Occupation: Rapper, Slam Poet
From Prison’s Pen to Poet’s Pen
Serving time in jail doesn’t mark the end of your career and life. This is a reality that father, husband, rapper and slam poet: Kamal Hakim faced himself. From behind bars to a successful life as a writer, Kamal shares the trials and tribulations that
“ You know guys, rap is fun, but there is so much room for dishonesty and a lack of authenticity, there are people out there writing about guns and drugs when they’re not actually doing any of those things. There’s something about that, that’s just gross.”
Kamal’s love for rap motivated him to keep writing, but he was getting offended by the dishonesty in his own rap. “I was rapping about guns and drugs when I’ve never held a gun in my life, and the closest thing to drugs I’ve touched is Tylenol three.” There was no substance to what he was saying and he knew it needed to change, but no immediate change was seen. Poetry seemed to be a better choice.
Kamal wrote his first poem in jail. Leaning forward, he gives a little taste of who he is “This poem is for those who can’t speak for themselves choked by the long arm of the law only to fall deeper in hell. This is for those in the struggle for those in the fight now…” he ended his poem as the audience sat in silence.
While out on bail, he didn’t know when he’d be called back and for how long he’d be in for. In the three years he was on bail, he decided to live his life to the fullest: he got married, had a daughter, and when his wife was pregnant with their second daughter he was called back for his hearing.
Luckily for Kamal, he only had to serve two years and was released after 16 months. Everyday while in jail, he called his family two – three times. He read books, wrote poems, and crafted letters every single day. He recalled all this with a smile, slowly fidgeting with his name tag. Jail was not a good time for him.
Two weeks before his release, his two aunts paid him a visit. He was so happy to finally be able to see his cousins. A week after that meeting, he got news that his little cousin had been shot and killed. As he continued his story, his face fell, and he rested his arms against the table cussing as he threw the name-tag. “I’ve never been depressed in my life except for that moment.” He vowed vengeance. He was going to find whoever had done it and kill him. He didn’t care what would happen to him, his wife, or kids. S omeone had gotten his little cousin and he wasn’t going to sit still.
“I let myself go in those five days before my release. Stopped reading, writing showering, stopped calling my family, who I called two – three times a day for the past 476 days.” After trying to keep himself sane for 16 months another test was thrown at him, this time managing to beat him down.
Two days before his release he started to write a letter to his wife not thinking it would never reach her. The letter helped him through his feelings, and put the broken pieces of his life back together. “I believe God’s justice is perfect, so why botch that with my own twisted form of it, which is also infused with ego, grief, and ignorance.” He didn’t know who this man was, so what was he really going to do? Without a plan he decided instead to raise awareness for these kind of issues so another little cousin wouldn’t have to go through this.
“Immigrant families really don’t know how messed up their kids are sometimes. So I bring awareness to this in my own personal way, I speak about it in my poetry and in my public speaking.”
He turned his passion into a successful career. He now speaks to many high schools in order to educate on subjects such as Islamophobia and racism. With four speeches scheduled just in the next week. he recently received a grant to continue his work in music production. He didn’t believe he would get the grant thinking it was “what white people got” so it was a surprise to receive the check in his mail. This grant will help his rap group complete and release their 2nd album. Kamal has gone through hardships and pain to achieve his goal as a successful poet/rapper, but it was worth it.
“The only time you cannot do this is A when you give up or B when your body gives up and you’re dead and you cannot actually produce anything, not a sound, not a breath, not a beat, nothing.”
dead and you cannot actually produce anything, not a sound, not a breath, not a beat, nothing.”