Smiley the Ghetto Child: A Simple Twist of Fate

S ome people have all the luck while others get a raw deal. Smiley the Ghetto Child has been devoted to Hip-Hop for over two decades, and he just released his first album. Fans may remember Smiley as the guest verse on Group Home’s#### 1995 single, “Tha Realness.” Just days before appearing in the video […]

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ome people have all the luck while others get a raw deal. Smiley the Ghetto Child has been devoted to Hip-Hop for over two decades, and he just released his first album.

Fans may remember Smiley as the guest verse on Group Home’s#### 1995 single, “Tha Realness.” Just days before appearing in the video and expanding his success, Smiley was arrested for an altercation defending his mother. The Bronx-born artist looks back on the misstep not as a regret, but a sad twist of fate.

Eleven years later, after releasing a debut album, The Antidote, backed by DJ Premier, Showbiz, and Green Lantern, things finally seemed to turn up for the optimistic street veteran. Tragic fate arrived again. On May 15, after previously being out on bail, Smiley The Ghetto Child was re-arrested on drug related charges and is currently waiting to be arraigned. Just days before this turn of events, Smiley the Ghetto Child spoke hopefully about his future and his foundation. j For those who don’t already know, take it back to the beginning: when did you first become interested in music, and how did it begin for you?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: A lot of people probably won’t know, or even consider, but I’m a fossil in the game. I mean, I started…wow, [in the day] KRS-One days. I was running after KRS-One and [Kool DJ] Red Alert, when they were doing shows and functions. I’ll give you an example. My moms used to have me grounded at times, for like 90 days, maybe 120 days, like in my room — no TV, man, seriously. I would sneak out. I had older dudes that I used to run with, like the New York City Breakers, and s**t like that. I used to be called “Baby Wave.” I could wave like a muthaf**ka! To answer the question, I started during the development of Hip-Hop; you’re talking like ’84-’85. To this day, man, I see Red Alert and he remembers me from back then. How did it go from Baby Wave to Smiley the Ghetto Child?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: Well, that whole Smiley thing came up, it was Smiley first. I was a cheesin’ little boy, a cheesin’ muthaf**ka! I was smilin’ on muthaf**kas. And, it was always Smiley. The Smiley thing came about even more when I started wearing gold fronts, and s**t like that. The Ghetto Child came in after, when I was gonna take myself seriously as a, basically, warrior for this s**t. You’ve run with other warriors. Tell me how the Gang Starr affiliation came into fruition…

Smiley the Ghetto Child: As far as that situation, we met on a personal note first. We were friends first. We know the music didn’t introduce us to be friends. It was basically a mutual friendship. They used to live around my neighborhood, right up the block, and we would basically hang, go out to parties, and stuff like that. Eventually, a relationship for the music developed, ’cause that’s when Guru and Premier got serious on being a duo. Realistically speaking, that was a long time ago. You could’ve dropped your debut easily over ten years ago. Why did you opt to wait so long?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: Yeah, pretty much, and that’s ill…that’s a deep question. It’s like, I could just put it in one word: life – trials and tribulations, and s**t like that. I’ll break it down and define it easier: incarceration. Just being involved in the streets, when I knew I should’ve just kept a focus on this. At the time, it wasn’t any money coming out of this, so it was hard to stay focused. I was a young father, so there were other things in my life that distracted me from this. What exactly contributed to your incarceration?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: That’s when we were supposed to do “Tha Realness” video, for the song that was on the Group Home album [Livin’ Proof]. That was like my first real verbal acclaim. I really had world acclaim for that verse; it was only 16 bars. I couldn’t believe it. But, we were supposed to do a video for that s**t, and that was gonna be my first visual, but I got locked up for protecting my moms. Cops maced my moms in the face, and, you know, I did what I had to do and I got locked up for that. S**t f**ked up my first visual. That s**t was crazy, so that stopped the whole s**t. When you, say, like 10 years, that s**t played a big part, word!

AHH: The ‘Original’ Gang Starr Foundation was an integral part of Hip-Hop, a major force if you will. What happened, what caused the group’s disintegration?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: You said a magic word. It was a “major force” in that era. That was the real golden age. Like Preme and Jeru, they wanted to do what they wanted to do. I’m not the type of person to elaborate, and hang wet clothes out to dry in public. The politics of the game, and the typical s**t that’ll probably separate people – people wanna go do their own thing. People get mature in their growth, and they want to achieve, and pursue other s**t. So, are there any relationships left, albeit personal or professional, in existence to this day?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: Yeah, of course, there’s still personal relationships, that’s always gonna go on. Everybody is like trying to get some money to do their own thing. All of us were a big family, and [are still] big to this day. We still family. I did some s**t with Big Shug last year. We’re still family, but we’re just like all fulfilling our growth, and we’re just trying to do other s**t, that’s how I perceive it. Any chance then of a Foundation reunion project?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: I don’t think that’s happening, homey. The Antidote is a rather fitting title for your long overdue debut. Tell me what that name represents…

Smiley the Ghetto Child: I’m the antidote to this. I’m the antidote to a lot of sickness that’s going on, and it’s just not you and me, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of people, collectively, that agree. The game needs a new turn, and it’s like for the better. It’s like I’m the antidote for that, ‘cause the pureness is gone. Hip-Hop ain’t pure no more. And, not saying we gotta go back to ’86 or ’88, I’m not saying that, I’m just saying like the way Hip-Hop is being projected now, it’s all about sex, it’s all about materialistic items and s**t like that. That’s a part of life, and that’s a segment of people’s living, but there’s other things involved in life – people are struggling, too. Everybody in the world is not partying 24 hours a day. Everybody is not in the Maybach 24 hours a day. There’s other serious s**t going on. In your own struggle, what’s kept you in it?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: Well, the key to my success right now, is me staying focused, having a good work ethic, and keeping an open mind. Always be optimistic about this s**t, ‘cause that’s the key. When you’re open minded about s**t, you see everything. I gotta stay strong with this because one slip up and it could go. Like you said, I was supposed to been doing this 10 years ago, but it’s like right now what people gonna see is somebody that’s focused, that’s dedicated, that’s disciplined, and that’s just gonna put out music that’s timeless. Everyone either already knows, or will know, Smiley the MC or a street dude. Tell me something that no one knows about you personally…

Smiley the Ghetto Child: Put it like this, there’s two sides. Smiley is like the warrior of this, to the rap — Smiley, like the soldier from God. As far as like me, as an individual, I’m human. I go through s**t. I got issues that I’m ironing out. I ain’t perfect. I’m a funny muthaf**ka, too. I’m funny as hell. You’ll get a lil’ humor on the LP, but like I’m really funny, dog. Like, I can be a comedian and s**t like that – That’s another side of Smiley people probably won’t get through the music. Thus far, what has been your biggest career highlight?

Smiley the Ghetto Child: When me and Chi-Ali was in the Octagon Club, ‘cause I used to co-write for Chi-Ali, Black Sheep, and s**t of that nature, but, when we chilled with ‘Pac that night in the Octagon, ‘cause Chi already knew him, God rest his soul, when he introduced me to ‘Pac, it wasn’t like just no introducing, we chilled, we kicked it.