11-year-old finds his voice as young rapper
BY MARK KONKOL Writer at Large/ firstname.lastname@example.org June 3, 2012 7:08PM
Updated: July 6, 2012 10:17AM
Here’s a hip little intro to A story straight outta grade school. Can a sixth-grader rap? Ivory Taylor wants to show you. Kid’s got ambition. Even skipped the 4th grade. Tops on the honor roll. Shining up on a stage. Yes, he wears a clown face. That’s part of his game. Only 11 years old. Getting local airplay. Power 92 asked him: “Kid, what’s your name?” “Lil Hommy,” Ivory spit the refrain.
A story straight outta grade school.
Can a sixth-grader rap?
Ivory Taylor wants to show you.
Kid’s got ambition.
Even skipped the 4th grade.
Tops on the honor roll.
Shining up on a stage.
Yes, he wears a clown face.
That’s part of his game.
Only 11 years old.
Getting local airplay.
Power 92 asked him:
“Kid, what’s your name?”
“Lil Hommy,” Ivory spit the refrain.
When the kid’s first single — “What’s your name?” — played over my car speakers, I turned it up.
Could this kid be a budding Kanye West? Or Lupe Fiasco?
But what could an 11-year old really have to rap about besides his name?
Recess? Little League? Angry older sisters? I had to know.
It didn’t take much prodding for the wannabe rap star to agree to his first “real interview” at his mom’s house in Riverdale — a brick A-frame just off the main drag.
“He’s a good kid. Just a few months ago, he was like Urkel. Nerdy. All he did was school work and play video games,” Ivory’s manager Robert “Mike” Jones says. “But on stage he’s a whole different person. He loves entertaining. Urkel is gone.”
Lil Hommy — pronounced (HO-mee) — appeared from his bedroom like he was walking on stage with his baby face caked in clown makeup and a silver-plated “Jesus piece” swinging on a long chain. The pint-size rapper sported a man-size rhinestone watch on his wrist, diamond-looking studs in both ears and a gaudy dollar-sign buckle on his belt.
Listen to his songs and the kid will tell you his “swag” is “fresh to death/ so all the fellas be hatin’.”
The kid’s clownish alter ego — a play on Damon Wayans’ famous character “Homie the Clown” on the TV show “In Living Color” — was all Jones’ idea.
“All kids like the circus,” Jones said. “I thought let’s bring the circus to the hip-hop world. Combine those together, they can’t help but love us.”
Lil Hommy says he writes his own lyrics with obvious help from Jones, a security guard to hip-hop stars who the elementary school rapper calls his uncle.
“It don’t matter if I wrote it, ’cause I know you gonna quote it,” Lil Hommy raps on a track that samples NWA’s 1989 gangster rap hit “It’s Funky Enough.”
Like a lot of budding rappers, Lil Hommy’s rhymes paint a picture of a fantasy life where he’s the skinny leader of the playground, a young boy with cash loved by the ladies and envied by his friends.
Lil Hommy boasts in rhymes that he drives a car, and when he’s in Miami, California, Atlanta, New York — or any of the other places he’s never actually been — people want to know his name.
In Riverdale, at least, Lil Hommy has built a little following. He’s performed at birthday parties, a bowling alley and last month at Park School in Riverdale, where his classmates tried to carry him off stage in celebration. And on Saturday, he’s headlining a showcase at Good Time Entertainment in Alsip for his 12th birthday party.
“Kids see him around and they say, ‘What up, Lil Hommy? Can I be in your next video?’ ” Jones says.
Girls are calling, too.
“They ask if he wants to be their boyfriend,” Lil Hommy’s mother, Leslie Bell, said. “He tells them he’s focusing on his music right now.”
That’s easy to do in a musical household. His mother’s husband, Eric “Guitar” Davis, was a musical child prodigy — just seven years old when he jammed with B.B. King. He’s spent the rest of his life playing with the biggest blues and jazz stars — Buddy Guy, Carl “Pinetop” Perkins and Count Basie, among them. Davis gave Lil Hommy a first taste of stardom last year when the boy played guitar on stage with Davis’ band, The Troublemakers.
“I didn’t feel scared or anything,” Lil Hommy says. “It was good. I felt excited. It made me want to do it more.”
But Lil Hommy doesn’t want to be just a braggadocious kid with a gimmick and American Idol dreams. He also raps about issues that afflict his generation, like Chicago rappers Common or Rhymefest.
“I like to rap about being positive. I want to give a message to the kids,” he says as if he isn’t a kid anymore. “Some kids are doing bad. Killing one another. I see it sometimes when people fighting and stuff and I don’t like it. One of my cousins got killed.”
In the ballad he wrote with Jones, “Sad Clown,” Lil Hommy raps about the prospects for kids his age living in dangerous places, including his old neighborhood, Roseland.
“Chi-Town where they found me. Only two places to go, that’s the grave or the County [jail],” the song goes. “What do you expect when dealers and killers are our only role models.”
And he’s working on a new song about his birth father, a guy he really doesn’t know.
“I don’t see him,” Lil Hommy says. “He’s got my mom’s phone number, and he never tries to talk to me.”
That’s real life for Lil Hommy, and a lot of kids he knows.
And sadly, it’s something to rap about.