Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Sentence Served

Percy Carey lived a life that felt like the average life of a gang-banger, and then also seemed utterly spectacular. In Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, he tells his story, including his rise from the streets and his fall from grace. 

Percy got his first taste of attention from his time on Sesame Street, but it wasn't until he decided to be the baddest emcee that he had a true dream. Yes, he grew up on the streets, but they weren't the kind of streets you hear about. He had an amazing, strong, butt-kicking mother who would do anything to protect her children. He had a good stepfather, and lived in a neighborhood where the mantra "It takes a Village" is more like a lifestyle. But there was another element to his life and world that couldn't be ignored: the gangs. 

Percy was a smart guy, and even though it set him apart, he loved to read and write. When he declared his intention to emcee, he knew it would lead him places, included the ultimate battle. Whether living on the east or the west coast, his life was tumultuous, dangerous, and exciting. And for a smart man like Percy, that excitement was what he was ultimately looking for. Unfortunately, it had consequences he could never escape; far deeper than prison or parole, he suffered a fate he could never have imagined. 

Here is the important thing about this story. It isn't just a glorification of life on the streets. Money, fame, girls, objects, drugs, lifestyle. All those are there, but there is more. That life can't live forever. It burns out quick, and Percy learned that lesson the hard way. After the shooting left him paralyzed, he even found he had no place int he legitimate world. He tried, he really did, but he had no skills. The legit world didn't want him. So he went back to the world he knew: drugs, the streets, and a crew to watch your back.

I liked this story so much because I was constantly surprised. I went into it expecting a story of a kid on the streets who wanted to be Dre or Snoop, but instead ended up in a wheel chair. And yes, this story is that, but it is also so much more. This story is full of paradoxes and confusion as to how Percy got here, but more importantly, it is a story of how our surroundings shape us. If this kid had been born someplace else, he could have become a lawyer or a politician as opposed to learning about law in jail in order to get his sentence reduced. It takes a village, but that village can also define us, and I hope this story is a lesson to its readers of how to break out of that definition. This isn't a pretty story all tied up in bows, but it is a gritty, dark, fabulous story of a man who had to fall before he could pick himself up. 

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