The time when I really struggled was when I left where I grew up; Croydon. I ended up getting caught up in the wrong path I needed a way out and the way out for me was when I got arrested. I was actually interviewed by a probation officer before they sentenced me for my crimes and the probation officer said something to me that no one else had said, he challenged the way I was thinking at the time, he saw a light in me and he valued me. He made me value myself. I thought jail was my destiny. I thought I wouldn't see life past 25 and it opened up another door and showed me my horizons can be alot broader but it's going to take a bit of grit and determination. That's when I decided to go back to uni. He told me I can go to university with no qualifications at the age of 21. He said he would put in a good word for me and have a word with the judge if I applied for University. So he walked me through that process.
I was on the roads for 7 years. Thinking negatively, operating negatively expecting a positive.
In my heart when I started doing the wrong things I couldn't look myself in the mirror. I wasn't happy. When I was just with myself in a room I couldn't run away from myself. I asked God for another path and then came University. I was like to God 'If I get into University I won't sell another drug' and I got into University. I sold my last drug September 20th 2010. A gram of coke and that bought me my ticket to the area I was going to do University in (laughs) . I ain't looked back.
That lifestyle was the worst for my mindset. Imagine everyday staring over your shoulder. You can't trust your friends, you can't be yourself around your family. You can't trust your girl really you can't build for the future. Anyone who's still living this lifestyle their life can be removed from them at any second. Right now although I don' have everything I want I know I can get it, its just going to take a little longer you know.
I was known as Mr Paranoid. The police they aren't stupid. After a while I became bait.
Bare morales I had by the end of it I'd run through them. You know you weren't brought up like that. Another story, I've come home and my mum was real nice I was like ' she's being nice today' and I've come in and the police have jumped on me so I felt snaked but she did the right thing because I was on the wrong path.
I work in schools and I work with young people and one of the things I say is don't take advantage of people. This world is an amazing world but it's not easy, you can burn alot of bridges. When I did my first hard days at work at a building site I felt like I had done something. I appreciated it.
[Any advice you would give someone on the streets who is going through something similar as to what you went through?]
I would say value yourself, I believe that everyone was put on this world with a purpose and it's inside you. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do what you were put on this earth to do. Alot of these skills that are learnt on the streets are transferrable; peoples skills, relationship skills. All the effort you are putting into the negative, put into the positive.
[What advice would you give someone who is going through dark days]
I would say realise that the dark days do pass, like a storm comes and goes. After I came off the street I felt very unfulfilled, my Grandma passed away I was smoking alot of weed. I was inside all the time and constantly thinking negative thoughts. My uncle put it into perspective he said 'Kwakz I know you're going through something mad right now but you have to realise there are people who are going through much worse than you' that's not something I would recommend saying to everyone who is going through something not every one wants to hear that and people are going through hard times. I would also say try to get out, physical exercise. Endorphins help your brain.
I have real honest conversations with these young people who I look out for and I've come to see that they make better informed decisions, they start to value themselves.
[Let's talk music; So your track Elevate, can you give us an overview of what this track means to you?]
Elevate- is just about trying to take oneself to a better position. Physically and mentally I thought I was very immature. Its about maturing.
[I'm going to throw it out there, do you think that your journey was mean't to be?]
I do now, and I'll be honest this has played a big part on my mental health aswell, on my mental health journey. When you're young you're quite egotistical. Me being macho I ended up putting myself in a worse position and would end up getting more depressed.
[Ok moving on you also have a song called 'Journey' one of the lines in it is 'life is for living not for being shook, had to make a change just to make a change' I'd just like you to elaborate?']
Ok, one thing I suffer with is anxiety. How do you deal with it? I remember my first gig in Brixton I performed with my eyes shut because I was so anxious, but then I got feedback someone said 'you know Kwakz you need to look in peoples eyes' and that was a fear that I had to face, I had to face up to my anxiety. I only have one coping strategy and that is my faith in Christ. I have to give all my faith to God to the big man. Regardless of how we all think we are all human. But I believe that God is real and he's there just open the door for him. I had to ask God for a different path. I thank God that I learn't when I did.
With University I failed two years in a row, those were my darkest days, I was just smoking weed not coming out the house. Not talking to my mum, my family not even talking to my girlfriend. I felt frozen, I didn't like the thoughts I was feeling like negative suicidal thoughts and that. But thank fully God helped me through.
The name of my company is 'Relatable Role Models' it's a community interest company, not for profit, social enterprise. All of our services is to help benefit the local community, disengage hard to reach young people.
I have a new track coming out on the 27th, No Diet remix. It will be available on Spotify and on all major platforms. My music is also all available on my website www.duckmuzik.com
If you are in a similar position that I was, maybe you're carrying a weapon, maybe you are worried about violence in the streets, maybe you're selling drugs, worried about selling drugs, about friends snaking you I just want you to know is do something now that's going to set you up. You might think you're doing what you are doing for your family but would you want your family to be doing what you're doing or your son doing what you're doing. Inspire him. Be a role model. I'm 10 years off the road and only now I'm seeing the benefits of coming off the road. I've been sowing seeds for a good 10 years.
LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST ON SPOTIFY:
If you feel that you are experiencing any of what Kwakzino has spoken about please seek help from your nearest GP. There are also other sources which provide help and advice for example:
Mind 0300 123 3011
Rethink 0300 5000 927
Support Line 01708 765200
Also if you feel that you have an experience with regards to mental health that you believe others could relate to then please get in touch.