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Backtalk: Musiq Soulchild on music education.

POISED TO RELEASE HIS YET UNTITLED FIFTH studio album this summer, Musiq Soulchild, 30, blends R&B, soul, funk, rock, blues, jazz, and hip-hop to create a unique style of music. With popular albums such as Aijuswanaseing and Juslisen that earned the artist two platinum albums, two gold albums, seven hit singles, and nine Grammy nominations, it's hard to believe that he wasn't always living the good life. The singer, who is involved with the Grammy Foundation, shares with BLACK ENTERPRISE why he dropped out of high school and was homeless for several years before being discovered. He hopes today's youth find the inspiration they need to stay at home and in school to get the best possible start in life.

Was school so bad that the only option was to drop out?

I felt my intelligence was being insulted because the curriculum was so elementary for me. My grades started out good but began to dwindle because I stopped doing the work. I was only 14 and I didn't understand the importance of establishing a reputation through school work. I didn't think that way until way later.

What could have kept you in school?

My school didn't have a music program and I really feel that it would have made a difference if it did. But my school was focused on just doing the generic reading, writing, and arithmetic.

What did your parents say?

My mom and dad were dealing with eight other children--two girls and six boys--and I was the oldest. [My father] said if I was going to stay in his house then I had to get a job. So I sold items as a street vendor.

How'd you become homeless at 17?

I thought I was intelligent enough to leave at the time, but I wasn't as intelligent as I thought I was. The pressure to be a role model to my siblings and the pressure from my parents was too strong for me to stay. But I learned the hard way that depending on friends isn't smart. When I couldn't sleep on a friend's couch somewhere I had to tough it out on public transportation, sleeping on trains or buses. Or sometimes I slept on a park bench until the police told me to leave. To eat, I would get a part-time job at any fast food restaurant--Boston Market, Burger King, you name it, I worked there. It's a very humbling experience. Luckily, after several years, I met some people that helped me launch my career.

Do you regret your decisions to drop out and, eventually, run away from home?

I don't regret those decisions. I believe that a mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn anything from it, because once you do, it becomes a lesson. But for kids considering doing the same thing, I'd say try to stay if you can.


Do you mean try to stay in school?

Yes. If for no other reason than to say that you've accomplished something. It will give you a sense of confidence. I think a lot of kids don't feel empowered because they don't have anything to really look back on to be proud of. So I would definitely say stay in school just to challenge yourself.

How about kids considering running away from home?

Again, I'd say try to stay if you can. It's out of my compassion for them that I say DON'T do what I did. I think kids just need parents who are willing to keep it real with them. A lot of parents want to look a certain way because they don't want their kids to see their weak side or to see their shortcomings. If you're going to make a tough decision for your child, then take the time to explain why. "Because I said so," is not a good answer. You have to give them the reason. I couldn't stand just being told to do or not do something, but the alternative, living on the streets, is no joke. It's not for everybody.

Public schools keep cutting creative programs. What do you think about that?

How can the culture of music flourish and evolve if we don't inspire our children during their developing years? Music has a way of contributing to a person's intelligence because it engages the part of your brain that isn't normally used. By cutting these programs, we are robbing kids of another part of themselves that they can use to help them later on in life.
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Author:Richardson, Nicole Marie
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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