Local to soon get his music debutPublished 12:00am Saturday, November 30, 2013
The magic and power of words has helped lead a Straughn man to a career in the music industry, and now locals can get a glimpse of his talent on Sat., Dec. 6, in Opp.
Derrick Florence, the grandson of Gantt Councilwoman Lillie Ruth Bonham, left the area in 2002 to play arena football in Kentucky. That path led him to the New York Jets’ practice squad, but when an injury put him on the sidelines, Florence said he knew he needed another path in life.
“When we were traveling for games, we’d always be in the back clowning around, rapping and free-styling,” Florence said. “People said, ‘Oh, wow. You can really rap.’
“I said I’d written poetry all my life. I know how to rhyme, but they were like, ‘No. You’re really good,’” he said. “That kind of put me in this direction.”
Florence is the son of Valerie Florence and brother to Roderick and Hakeem Florence. “My grandmother had us the majority of the time because my mom worked so much to have a better life for us,” he said.
Growing up in the Straughn area, Florence said Bonham played a large role in his growing up.
“When I got in trouble, it was Lillie Ruth straightening me out. She set me straight. I’m forever grateful. Without that tough love, I don’t know where I’d be.”
It’s also because of that family influence that Florence’s brand of rap is different than today’s mainstream.
“I began writing poetry when I was eight, and from then on I would write poems to express my feelings,” he said. “When I turned 25 is when I begin to write songs and felt I was good at it. I been writing ever since, and I have focused on writing ‘reality songs’ due to my opinion about music now days are very misleading and too much violence.
“I had my daughter when I was 24,” he said. “That was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. I wrote a poem and then a song to commemorate it, and people were blown away.
“The rapper that I am, I don’t rap about killing people or drug deals,” he said. “I can raise my hand and say I’ve never tried drugs. I’ve never been to jail – things that I’m proud of.
“I try to be the best father I can,” the now father of two said. “That motivates me to make it.”
Florence – who can be found on Facebook under Tree – was recently contacted by a producer.
“We’re actually working on a show that would allow me to go to France and perform,” he said. “To me, that’s amazing. He asked if I would be interested in doing a show, and if it goes well, would you mind touring? I said, ‘Are you serious? That’s a vacation.’
“I am doing what God blessed me to do,” he said. “This is a chance to get me out there, to get more exposure.”
However, before he crosses the ocean, Florence will perform for the first time locally on Fri., Dec. 6, at the Four Sons in Opp, beginning at 10 p.m.
On Thursday, Florence will serve as a motivational speaker to students at Straughn Middle School.
“I already feel like I’m a celebrity,” he said.