Keith Wallace had been in and out of prison since he was 14. He was facing attempted murder and murder charges, meddling in drugs and gang violence, and couldn't imagine life being any different. But November 18, 2013 — the day of two major deaths of loved ones, one being his mother— changed him.
A few weeks later, after he began to cope with his grief, he started penning lyrics about what he was feeling. Then, one day after writing the last verse, Keith jumped in his car, put his iPhone on selfie mode, and started rapping. "I couldn't even think. There was so much pain and hurt dealing with my mom and daughter," Keith says. "I wrote 'I Miss You' as my healing process." The video has since racked up close to a million views. Producers now want to work with him, and he has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
After that he continued shooting video on his phone and posting it on Facebook, realizing it was the best way to reach his fans. In a sharp turn from his past, he doesn't curse in his music and hopes to inspire a younger generation to stay in school and off the streets. He hasn't been arrested since his conversion 15 months ago.
Now, it's all about giving the right message: keeping kids out of prison.
Keith grew up in Liberty City and found himself getting into trouble since he was 9 years old. As a teenager, he started taking guns to school. Keith was then charged with attempted murder, tried as an adult, and sentenced to six years in prison. "It is what it is," Keith says. "I wouldn't change it for the world." That's because in prison, he began to focus on his music. He'd spend days writing lyrics. In prison, he also became more religious. But when he was released at 20 years old, Keith went right back on the streets.
The next five years were rough. He remembers being shot in the neck while riding his bike and meddling with drugs and gangs. In 2009, Keith was linked to a murder. He spent the next three years in jail fighting the charge in court. In 2012, he was released because of lack of evidence. He had been looking at 40 years in prison if convicted but says that did not deter him from a criminal lifestyle. When he was released, he started selling heroin.
Then a year later, "I regressed back to prison, when I would read and pick up books," Keith says. "I couldn't believe a God could love me and let this happen to me. I strayed away for a month." Soon, he drastically changed the sound and lyrics of his rap. Now, it was all about mind elevation, a growing hip-hop genre that aims to promote positive messages. After his single "I Miss You," Keith kept at it. His songs quickly attracted hundreds of thousands of views. He has followers all over the world and performs regularly out of state.
Today, Keith gives back to the community as often as possible. He speaks at high schools, works with organizations to feed the homeless, and hopes to inspire students to not give in to peer pressure. He is constantly advancing and using his past as building blocks instead of letting it become excuses and hindrances.
Keith Wallace believes in turning his life into his music because only then is the passion felt.
11. Hip Hop