student / poet / rap historian
'Purple and Gold' is a series of interviews I did at the start of 2018 with high school students from Columbia High in Lake City, Florida. Their portraits and interviews were focused on their self image, perceptions of success and how they plan on achieving that. As with all stories from here interviews, the goal is to establish sense of place. These subjects are unique in that their sense of place has not been fully formed yet, so it's a delightful case study about identity, when it's being solidified. Carlton is a senior who loves Tupac, and is the founder of the Method Poetry club.
"I got the nickname Tupac from my father. When I was a kid he used to play a lot of 'Pac, DMX and old school rap. I didn't really catch on until later. I really fell in love with his music when I was like 12. I became obsessed with his music. I would study his interviews and just soak it up you know? The man was intelligent. In a way, his music led to me making music and opened the door for my poetry, because he did poetry.
People know not to say nothing bad about Pac around me because I'll drop all types of facts to refute them. Yeah he's dead, but he was one of my biggest role models from the age 12 or so until 16. I still love his music, but now I listen to a bunch of artists. Boosie every now and then, DMX, 50, Kodak Black and Kendrick Lamar obviously (grins.)
I have just always loved rap you know? When my father was home, he would play a lot of music for me. I used to try to rap DMX songs, sounds and all. He had these pro 70 speakers that we would bump to. Once he got caught up, my mom didn't play any of that much anymore. But whenever I hear certain songs, it just reminds me of him."
"After 7th grade, I would get into little fights in my neighborhood. I was just angry. Like if somebody said something about my daddy, I would get sentimental and then get real mad. I remember there was this woman one time, I guess my daddy had something bad to her in the past, and she said "hey where is old Carlton at," and I replied, "He's been locked up for three years." She said, "good" and I remember I was furious. I didn't fight her, but I remember how upset anything about my dad would make me around that age.
Then one day, something happened. April 13th, 2000, I got into a fight and got beat. People recorded it, put it up on facebook, stuff like that. I was humiliated. I was like, 'I'm going to get back at everybody. I started to write a lot of poetry and raps around that time. Really dark stuff. But that was the day that I started writing seriously. I wrote every single day and my passion was born. I can honestly tell you, I love it now, truly. I feel like I am passing a message. I got something I want to say that I want people to hear."
"I've been doing poetry ever since. Last year (11th grade) when I got on stage doing Byson Qlan, and I was promoting peace, it put me on a different level. I just knew that I couldn't be out there fighting, promoting ignorance and then get on stage talking about peace. If anybody saw me out there and then on stage, they wouldn't take me seriously.
Ms. Merker, my poetry teacher, helped me with that a lot. She just kept saying, 'You can't fight like before. You're in a different position now. You've got people in Method Poetry, in the school and in your community that look up to you.' And she's right, I've got people coming up to me telling me I inspired them to get on stage and say something, that's huge and I can't throw that away.
I try my best not to fight anymore. I still have my anger but it isn't as bad as it used to be liek to the point where I feel like I have to put my hands on someone. I'm evolving. My daddy is a big fan of my poetry. When I talked to him about it, he brought up Tupac. 'Tupac was in the environment, he was smart, but he made moves that jeopardized his craft and ultimately his life.'
I just don't want to put put a bad image. I don't want my actions to contradict my art. If they do, then this, won't last very long. That's unsustainable. It'll deteriorate. You know what I'm saying? So that's my whole thing. "
"Just because I dress like this don't mean I think like this, you know?"
On making his art for others
"Being on stage, that's when I'm happy. When I used to write, it was from a place of pain. I was hurt. I was writing so someone could hear what I was saying. So you can hear my story, hear my message and pass it.
Byson Qlan stands for Black Youth stand up now just like Tupac had thug life which stood for 'The Hate U Give Little Infants F*ck Everybody.' But whenever I was up on stage, it wasn't just black people who were feeling me. Black people, white people, everybody was feeling me. I even had a few people throwing up the fist, because what I was talking about wasn't just one-sided. It wasn't like, they the enemy. Oh the 'white man this or the white man that.' It was like 'we have a lot of problems we need to solve in our own community.' I was looking at the whole picture. I was trying to speak from a universal standpoint.
So I changed the name from black youth stand up now, to Bold youth stand up now. If I hope to inspire others, I want to get everybody you know? After I did that, it was different. People I didn't know would come up and shake my hand. They didn't know me but they knew my poetry.
One time there was a big backlash on Facebook because a parent shared one of my poems and said, 'this shouldn't be allowed to be said in schools.' I didn't see it at first, my daddy actually called me and asked if I was good. Not knowing what he was talking about I just replied, 'yes sir.' Then I went online and saw all these people with confederate flags as profile photos coming at me. Instead of commenting, I just inboxed her and tried to explain I wasn't trying to offend anyone, my message was unity. She replied very respectfully, and that quelled it. Positivity makes change. My boys were like if we gotta pull up on them, we will. But no, I wanted to earn it a different way, and we did."
"Perspective is everything. I say that all the time. People see me, have never heard me speak and just think, he doesn't care about school. His pants are sagging, he must be ignorant. Oh he probably sells drugs, he ain't doing nothing with his life, he's gonna be another statistic. People don't understand, when you judge people you're often wrong. I'm thinking on a different wave of trying to change the world and I don't have time for all that."
On his father
"He's my number one role model, you know? If things go south, I call him. He always helps me keep my mind focused and keeps me on track. He's out of prison now and hasn't been back since he got out, thank God. He works in Orlando so I don't see him as often, but we play chess everyday and talk on the phone frequently. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, I agree with that. I love my daddy."
"Music is my passion. I love it. It's not about the fame, it's about the message that I'm passing"
On his mentality
"There is this book called the Secret that I love. It basically says that the stuff you think, you bring it back to you you know? Positive thoughts and comments come back positively and negative thoughts and actions come back as well.
A year or so ago I was always looking for trouble you know? If he looked at me funny, I was ready to slap him in the face. My mindset was bad. I had to change it. And I'm not perfect, but I'm trying."
From Lake City, FL
Lives in Lake City, FL