Renz Julian : Thug Scholarship - Athlete Or Rapper?
Former NFL prospect turned Hip Hop artist tells his story.
The next Lebron James or the next Jay-Z? What are the chances? A dream killer is the worst kind of person in the world, but a mentor can be the best. Growing up in the East Bay Area, of California as a minority in a broken home, during the crack epidemic can be a difficult task. However, I thought being blessed with athletic and musical talent would make things easier. As the EBAL 100 meter dash champion, all league football player, and college football scholarship recipient, the path to a success story was clear. Life however isn’t all that simple. Its full of twists and turns, crashes and burns. The key to survival for me has always been after the fall, how fast will I bounce back. Now looking back I realize the lack of a trusted mentor had its negative effects on me, and I want to share my experience with the youth, hoping I can help them persevere through similar adversities.
I grew in the East Bay (Antioch, & Oakland, Ca) bouncing around several homes living with friends & family during the 90’s. As a teen I connected with people that were like me. The rebellious against authority type that yearned for acceptance and appreciation. People used to say I look mean, and I never smile and I always wondered why that was. A home filled with drug abuse and domestic violence can push someone to run the streets, or put energy into positive outlets. With a Jekyll & hide persona, and strong connection to the music of Tupac Shakur, I developed two personalities. A good kid going to school and football practice on the daily, yet on weekends running the streets committing theft, selling drugs was a normal week. A hot tempered, quick to snap on anyone, ready to fight at all times became my normal. Without the solid dual parent home foundation, and the lack of a true mentor, I took the hands on approach. To compound things is the media and images they portray of the black male. I clung to hip hop in the early 90’s because of its relatable message to my situation. Yet as time went on and the commercialization of the culture became rampant, it seemed to become diluted and used as a tool of negative influence by the media. With ESPN and the lure of fame and fortune of professional sports, a true sense of balance was lacking and still is in today’s society.
Emulating the stars on Sportscenter, and BET’s Rap City was as normal as today’s Instagram generations thirst for likes with every post. From a freestyle cypher in the lunch cafeteria, to a late night hoop session at the playground, I became the man in my neighborhood. Now looking back I think that a popularity contest is as deadly as the coronavirus, and can skew ones perception of the real world. They love you when your on the field running for touchdowns and making the school money, but as soon as you get injured, you become like a falling stock on the stock market. The same thing as the one hit wonder that gets dropped from the major record label. During my time at St. Mary’s College I had several run ins with players and arguments with coaching staff, along with a devastating ACL injury which ultimately lead me to drop out of school. At very depressing point in my life, I turned to faith, which lead me to pursue my gift of music. A friend of mine and I opened a recording studio in our apartment in West Oakland and then began the pursuit of a record deal. We connected with an artist manager that signed us to a management deal that would lead to a Record Deal with MCA Records. In short, the deal never materialized and we were flat broke. Not to mention, the jealousy that it creates when everyone knows your potential, you become a target. A target for gold-digging women, fake friends, and playa haters looking to kill you for street fame. The realization came to me that all that glitters isn’t gold. The pursuit of greatness comes with great consequence that most aren’t built to endure so after measuring the pros & cons, only you can decide if it is worth it.
Everyone has a calling or a purpose in life. Many nights I spent on my knees staring and talking to the cross out side my building on Sycamore St. I’ll admit that I was not religious until I hit rock bottom, and it was then I began to question my purpose in life. Looking at my two daughters Mya, 7 and Laila, 8 I wonder how a father could disappear from a child’s life. Did the lack of my biological father give me a more difficult path, or make me stronger and more self driven to succeed. It is a valid question I still think about today. Some friends of mine that grew up in two parent households ended up on drugs, school dropouts, dead or in jail. While others with a similar background as myself, from a single parent home, went on to the NFL. I come to realize that we all must play the hand we are dealt and make the best of it. Thankful for the discipline and values learned in football, yet my ultimate goal of making it to the NFL I did not attain. After running a 4.3 40 yard dash at a pro football combine, I did however get signed to an Arena football team and pursued the dream for a few more years after college. After a contract offer did not materialize at NFL (Atlanta Falcons) and CFL (Toronto Argonauts) free agent camps, I decided to walk away from Arena football and start a new path. Riding back on a Greyhound bus from Wisconsin with only five dollars left to my name was a dark and humbling experience. Back in the Bay Area with no where to live and everyone giving up on you, almost broke me mentally. Hitting a new low I was homeless after being kicked out of an apartment shared with a college girlfriend, after failing to land a temporary place to stay with family. The disappointment could have broken me and lead me to give up, yet I found that it fueled my creativity and passion for my new career path. After several roommate living arrangements and different odd jobs, I eventually settled back in the Bay Area between my recording studio in Oakland, and apartment in San Jose. I developed an entrepreneurial spirit as I sold cell phones, mixtapes, and marijuana throughout the week. On the weekend I would get to the studio and release in the booth which has always been very therapeutic. My music would eventually air on radio and television stations worldwide. I went on the perform, release music under my own record label Field Of Dreamz Entertainment, and work with established stars such as E-40, Twista, Keak Da Sneak to name a few. All while building my company KF Enterprises, partnering with local businesses in real estate and marketing deals to help fund the label, and provide for my family. It was the silver lining in the dark cloud, and the product of determination, and my never give up mentality that produced these results. So I wrote this to inspire those that maybe once had a plan, and hardships knocked them off course. For those that don’t fit in or can’t find themselves, maybe its just your true calling hasn’t been discovered yet. I hope to inspire the youth to continue to chase their dreams, but set yourself up for success, go to school and keep your options open.
In conclusion I want to stress that the youth find out what they’re passionate about early and put your all into it. Try to identify who your mentors are and learn from them. If you think you have all the answers eventually you will learn the hard way. Set yourself up for longevity and have a backup plan, and always keep more than one hustle. If your original plan doesn’t work out don’t stress or get depressed. It wasn’t your time, and maybe there’s something better out there for you. Also always remember that the haters, and the dream killers are your motivators, you need them for energy so don’t let them get to you. For now don’t forget to watch “Renz Julian: Thug Scholarship” the documentary now on Amazon Prime, and get the album at renzjulian.com, and all digital retailers. Bay Area Minority High School graduates headed to a four year University can apply for the T.H.U.G. (Thru Tribulation & Hardship Uncover Greatness) Scholarship and internship at Field Of Dreamz Entertainment. Application details are at renzjulian.com.
THUG Scholarship (Lyrics)
As a youth I would dream I would grow to one day be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a baller.
Not a monster, what’s the options?
Now here the block comes I’m falling apart.
Honest kid, was promising, model kid…
He studied politics,…its thug scholarship.
At 8 I was torn, from looking thru my papa’s porn,
To stealin’ baseball cards up out of the store.
My biological father gone, I weathered the storm,
Domestic altercations, livin’ room to the yard.
Aggressive foul behavior after school in the yard,
The grass or the blacktop I was schoolin’ em’ hard.
Glass pipe of crack rock, kinda’ ruined my charm,
Crack rock, and ragtops, when I moved out my moms’,
At 14 kind of an orphan, bouncin’ round’ the east bay,
Got into the sports thing, scouts looked at my replays.
Older D-boys, hold me down to teach game,
17 and older now I’m preachin’ the same.
Walkin’ with a chip shoulder now, deep in the game,
Winchesters in the clip loaded, keeping’ me sane.
Them ____ looked at me in class, like my feets in a chain,
Still shackled to the slave ship, inferior brain.
But they didn’t know I got slicker,
I could read between ya’ lines of propaganda, textbooks, embedded, _____.
I’m shoplifting’ heavy on the rock pitchin’,
Bezzy’ on the watch glycin’, cause’ I’m guap’ gettin’.
21 now ____ wanna’ rock wit’ him, _____ wanna clock wit’ him,
Snappin’ like a croc’ on em’.
Then went to pressin’ up counterfeits,
Drama kid in street politics, why would you give me a scholarship?
I’m a crook, I’m a thief, I’m a thug, I’m a shooter with no heart, slow start.
In the books I’m a genius, a athlete, running back or point guard, with no job.
Could be what I wanna’ be, glad that I got to 23,
Legit job, try to compete, _____ would cheat.
Gave up the cleats, and back to the street,
And for the scratch mackin’ them freaks, and rappin’ to eat.
Live in the trap, package the D, what happened to me?
I pictured life in the league, with the baddest of freaks.
Especially ____, in a feast, in the satiness’ sheets,
But now life is an everyday battle for peace.
Up ____ creek, paddlin’ weak,
While ____ _____ livin’ rent free wit’ mommy, I was out on the street.
Wit’ my Follie’ in the county making’ plans when he free,
To get this money from the corner, ____ a family tree.
Lorenzo “Renz Julian” King