The Lyrics That Opened the Door

Updated: Oct 22

| This is the 594th story of Our Life Logs® |

Editor’s Note

This is the story of Chris "F.A.B.L.E." Horace 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!

Detroit, Michigan. 1998. I was sent into the world by a struggling, drug-addicted mother. She couldn’t keep me, and I don’t know if she put up a fight. Either way, my story didn’t continue with her or anyone from my biological family. It continued with a single black man who was a lawyer who specialized in child and neglect cases and had seen the worst of the worst. As the equation goes, you mix in his social worker friend and you got yourself an adoption.  

After all that, Dad took me to Lansing to live with him. A single father adopting a kid was pretty much unheard of, but he made it work. And honestly, I never wanted or sought the affection I couldn’t have in those early years.  He had a busy work schedule, of course, but he gave as much love as two parents. 

Still, my upbringing was interesting. My extended family always did their best to make me feel loved, and yet, I was always aware of the slight differences between us. Knowing, but not knowing why. My grandpa, however, took such a liking to me, and, honestly, he had a hand in my story—but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

At age five, we moved to Chicago to take care of my Grandma (my adopted grandma—or rather, the only grandma I ever really knew) who was dying of cancer and to support my grandfather and disabled uncle.  

And that’s where we stayed for the rest of my childhood. Chicago.

By the second grade in my Baptist elementary school, I started looking around at the two-parent households, like wow, I stand out. I started asking my dad questions. The older I got, the more details he gave. I knew as early as the fourth grade that my mother was a drug addict who didn’t want me and that my biological father had passed away.  

My father had told me in the early days before my adoption, my mom was still arranging visits with the social worker. But then one week, she stopped showing. No one heard from her again. As years went by, the not knowing kind of messed with my head. It made me angry.  

That kind of perspective changes the way you go about your school day. How you introduce yourself. How you compare yourself to the students around you. But by that age, my adoptive family had lost a lot of family, including my grandma, so I’d become jaded to a lot of things going on in my life. It didn’t take long for me to lean towards facts, science, and what could be explained.  

When it came to school, I was a bright kid, but I wasn’t very motivated. It wasn’t that I was lazy. I just wasn’t passionate about anything other than music. So, when my family would get on me about my grades, I’d say something like, “I’m a musician. The highest I gotta count to is 4.” But my grandpa never doubted that I was capable. He always supported me in all that I did and was convinced that I’d be a great musician one day. 

My musical journey began in the second grade. I learned how to play piano at an after-school program for fun, and played all through elementary. Music allowed me to drift away from reality. 

In middle school, I learned how to play the trumpet after encouragement from my grandpa and my dad. I picked it up exceptionally well, and by my freshman year, I was at the same level as a senior. Can I say that I was really good? Well, I’m going to because it was true. So good that I thought I was too good for some lame high school band. 

I started lessons at the Merit School of Music. I’ll admit I got a little cocky, but once I got into that program, I was put in my place. For the first time, I wasn’t the best player. I was surrounded by kids much younger and much better than me. I remember thinking, Well, this is insulting. So, what could I do but practice? It was in this period that I saw just how motivated I could get when I was passionate about something. 

Determined to go somewhere with music, I attended Vandercook College of Music in Chicago to become a music teacher. I felt a gap between being a player and working on music, so it felt like the right program. But after just a year, my financial aid fell through (my dad was always a proponent of not getting in debt), so I had no choice but to settle for music programs in local community colleges.  

They didn’t compare. Not by a long shot. This setback stalled the drive I once had. I felt like I was just drifting through my days, only picking up the trumpet when necessary. I thought that maybe I should just give up music and any dreams attached to it. Then I met Re@l. 

I’d meet up with friends on campus here and there, and through those friends, I met Re@l, a guy who loved to rap and was a mentor for the Guitars Over Guns Organization (GOGO). It was an after-school program that helped keep kids off the street and taught them music among other life lessons. While in college, I’d been playing around, making rap demos on my phone, just for fun. After I showed Re@l a few tracks that I’d created messing around with beats, Re@l said they had potential. He brought me to a community studio space called Haven that was created by GOGO, where they could properly record my songs for a demo. Before that, I interviewed with the studio head. I made sure to answer well enough so they wouldn’t know I was actually a jerk. It worked.  

Guitars Over Guns ended up playing a bigger role in my musical journey than I ever expected. Being around such supportive and passionate people, I was hooked. Music was alive again.  

Through them, I also realized just how white-washed my musical journey had been. Every lesson I’d ever sat through always had me playing symphonies from old white guys…and it showed. I wanted to change what influence