It’s in the Words We Give

| This is the 595th story of Our Life Logs® |

Editor’s Note

This is the story of C.A.M. as captured by the team at Our Life Logs. The following is brought to you in partnership with Guitars Over Guns, and organization that aims to change the lives of disadvantaged students through music and strong, consistent mentorship. We hope you check them out!

So, I was born in Chicago in 1989 as the youngest of seven. Yep. With that many siblings, you know it was something different every day. One moment you’re tight and the next you’re in an argument. Really. I remember one of my brothers who DJed throughout the night would come home early in the morning after a gig, never trying to be quiet or anything, and just simply tell me, “Get up and do what you gotta do before I get home.”

Little me.

Our house on 69th and Winchester in Chicago, was always best in the summertime. We’d have these huge block parties. A couple guys would man the grill with the burgers and tips while the rest danced to the music my dad threw on the turntables. I would weave through the adults with all the other kids, and we’d have a barbecue and lemonade and we’d just party together.

My siblings.

When I think of my home, I think of that. I never thought about it as dangerous because so many people were around to look out for each other. That’s just it. We had each other’s back. Even though we heard gunshots, we never saw anything because some other adult would make sure we got in the house before something went down. I didn’t think anything of it. But that’s also to say that kids in the neighborhood had just a few ways to earn some money. That led to dangerous ways to make it.

When I was nine years old, I remember sitting inside our house while my brother’s friend came by. I don’t think my brother was home, so he left. Being nine and curious, I followed him to the front of the house and waited at the threshold.

My brother’s friend had this really sharp gold chain hanging around his neck. As he moved to the sidewalk, I watched the chain get smaller and smaller. All of a sudden, a big car screeched and stopped in front of my brother’s friend. It looked like the guy in the car wanted that chain. I watched my brother’s friend shake his head. And then I saw him get shot. And then I saw the man in the car take the chain and drive away just as hot as he came.

I was nine.

Middle school Cam.

After that day, I struggled to make sense of why that happened and what I’d just seen. My whole world had changed. Being in situations like that will put you in fight or flight. If you chose to fight as I did, you learn to adapt to seeing things like that. You find someone to talk to. You find an outlet.

My outlet was poetry.

I’d been one to scribble a little story or two in a random notebook I’d found ever since I could write. But at nine, the content of my poetry changed. I used my words because I wanted to understand. I wanted to see better and make sense of something that I couldn’t explain. How do I feel about this? What would make this better? I couldn’t get out of my situation, so I learned how to live in it. I learned how to create. Later, I found out that my mom saved all my little poems she found hidden in the pockets of my jeans that were in the laundry. I bet she found a hundred. I wrote a lot.

Then, there was music. 

As I said before, my dad DJed. He loved music and blared it through our house as he liked. He’d put on an R&B record, or blues, or the dusties—it really depended on what he was feeling. Anyway, I’d hear these verses and they’d just stick with me. It seemed natural that I’d use music as a way to help me create.

At the age of ten, I transitioned my poems into something with a beat. I’d stay in my room and conjure up a rap battle (me versus me, of course) and time would fly by. These moments alone made me focus on how the lyrics could hold a beat. I listened to a range of sounds outside of what my dad played like Nas and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It wasn’t until I was a little older when I went to see my very first rap show that I thought, “Wow. I really want to do this too.”

Throughout high school, music was nothing more than a hobby. It was just something to fill the space in between homework and the next time I got to hang out with my friends. And like many kids that age, I didn’t have a great sense of what I wanted to do after I graduated from high school. Seriously, I didn’t really get that I could connect what my hobbies were to something I could do for the rest of my life. At the time, I didn’t know what that would even look like.