I could go into great detail, dime people out, dime myself out. For what? The only thing anyone needs to know, the only thing I learned experimenting with drugs is that drugs ain't s***. Drugs aren't the answer. I didn't find any answers in weed, coke, mescaline, or dust. No answers, just a question: Why?
Why was it that when I smoked coke, everybody in the room was my friend. I mean, did all of these jerks suddenly turn into great people? I don't think so, but the drugs could make you believe anything.
Know what I mean?
At a point in time, I even began to do drugs with Cornell. He and I would smoke weed or coke together. And I know he was a real friend. But he did give out stupid advice sometimes. He would say, "Look, stop walking around the goddamn party, sniffing out of everybody's dollar bill. Just go get yourself an eighth and do it by yourself."
Now what kind of advice was that? It was warped. But he thought he was making us sophisticated. He meant well in his own zany way.
If you hang with me today, you'll see that I surround myself with people who don't do drugs. This is a drug-free camp. The most you'll see is allergy medicine. I don't even want beer or any alcohol around. You can tell by my life that it's clean, because I'm not getting into trouble anymore. I'm not getting high, getting drunk, and having women all over the place. I don't bring it into my camp. And I don't allow anyone else to. The atmosphere around me now keeps me focused. And I think it's easier for my troops to respect me when they see me conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of respect.
I think that's important, because it used to be a free-for-all. Everybody was a clown, and so was I. That's why it was so easy for people to rob me or play me out. I was too busy getting high and having girls and drinking my little Cristal and my Moët and my Alizé to notice what was going on around me. In fact, I was drinking so much Alizé I was going to name my son Alizé. No joke. Good thing Simone wasn't having it. I'm sure Najee's glad too.
It wasn't easy to get back in control. Somehow I overcame the drugs and the alcohol. But I needed help. I needed strength. I had to dig deep down inside myself and find who I really was, and force myself to understand what I saw. Lots of people struggle with drugs and various addictions and don't think they can get out. It's not easy. I didn't come through my trials and tribulations without a scratch either. I have scars, and I've left a few scars on others. Roscoe had turned me into a person I couldn't even say was human. Because I knew nothing but pain. I was inflicting pain and receiving pain.
There is a powerful saying in the hip hop community that is like the hip hop motto: Keepin' it real. You ain't nothing, ain't true to the game unless you keep it real. For some, keepin' it real is just being you -- no matter how negative that is. But I totally disagree with that. I'm sure glad I grew up and became real. A real man doesn't behave like a savage.
I grew up surrounded by people who didn't keep it real. My father, who tried to blast my grandfather and mother into eternity with a shotgun, didn't keep it real. Roscoe, who beat me with vacuum cleaner attachments, threw me down stairs, and blew reefer in my face didn't keep it real.
But keepin' it real ain't about carrying a gun or smoking blunts. It's about being true to yourself and those around you, taking care of your family and showing respect for others, being considerate. Men and women who diss and try to kill one another and who abuse drugs and sex ain't keepin' it real.
You know what I'm saying?
Keepin' it real, for me, is about staying tight spiritually. You've got to keep it real with God. You have to keep it real with your internal self, your essence, with that which makes you a human being. With that subconscious power that keeps your blood flowing, that makes you blink when you don't even know it, that makes you breathe without having to think about it. That's what you have to keep it real with -- righteousness.
No, I didn't keep it very real the early part of my career. And I now know that there's a price to pay for not keepin' it real. You think it's okay, that you can get away with that kind of behavior. But it eventually catches up to you. I learned that lesson the hard way.
But not right away.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. Copyright © 1997 by James Todd Smith.