The school of hard knocks has been breeding grounds for many of the most talented musicians in history. With the rough and tumble street life playing catalyst for some of the grittiest modern-day blues, much-celebrated artists from B.B. King to the Ohio Players to Lil Boosie have poured their pains, frustrations, accomplishments and celebrations into a universal language.
Reformed Baton Rouge hard head Kevin Gates is one of these extraordinary entertainers. The product of a city commonly known as the "Bloody Sticks," neither a barrage of would-be
assassins' bullets, the perils of poverty nor even the threat of 30 years behind bars could prevent what was meant to be.
Kevin has come out swinging with five mixtapes, more than a million YouTube.com views for videos "Love You" and "Satellites" and a strong regional following. He has also been courted by several major record labels.
And with the release of his forthcoming mixtape Here You Go Vol. 1, he is well on his way to taking the world by storm.
"My success is not because of nothing that I've done. God has blessed me. I was meant to be a star," says Gates. "I used to tell people I'm a rapper, a street poet but I'm not. I'm a superstar." Born into a single-parent household in Baton Rouge, Gates came up like any other child of the ghetto. Surrounded by drugs, gangs and guns as soon as he stepped foot outside his front door as a child, young Kevin faced the allure of breaking the law on a daily basis.
"I came up like a lot of youth in a poverty-inflicted area, looking for love in all the wrong places," Gates recalls. "It was a lot of crime where I'm from. And I imitated what I saw. I wanted to be like the guy with the money, the cars and the chains."
Never laying eyes on his biological father until the eighth grade, Kevin's mother married his stepdad when he was just an infant. The oldest of three children, young Kevin was never treated as equal to his younger siblings.
What kept young Gates on the straight and narrow were the wise words passed down from his grandfather. It was in his grandparents' home that young Kevin built his own recording studio in middle school. Recording music as a way of channeling his anger, Kevin passed out his own mixtapes in school and around town. Everybody fell in love with his music.
"I always had a love for music," Kevin insists. "I always knew that music was my gift but I didn't take it seriously."
Kevin's world crumbled, however, when his grandfather died during his ninth grade year. "My grandfather was all I had. Things changed when he passed away," Kevin explains. "I guess I acted out as a product of being hurt. That was the male structure that I had in my life at the time." Heartbroken from the loss, Kevin dove headfirst into the streets and began a downward spiral to self destruction. Between getting shot in the leg and stints in and out of prison, Kevin steadily built his musical fan base with heavily praised mixtapes The Pick of the Litter, Kevin Gates Mixtape, All or Nothing and All In.
"I wasn't serious about the music at the time, but the streets loved it," says Kevin. "I just didn't take it seriously."
That was until Kevin was caught on the wrong side of the law and convicted of drug and firearm charges in 2009. On lockdown for almost three summers, Kevin was committed to focusing on his music career when his feet touched down in the free world late 2011.
Within a few months of his release, Kevin dropped his long-awaited mixtape Don't Know What to Call It Vol. 1 earlier this year. And he has had the Internet going crazy with more than one million YouTube.com views for his videos "Love You" and "Satellites."
"People say jail gave me my focus but it didn't. I been going to jail since I was 13 and it did nothing but made me wilder," Kevin insists. "This time when I went in, I picked up the Bible, developed a spiritual relationship with my Creator and came out with a different mindset."
Strapped with a new lease on life, Kevin keeps his audience fed with the upcoming release of his latest offering Here You Go Vol. 1 set to drop this summer. "The new mixtape is just something for the streets," says Gates. "They've been thirsting for something new and something not watered down. So here you go."
With the streets standing steadfast behind him, Kevin Gates is sure to revolutionizing rap music. Displaying a style that defies boundaries, he continues to give the world just a taste of what South Louisiana has been grooving to for years.
"My music is incredible," says Gates. "I don't know what to call it because I've yet to see an artist display the different talents I display or create the different genres that I have created- from the rock and roll to heavy metal to soft rock to rap to country. I display so many styles. That's why they love me."