed away from it.

I think I was so eager to be apart of what everyone was doing around me because there really wasn’t anything else goin on. And I think it just happened naturally. I was always curious but I think to prevent me from getting into some of the things that I got into was to simply move away, but that wasn’t something that was simple or even possible at the time. My fam is pretty small, so we all lived on the same street. It was me & my immediate family, but my grandma & great gma lived in separate homes across the street.

My mom was great; she did everything she could while raising the 3 of us on her own. She worked 2 jobs at certain times, and did a lot of over-time just to make ends meet. And we still struggled. There were times where I was hungry or the lights or gas went out, but my mom always found a way to fix everything. I love her for that.

My mom also tried to keep us in the house a lot, to keep us from getting into any bullshit or from getting hurt, but we got tired of sitting in the house with nothing to do. So at some points she had to let us out to run around & have fun. The only problem is that there isn’t anything positive in the neighborhood, so you become apart of the environment you live in. I made friends, but they were older & doing stuff like smoking/drinking & into criminal stuff. Their mom’s could care less what they were doing or where they were, so they were always out & “having fun” while I was sitting in the house – I hated it. But everything my mom did was for the best in me & my brother & sis. I just didn’t see it that way at the time. I feel like the way my life turned out is all my fault because I didn’t listen.

I let all kinds of influence and curiosity dictate the path of my life. I feel like I let my mom down though. People probably say shes a bad mom because of the situation im going through now, but none of this is her fault. Its not fair to her. She did everything she could, to keep me away from the life style that I was living. And the things that I needed, but she couldn’t do, she couldn’t do these things because she didn’t know how, or because I unintentionally didn’t let her. I hate I put the streets before my family. Even once im out and I make things right by being there for them, one thing I’ll never forget is how I put my family to the side for fun & excitement and the streets. Now though, family is everything to me.

You sure I haven’t told you about my oldest brother? I think I did. Bit his name is [name removed] and I think hes 24. Lol, I got all of my siblings ages all messed up because they’re all 1 or 2 years apart from each other. But yeah, I think that out of everyone, hes the strongest. Hes real smooth & laid back and he has a really good heart. All through out my life hes tried to encourage me to do the right things instead of getting into trouble. But at the time, he wasn’t doing anything positive and I wanted to be just like him & my other brother and their friends. Hes always been someone that I looked up to. Im not sure if he knows that though.

I remember when I was out, like around the time that I got locked up – [name removed] had just got out of a work-release program, I think it was. He had got locked up & they sent home to a program that I can’t remember the name of and the program really helped him get his life back together. I remember around the 4th of July he came back to town for the first time. He knew the lifestyle I was living and I remember him trying to pull me away from all of it.

I remember it like it was yesterday – everyone was standing around doing nothing except smoking & drinking, except for him. I remember him trying to tell me that I should leave and go with him. He wanted to go to the movies and out to eat, but I wanted to stay & hang out, so he just left. If I would’ve took his advise, I wouldn’t be writing to you right now.

I always thought that I had all of the answers when I didn’t. I think [name removed] is one of a few people that really understands me and always knew what was best for me, but he just didn’t want to pressure me, so he let me make my own decisions. I feel like I put the streets before him and my family. And now all I think about is getting to know him again and just enjoying life with him and the rest of my family. Even though I haven’t heard from him since I’ve been in this prison, I think about him all the time. He was having a hard time not long ago, but hes completely turned his life around and now hes working & has his own place and hes away from all of the bullshit. He tried to help [name removed], but I’m not sure if [name removed] is accepting it. But yeah, Im proud of him and I look up to him. He always tried to be my big brother, but I just didn’t wanna listen to anyone. I had it all wrong. Now I miss and love him and I wish I could go back and correct everything from my past, but I cant. All I do now is focus on my everyday life and my future.

Music & the media are really powerful and influenced me in so many ways. The things that influenced me the most were things in music & the media that promoted everything that I thought was cool at the time. I would hear songs about having sex with women; having all the material things in life; selling drugs and stuff like that and I loved it. When I was young, like 8-9 years old, hearing that type of music or seeing these things in movies or in the media enticed me and made me want to do it. I thought it was cool and exciting and I wanted to do it too. But I felt like this every since I was exposed to these types of things in the media or music. It made me feel like a normal life was just boring and to really live and have fun I had to live that way. And the fact that there wasn’t much positive in the neighborhood didn’t help either. But once I started doing some or most of the things I heard in the media or music it felt great and to continue to see it in the media & music only encourages you to continue doing it, like some of these things are “whats up.”

It also makes youth & kids in the neighborhoods like where I come from, feel good about themselves, and also encourages them to be apart of what they see everyday in their neighborhood, because they listen to music from artist that come from the same kinds of neighborhoods, and the music they’re making talks about the things that they see every day. Does any of this make sense?

I think I was just a follower prior to going away to the residential home. The whole time I was there, I still was influenced by the street life and everything that I was getting into, which really wasn’t much: smoking & running the streets of my neighborhood. I kept getting in trouble, too. That’s how I ended up at the residential in the first place. The things I was into prior to goin to the residential was petty and I still only “thought” about doing the more serious stuff. But the day that I was brought home from the residential, I started doing all of those things.

My first day back, I sold my first bag of crack. It was over after that. I think that summer was when I really fell in love with the streets. It was the summer where I had my “first” for a lot of thing that I fantasized about. And I loved the feeling of freedom. I had just been away for 16-17 months. I was welcomed like I never even left and the life that I had at the residential seemed really boring compared to the life I knew I could have in my old neighborhood. And even though I loved all the excitement & that freedom, eventually it got old, for me.

I really started to miss the life I had at the residential – not being in their custody, but just having a peace of mind and doing normal things, like going to school and playing sports every day. I missed the feeling of being healthy and in good shape, which is why I quit smoking weed not long after I came home. I wanted something different, but it wasn’t that simple.

I really didn’t have an exit except school. I always loved school. But a lot of times my desire for the street life distracted me in school. But it always comes back to the influence in music & the media. The periods where I wanted something different for my life was when I wasn’t around all the bullshit – I was in school or at home or with my homie [name removed]. But the main thing that would put my mind back on the streets was the music & things I seen in the media. I felt enticed, and I would always go back. Another part of it was because its what I was familiar with.

There were times when I wanted to go back to the residential & the life I had. I still think about that experience till this day. It wasn’t the residential that I loved; it was the town & everything about it; the people; the culture; and just how peaceful it was. Being there opened my eyes to so much and had a big affect on why I am the man I am today. I got to see what a good life could look like. I learned a lot and I got to grow as a person in ways that I never even thought of. I also went to my first Bulls game when I was there & we were like 4 rows off the court. I had a piece of mind while I was there. I honestly feel like I wasted so many years trying to be someone that I wasn’t. trying to be how I thought I should be, to create an identity based on the things I seen in the media or heard in music, instead of letting myself be natural and be myself based on how I feel naturally – not forcing myself to be a certain way. Know what I mean?

Everything was all fun & games at first; just smoking; selling small amounts of drugs – which taught me how to manage money; and just hanging out trying to get girls. This is the time when I was really paying attention to everything & everyone around me & just taking everything in and trying to understand people and also figure out my identity in the streets.

I decided that I didn’t want to be the guy that spent all of his time in the neighborhood just smoking & drinking and spending all of his money on dumb shit. I didn’t want to be the guy to repeat that cycle, or repeat history either and ended up like other guys in the neighborhood. I decided that if I was gonna live this way, I’m gonna be the best at it & get rich.

I wanted to become a millionaire, but I wanted to be a millionaire that still appreciated where I came from, and still had that same love for the community and the people in it. So I stopped joking around completely and started focusing on becoming who I ‘thought’ I wanted to be at that time. I focused on making as much money as possible & hopefully becoming a millionaire without losing my values.

I was gonna be loved because of the type of person that I am, and also because of my loyalty and respected because of the way I carried myself and because of how I treated people. I also knew that I would have to earn my respect from some people. That was cool. But for some people, that meant earning my respect through fear; but that wasn’t a problem because I knew what I was capable of. I only became capable of this because of how dangerous other guys were, and what they could potentially do to me if I wasn’t the way I was, and if a situation ever happened. I never had that problem though. I’ve never been shot. So that’s good.

I spent a lot of time with older guys that I consider family till this day. I was really young, so at first most people didn’t know me, or didn’t take me serious. A lot of times people would think, “Who is this kid?” And I didn’t like that. I wanted to be respected as a man, and not dismissed as a kid. So I learned how to carry myself like one.

People learned to respect me & got familiar with me pretty quickly because I was so young & doing things that grown men weren’t. I actually had grown men following me. I also had a lot of respect from young teens my age because I was doing things that they only heard in music & wished they could do. There were young teens my age running the streets getting into all kinds of stuff – petty stuff. But they weren’t doing anything that I was doing, and the crowd of people that I was in were all grown men, not kids. But this attention that I got also made a lot of men & teens envy me. I wish I used that influence I had to get those young teens to do something positive. I don’t think they would’ve listened though.

I’ve never had a personal problem with anyone that I felt was as dangerous & as much of a threat as I was when I felt threatened. I came close though. And I’ve stood by the sides of men who had & I put my life on the line for them by making their problems my problems. Basically what I’m saying is, I stood by the sides of guys that I had love for – who were family to me. I stood by their side when their enemy tried to kill them. But I never been in a situation where someone tried to find me and kill me. But this is something that happens all the time, and something I’ve seen all the time.

I know of guys that been murdered, and its something that happens all the time. I know that it was something that could happen to me, too, especially because I had a lot of enemies. People that I don’t even know. Either from another gang, or friends with someone that I had problems with before.

Now days everyone has a gun. You never know when something can happen when your living that life style. A lot of good guys get killed because they thing its all fun and games, but its not. Theres so many people getting into the streets just cause they think its cool & exciting. Theres guys coming from nice areas and good families & don’t know what they’re getting them selves into. They’ll either be taken advantage of or killed if they don’t get out before they come across the wrong person.

I understood how dangerous the streets were because I’ve seen a lot, and I understand how dangerous certain people were. That’s why I quickly learned to be just as dangerous myself, but only for my own protection & for my family.

I’m just happy that im away from all of the bullshit that I was into when I was out. I was a kid back then, and I’ve changed so much, its crazy. Im just looking forward to getting out and being the man I am today and hopefully making a difference in other people’s lives with you, through ‘The One.’ I just wanna get out & live, man. I didn’t get the chance to do that when I was out. I guess that’s cause I was out there doing all the wrong stuff. Lol.

But yeah, I hope this helps. I look forward to your next set of questions.

Be easy out there. Until next time.

- Dre