Noble Poets' Jevon "ODW" Barnes
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THE BEAUTIFUL FLAW: Jevon “ODW” Barnes On Turning Darkness Into Light With NOBLE POETS!

The life and times of Jevon “ODW” Barnes, aka DRTY WHITE, reads like something out of a Hollywood screenplay. As a child and early teenager, DRTY lived the relatable story of being deeply tormented by his alcohol-and drug-addicted father. After a childhood of mental and physical abuse, he ran away from home at 15, which led him to life on the streets. In a desperate attempt to survive, DRTY WHITE began selling drugs to escape his poverty-stricken life. Within a few short years, he mastered the drug-dealing game and became one of its most formidable players. A neverending stream of cash, combined with lingering trauma he endured as a child, led to crippling drug addiction and decisions that took him to death’s door.

In 2003, with 140,000 dollars in the trunk of his car, DRTY was nearly murdered in a drug deal gone wrong at a secluded drop-off point. After firing two rounds into the head of his passenger, the rival drug dealer then slammed the 9-millimeter to DRTY’s head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed, and he miraculously escaped the hit. In a moment of desperation for his life, he began to pray for God to get him out of this horrifying nightmare. As his empire crumbled around him, DRTY made a vow to his then-6-year-old daughter that he would never go back to the game of hustling, drinking, and drugs. He has stayed true to his word and, in the process, forged a relationship with God.

It was “one choice” made years ago that not only put him on a new path but ultimately led to the birth of the rap duo known as NOBLE POETS, comprised of rapper DRTY WHITE and singer Caleb May. Together, this incredible team is now laying the foundation of a new counter-culture movement with a true sense of purpose. Their debut album, ‘The Beautiful Flaw,’ tells the story of DRTY’s darkest hours through its intense, heartfelt lyrics, heavy-hitting subs, angelic melodies, and anthemic flow. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with DRTY WHITE to discuss his incredible journey out of the darkness, the bonds he’s formed along the way, and the making of Noble Poets’ debut album!

Saying that your life story reads like a movie script is almost an understatement. Most importantly, you’re still in the process of writing your own happy ending. Tell us about how the journey began.

For me, life started in a dark place. When I was 3 or 4 years old, my earliest memories come from me being beaten and cursed at. I didn’t have a name growing up. That’s why in some of my songs, I call myself Nimrod because my name wasn’t Jevon. It was Nimrod or a whole gamut of other swear words that I was called. At the same time, I wasn’t allowed to cry when I was a child. If I showed any type of emotion, there was a 6′ 2″ 300 lb. monster a quarter inch from my face yelling at me. It was terrifying living with an abusive drug addict/alcoholic. I grew up in Fresno, California, and we lived in one of the poorest areas in Fresno. When you would walk out of my house, the streets weren’t much better. PCP was running rampant in the early 80s. So, you’d have people out in the front yard, breakdancing on cardboard, drinking forties, and junkies would be rolling up from down the street. Not only was the environment inside my home not safe, neither was the outside. Typically, kids get to play outside and enjoy their childhood at that age, but there was no escape for me. It was a continuum of trauma, so to speak. It was almost like living in war from the moment you woke up until the moment you went to bed. If I wasn’t getting abused, my mom or my brothers were. Watching them go through it, along with myself, was a continual PTSD pattern.

That cycle continued until I was about 14 or 15 years old. That was when something inside of me just snapped. I remember feeling it snap, and that was it. I took off! There was no more fighting. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I needed to go. My cup had overfloweth! [laughs] I leap out the window with a backpack and a couple hundred bucks in my pocket. That’s when I started buying small amounts of drugs and would flip that product to double my money. That led to me getting robbed because I was sleeping on the ground and would have to start back at ground zero. After I got robbed, I started looking through cars. I found a backpack in the back of an unlocked vehicle with a loaded gun. I took it to someone I knew who purchased firearms and got $380 bucks for the gun. I went and re-upped. Out of that $380 bucks, I bought my first brick. I flowed a little while, and that’s when I decided I wouldn’t get ahead in Fresno. From there, I moved to Humboldt County in 1996. Within a year to 18 months, roughly, I was moving anywhere from a million to three million a month.

All of the people I had sold to in Fresno, I was the only person they knew who could get that really high-grade weed. It was really hard to come by in the mid-90s. People from Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and the Bay Area came to me for product. I had drivers that were driving 200 to 300 lbs. a month. That was just one brokerage outlet that I had. I also had 5 houses where I was growing. I had family members running those houses and drivers driving loads down the hill. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “Murder Mountain,” but I was cleaning those hills out, so to speak. As much as they could grow and as much as they could offload to the people I knew, we did it! They called me “The Golden Boy” because I would move 500,000 grand in an hour and a half.

People would be like, “How is this kid moving this much?!” It was this weird cocoon of favor that I had. When I go back now, I realize I had that because I didn’t lie. I wasn’t a cheater, and I didn’t steal. I always made sure everybody had enough, and I made sure every dollar was counted. I never short-changed the people I was working with, so my reputation grew. As a kid in my early 20s, I remember one month, making $175,000. As a kid, to get that continual amount of money non-stop and to have the type of pain and trauma I had, I began heavily medicating pretty quickly.

One of the cartels that I was selling to down in Fresno had the bright idea that because I was taking such good care of them, they would start bringing up 8-ounce bricks of blow. Of course, that was just for me to party with! So, you’ve got 8 ounces of cocaine in the freezer with 10,000 hits of LSD and a quarter-pound sized backfilled with Xanax bars, along with a similarly sized bag full of Valium. I was also getting dimethyltryptamine from a shaman that we knew. I was taking that stuff every day! So, I was mixing cocaine, dimethyltryptamine, LSD, pills, Crown Royal, and weed, all mixed together. Constantly! Then we met a crooked dentist, and that’s when I started buying tanks of laughing gas from him. You add that on top of everything else, and it’s easy to see that I was on the road to the depths of hell, real quick!

It didn’t matter how much money I made or how many drugs I did. People around me would always ask, “How are you putting this much into your system? How are you not dead?!” I don’t know how I navigated through. I was just in so much pain, and that was the only way I knew how to get rid of the pain. It would make it go away, but as soon as I was sober, which wasn’t very often, the pain would come back. That’s why I kept medicating. I started working with people who weren’t on the up-and-up. They were people who owed other people money and had heroin addictions. I never got into heroin, but I knew people who did. Well, one of the guys who had a heroin addiction had set up a murder. He had sent somebody to drop a load to me and my friend. We had about $140,000 in the trunk. The guy shot my friend twice in the head in our rent-a-car. He went to shoot me in the head as well, but the gun jammed. I was almost murdered.

About two months later, my house got raided. I was in the midst of breaking everything down because I was on the front page of the paper and on the news. I just had such a huge organization that I couldn’t break it down in a day. I tried, but it was too much. My house was raided, and they pinched me for about 105 lbs., hash manufacturing operation, and a grow-op. My brother and cousins were all involved, and I had a very tight-knit crew. Thank God everybody else working for me didn’t get in trouble because they had already shut down their grow operations that were mine as well.

A week later, the guy who shot my friend twice in the head and tried to murder me got murdered in Las Vegas. He got shot with a .45 and thrown in a dumpster. The Vegas feds came into Humboldt County on a helicopter and rolled onto my property with no warrant. They were investigating the murder, but I had nothing to do with it, and I knew I had nothing to do with it. They said, “Mr. Barnes, we are investigating a murder. The guy who shot your friend in the head is dead.” A tear rolled down my eye, and I said, “First off, you don’t have any right to be here on my property because you don’t have a warrant. So, kinda get off my property. Secondly, you can investigate this as much as you want. I didn’t have anything to do with it.” That didn’t sit too well, so they tipped off the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff and his deputies, within 30 days, raided my house.

I’m giving you all of this in a nutshell because it could be a big discussion! [laughs] However, because the Vegas feds weren’t allowed to be on my property, they had no right to tip off the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department. As a result, the sheriffs developed a falsified warrant on my property. Since it was a falsified warrant, my lawyer got me completely off, and I don’t have a criminal record at all. However, when my house got raided, my daughter was taken away by Child Protective Services (CPS). She was five years old at the time. CPS took her, rightfully so, due to my decision to put my daughter in harm’s way. We got my daughter back from CPS, and I got full custody of her. I have been sober ever since. I never sold another pound, did another drug, drank another drink, ate another pill or snorted another line. I went to the other side of the spectrum. I went from dark to light.

My life was spared. I don’t know very many people who’ve changed their life by their friend getting shot in the head next to them. That is just what needed to happen for me to completely change and turn 360º. With all that trauma and all that drug abuse, I just wasn’t a good dude at all. It was like, “Everybody just better get out of Dirty’s way!” Ya know what I mean? [laughs] That was just my mentality at the time. This journey of being sober this long is what evolved into the sound you hear with Noble Poets. That is where the story has rooted; it’s my life experience. The record is ‘The Beautiful Flaw.’ We are only on video two at this point. We are going from being really little to being a teenager to hitting the upper echelons of drug dealing to my friend getting shot to the house getting raided. Then we move into what I call “the underdog has overcome.” That focuses on me slipping into being the person I am now. Being sober this long, your mind and how you view life changes. The way you communicate with others also changes. I’m a huge advocate of mental health. In the video for “Humpty Dumpty,” that’s actually my therapist. That really is my therapist! I was in a counseling office with him for 10 years. He helped me walk through the trauma.

Not only was I dealing with the trauma that happened to me, but I was more broken by the trauma I had created. It’s one thing if somebody does something to you. Still, it’s entirely different if you are doing something to somebody else. I brought my 5-year-old daughter at the time, though that was disgusting. I really can say it’s disgusting because it affected her. As I said, I ended up getting full custody of her, and she never saw her dad do another thing again. She’s now getting her doctorate, but there is still that age of one to five, which are very formative years in a child.

To be in this place now, I felt this was the perfect time to give this gift. That’s really how I view this music. It’s not music you just bang your head to. It’s got a really deep meaning to it. I feel like what has happened globally with shutdowns and the situations we’ve all faced over the past few years makes people feel more disconnected than ever before. We have the highest addiction, divorce, and domestic abuse rates in the history of our country right now. People have been locked in their homes, and they’ve been medicating. Giving this gift to humanity is so important. We want to show people that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to choose it. You just can’t wish for it. You have to make that change. That’s why I’ve been doing these podcasts and interviews, just to inform people about what we are doing. I really, truly view this as a gift to help people.

There are many ways you can go about telling your story. So what made hip-hop the suitable medium for you to spread your message?

The first hip-hop record I ever listened to was Rick Rubin’s production with Beastie Boys. It was a different format for me at the time because I was raised on stuff like Queen, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Elton John. That was mainly what I listened to as a kid. The thing that attracted me to hip hop was the storytelling aspect. I shifted from Beastie Boys to Rakim and Nas. Then there was the Wu-Tang Clan, who’s been such a huge influence on my music. Then, as you move into the late 90s and early 2000s, Eminem did an amazing job of telling the stories of what happened to him. That’s one thing I really love about him, and he’s had an influence on me personally because he was so raw in the way he told his story. When I started writing lyrics, I couldn’t really write lyrics to other styles of music because I couldn’t hear the beat in my head. However, I could hear a beat in my head that was living in me with hip-hop. I just started writing lyrics because I didn’t really have any music to write to because I hadn’t started producing yet. As time went on, I kept getting better and better. I ended up going to sound engineering school at San Francisco State and learning from some amazing people. Every one of my teachers in the program was a Grammy winner. Everyone of them! There was Michael Rosen who worked with AFI stuff and ‘Reload’ with Metallica, Brian Matheson, and the list goes on and on.

I started to carve out my sound around my lyrics. I had the lyric part down, but the next phase was putting sound to it. I started making beats, got a really nice studio, and started producing. It wasn’t until I met Brian “Head” Welch of Korn in 2013 that things really took off. We just connected as friends because our stories are so similar. He was famous for filling stadiums, but I was famous in my realm if you know what I’m saying. I had that type of money; our daughters were born a month apart, both of them were drug through drug addiction, both of us are sober now, and both of us have the same level of faith. We just started connecting, and we did a track called “Addiction,” which will be on ‘The Beautiful Flaw.’ Head really started to take a liking to what we were doing. The track he and I did together is like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s so crazy, and I can’t wait to release it! It’s almost like Eminem meets Korn or something. I don’t know how to explain it!

I’ll tell you what I love about it. I’ve listened to quite a few interviews with you, and when this track comes up, you always light up. Your excitement for it is infectious! How did that collaboration get rolling?

I originally sent him a take and said, “Hey, man. I’m really hearing your voice on this. Two months had gone by, and I didn’t hear anything back from him. I thought, “Okay, maybe he just didn’t like the track. He’s so busy. Who knows.” I just wrote it off, so to speak. Not in a bad way, but I just thought maybe he wasn’t feeling it. At some point, he came up to Reading, and everybody was having a get-together for him. I didn’t even know he had arrived yet, but he came up behind me and sang the hook to the track at the party! [laughs] I was like, “Bro! You wrote it?!” He was like, “Yup. Let’s got to the studio now!” I had all my studios completely set up, and he came in and dropped the vocals! We worked on it until about 3 or 4 in the morning. It was one of those things where you didn’t really know what would come out of it. We had Jasen Rauch of Breaking Benjamin do the mixing on it, and it’s just a great track! We’ve been sitting on it now for three or four years. The cool thing about it is that it’s still more relevant than 90% of the music that I hear today because the sound hasn’t been done yet. That’s why I get giddy like a little kid! There is so much message and depth in it. Brian is such a talented human being, whether it’s with a guitar or with what he can do vocals. I don’t know if you’ve listened to any of his LOVE AND DEATH stuff, but he’s just an animal! Getting to work with him has been terrific. It’s really what spurred the depth of the relationship.

The icing on the cake was when I met Caleb May. Caleb’s the prodigy, to be honest with you. All that low-end sub work that you hear, and the reason those tracks knock like that is because of Caleb. We infused our sounds with him as a singer, writer, and producer and me as a rapper, writer, and producer. Once we infused the sound together and pollinated it, we created Noble Poets!

What was the biggest challenge in bringing your vision to life?

Once Caleb and I got the record done, we set it to Head. I said, “Head, you’ve got to find me an engineer.” Believe it or not, we actually went through 7 hip-hop engineers. I won’t name names, but we had the top 5 hip hop engineers working on this, but I was like, “Nope. Nope. Nope, that’s not it.” Caleb felt the same way. Finally, I was like, “Brian, we’ve got this body of work, but the sound just isn’t right. I know what it needs to sound like.” He said, “Why don’t you use my guy Joe [Rikard].” Joe was the drummer for RED, and he just did LOVE AND DEATH’s last project. He’s crazy good! He took one of the tracks, spent some time with it, sent it back, and did two re-tweaks on it. Once I heard it, I was like, “That’s it! That’s the sound!” He’s the only hip-hop engineer who could nail it down, and technically, he’s not even a hip-hop engineer. It’s so hard to carve those subs around hip hop vocals, especially with mine that are so verbose and choppy with the delivery. With the other engineers, the beat kept swallowing it up. I was like, “This has got to cut through like a hot knife to butter.” When I first talked to Joe, I said, “You’ve got to imagine you’re painting a painting and carving/EQ-ing this around my vocal.” Let me tell you, he shot the arrow through the arrow! Every one of his mixes kept getting better and better. I asked Brian, “Why didn’t we just use him from the beginning, man? I just went through 7 engineers, and it’s been a year.” He said, “I just didn’t think of it!” I’m like, “Well, this is the dude! This is THE man!”

To get this sound has been a very intense labor of love. Most people, I would imagine, probably would have quit after the third or fourth engineer! [laughs] I was just so relentless when it came to knowing what we were capable of. I know the story is right. I know the beats are right. I know that Caleb’s voice is what Caleb’s voice is. Not having it mixed right would have been like salt in an open wound. I just refused to stop until I felt that resonance inside of me where I knew it was right. When Joe sent me back the first mix, I actually cried! The process and journey that Caleb and I had endured to achieve this body of work is truly unique. I don’t think many artists can say that they are ecstatic with the actual sound. By that, I mean that there might be things they would redo given a chance. When I go back and listen to the record, and I’ve probably listened to it thousands of times, I’m still trying to find flaws in it that I would consider changing. I’m happy, and Caleb is happy. It’s been an incredible journey.

Noble Poets
Caleb May and Jevon “ODW” Barnes of Nobel Poets

What were your biggest takeaways from the creative process?

Not to hold back and to be authentic. I didn’t ever want to exaggerate my story. I didn’t want to make up things that were not real. I wanted the story to be exactly what it was. Getting vulnerable in the mic booth and letting rawness come through was a labor of love. I can rap, but it’s another thing entirely when you integrate that raw vulnerability with rapping. A lot of the rapping you hear right now doesn’t have that emotion you can grab onto. That took me some time. The takeaway from it was, “I’m not stopping until the heart connects with the head.”

Early on, I couldn’t go back into the trauma of what was happening when I was recording. You could feel the lack of authenticity. We just kept going and going and going until we got it right. Being authentic and being perseverant was my mentality. My thought process was, “We are going to get this sound no matter what. That is the end of it!” Some of our days were 18-hour days. There was one section on “Humpty Dumpty” where I couldn’t get my vocal to go from this really low-end passion to this higher melody that I was doing. It must have done 250 to 500 takes on that part because I wanted this specific thing to happen. I didn’t fail 500 times; I just found 500 different ways to do it, right?

The main thing I hung onto was that if I didn’t get this done, I wouldn’t be able to impact people’s lives. That’s my end goal, to help people. It’s not about fame, notoriety, or making a ton of money. That’s never been our agenda. We are trying to open up more discussion about people’s trauma. It’s making it to where it feels safe for people to talk about what they went through. Not everybody gets an outlet to tell their story. The creation and evolution of this project built a strength in me that no one will ever be able to take from me. That never say die attitude is what brought us to this point.

As a listener, there is no denying the passion and authenticity you bring to the table. The work speaks for itself. Additionally, the pairing of your voice with Caleb’s is a unique blend of light and dark.

Yeah, man! You said the same thing that Head recently said. He said, “The crazy thing is that Jevon brings this really strong, dark element to what was happening, but then Caleb brings this light resolve.” He solidifies the track. Honestly, we wouldn’t have this sound if it wasn’t for him. I always say, “How does your best friend end up being like two decades younger than you? How is that possible?” I call him “The Old Soul” because he could actually get inside my brain, and he wrote the hooks. To this day, I don’t know how he does it! He listens to the lyrics, we produce the track, and then comes up with the hook. I’m like, “Bro! It feels like you live inside of my brain. How do you do that, man?!” So, you hit the nail on the head with the light and dark elements. I don’t believe in making music that will leave people in that place. Hip hop is genuinely dark, to begin with. There are many MCs right now, and It may sound like I’m being critical, and maybe I am, but there’s just not a lot said. I don’t know how many more thousands of songs we have to listen to that are just talking about boobs and rims. It just gets really boring, and it’s super annoying to have some of the best people in the world working with artists that could be saying something, but they’re not. I guess we are a bit of a counter-culture with this record because we are coming with an authentic message, but the sonic side of things backs it up. Our tracks hit really, really hard. They are not missing anything regarding what the subs are doing, and in the mid-range, it’s very full. When you put that recipe together, I think it will take a little while for the movement to gain traction. I think we have something really special. We’re getting such great feedback from the people who have heard it. Surprisingly, the comments don’t always come from where you might expect. I got a comment from a 65-year-old in Sweden who said, “This just completely changed my life.” I’m like, “You’re 65 years old and listening to hip hop.” What does that mean? It means that our message is transcending the genre! That’s really encouraging!

Noble Poets

As you’ve said, your creative connection with Caleb is truly unique. How did you two initially cross paths?

He’s like an angel on my shoulder. The same guy who had connected me with Brian “Head” Welch was the same person who connected me with Caleb. He called me and said, “Hey. I’ve got this kid that you’ve gotta meet.” He was 17 at the time, and I was like, “Man, I don’t want to meet any kids.” [laughs] He said, “I need you to do me a favor. How did that meeting with Head work out?” So, we had built such a great friendship through that connection that I trusted my friend. It took about two months after that call for Caleb and me to connect. He came over with his computer and played me one track. It was called “Nighttime Thoughts.” Caleb was rough around the edges around that time, but he’s almost 21 now. I listened to it and was like, “Oh, okay. I wonder why my friend wanted us to connect.” Caleb was rough around the edges at the time, but he’s really come into his own. When it was put with the right engineers and the right sound, I knew that voice would be something special. I already knew my bars in my head. After hearing his voice, I immediately started hearing the songs we were going to do. That’s how it began, through a friend of a friend.

The stuff that this can do with his voice when it hits the way it’s supposed to is amazing. The world’s going to get an idea of how good Caleb May really is. He’s that good. I listen to him because we are constantly rehearsing. There is no autotune on his voice. When I hear him live, I’m like, “Bro, I just don’t know. You’re some sort of alien angel!” [laughs] Sometimes, when we are rehearsing, the power is so strong that I’ve got tears in my eyes as I’m dropping the bars. I can feel the energy happening from what we are creating. There is something in him that is just so transformative with his writing and singing. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders. He doesn’t party. He’s a virgin. He doesn’t go sleeping around. He’s got such a great trajectory with where his life is at. I’m really proud of him because he could be doing what most 21-year-olds are doing — tilting back, hanging out with girls, and letting his 20s get sucked up. I mean, let’s face it, most of us are guilty of that in some form. He’s not doing that. He’s on a completely different path. I think he’s learned a lot from me. It’s stuff like, “That angle that those people over there are operating in, they don’t have your best interests in mind.” So, he really does trust me.

I’m the financier of the record label and the projects. He knows how much I’m putting into him. We have a lot on the line, so his decision-making will affect both of us. We have a really strong bond regarding what we are trying to accomplish. Man, if I could unzip myself and go back to being 21 years old and be where he is, I’d cut off a pinky toe for it! [laughs]

You are the driving force behind Noble Poets and the Lion Rock label. What is your vision for the future?

We’ve got “Never Fit In” that dropped in November, and “Humpty Dumpty” just dropped in January. Those are doing well, and we have three more videos lined up. We just shifted our plans a bit last week. We are going to take the album and break it into two EPs. Then we will add four more tracks and ultimately combine that as the total album, ‘The Beautiful Flaw.’ By doing that, we will get three projects out of it. I don’t want people to just swallow up the twelve tracks and be done. Once we drop the record, I’m hoping that some new doors and avenues will open up to where Caleb and I can start touring and doing what we need to do. It’s not just about the music. It’s about helping people with the struggles they are dealing with. That’s more of what I want our shows to be; people coming together in a place of vulnerability where people can be honest about what is going on in their life. It’s more than just us stepping into an arena and entertaining people. Of course, people want to be entertained, and I get that. At the same time, our message really isn’t designed to have you sit back and be entertained. I actually see something totally different with what we will be doing with these tours. I see people getting sober and freed of their trauma with these events that will be taking place. I have a different vision for Lion Rock Records and what we are trying to do. I genuinely want to help people. If I can help kids not go through what I experienced or point them in the right direction, WE WIN!

As I said, many adults went through what I went through and never talked about it. That’s something I’m seeing online right now with our music. A lot of people are reaching out and saying, “Man, you just summed up my life in 4 and half minutes.” It’s actually producing that thing inside of them that says, “I don’t need to hold on to this anymore. I can actually talk about it and let it go.” That’s part of why we did “Humpty Dumpty” in a therapy office. I want to bring awareness to people that we are not called to do this on our own. It’s okay to get help! There are armloads of organizations and people out there who want to help people like me get on the other side. I’m one of those people, and that’s why I think music is so powerful and important, especially in the midst of our whole world seemingly coming undone.

What wisdom can you offer someone who might be in a dark place similar to the ones you’ve experienced?

One choice. One choice. — I made that choice, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve let the rest work itself out. That same choice I make every day. I wake up, and I breathe in the good. I have a stunning home that I live in. All of my needs are met. I’m not saying everybody else’s needs are met. I’m saying that there is always something good that we can be breathing in and exhaling out everything that isn’t up to par with where we want our life to be. It’s about taking one step at a time, one day at a time. It’s very powerful. When I decided to be done and out of the game in my 20s and my life was spared, I knew there was a road ahead of me that was going to be difficult. I knew it would be difficult to restructure, but I had to make that choice every day. Some days it was really hard, and some days it felt like I was living on cloud nine. Either way, the choice stayed the same.

I think it’s important for people to understand that one choice can restructure your whole path. You can make one choice to no longer drink if that is the thing that is robbing you. You can make one choice to no longer be doing cocaine and pills. You can make one choice to stop cutting yourself. There are so many different arenas of toxicity that we as humans can get ourselves involved in. We could talk for hours about all of those different things. But whatever that person is involved in, if they don’t want to be in that place anymore, they don’t have to be. I’ve never talked to anybody who’s an alcoholic that likes being an alcoholic. They’re miserable like I was. It was a different choice.

It’s so interesting because, with the message we are sending out, you never know who will get it. Someone might grab onto this and think, “I can make a different choice.” It goes for everyone. If you are in prison, you can make a different choice every single day while you’re in prison. You can prepare yourself for getting out. Let’s say you’ve got a life term. You can make a choice to be an influence of positivity inside of that yard. I know people who have done that, who are still there doing that every single day. They are changing the whole inside of a prison based on their decision-making. It can always get better, but you have to choose! We’ve been given free will, all of us. We get to choose what we do with that free will. I don’t blame my dad for the hand I was dealt. I used to before I changed my life. I blamed my dad because I was in pain. I blamed everybody before I took personal ownership. It was my choice that got my friend shot in the head. I put my friend in that situation. My choices got my child taken from me. My choices almost put me in the pen for eight years. I choose to medicate. Nobody forced me to put a straw up my nose or a Xan bar in my mouth. Nobody hung me upside down to suck down the nitrous tank. Well, I guess I did have people help me with that since I couldn’t do it by myself! [laughs] But I asked them to hang me upside down, right?! [laughs] I got the opportunity to say, “I’m done. That’s it. No more. Not one more day.” Something in me said, “I don’t care what I’ve got to do. I don’t care how hard I have to fight. I’m going to get out of this.” The interesting thing about it is when I made that choice, I was on so many drugs that I don’t know how I didn’t go through withdrawal. I call it an act of God. I didn’t have a single withdrawal. I didn’t have to go to rehab, AA, or NA. I believe that God saved my life, and that choice that I made was solidified.

I made promises to a 5-year-old little girl out of that choice. She used to walk through my gardens at 4 years old. I’m talking about plants with nuggets the size of footballs! She would just walk through and pick them up and smell them. She called them her strawberries. I was raising her in the culture. My thought process back then was to teach her how to be a grower and take over all my establishments. That’s how broken I was. I remember driving her one day and saying, “Honey, I will never eat another pill. I will never sell another pound. You will never see random women coming in and out of the house. I’ve made my choice.” As I said, she’s getting her doctorate right now. She called me about the next video we are doing, “Xans.” The video is about her viewpoint of what she walked through as a kid and seeing her dad being a complete degenerate. It’s going to be the hardest video for me. I always tell people that it’s one thing when trauma is done to you, but it’s another thing when you are doing trauma to others. The stuff I did and the situations I put her around were unacceptable. She wasn’t being beaten or cussed at as I had. It was the stuff that she saw that caused her trauma. You don’t put a 3 or 4-year-old kid around that kind of stuff. I look back, and it’s like, “What was I thinking?!”

Noble Poets' Jevon "ODW" Barnes
Jevon “ODW” Barnes aka (DRTY WHITE) of Noble Poets

My daughter wrote 3/4ths of the screenplay for this next video. She’s extremely smart. She said, “Dad, I remember when you told me that. Jevon, you are the only person in my life that has ever told me that you were never going to go back, and you changed. That’s the example that I have. Yeah, what I went through was not okay, but you are my dad. I love you. You followed through with what you told me you were going to do, and you never looked back.” That is a gift that I got to give. She told me that, and I cried for three days because I carried so much shame with what I had drug her through. It was terrible, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel remorse for it. When you step into the arena and take ownership. I couldn’t go back in time and change what had happened.

All I could do is make that choice every day to follow through and be a man of my word. I kept my vow to God to never go back to the game. The hardest part was not going back because I was making so much money. Stupid amounts of money! I had so much power and authority and people wanting and needing me. I was getting a certain affirmation from that. The temptation of going back was more of a withdrawal for me than the withdrawal of doing drugs. The first week of October 2021 marked 18 years since my friend got shot in the head next to me. It’s been 17 years of no drug in my system, man.

I didn’t get to say that. My dad, still to this day, is a drug addict/alcoholic on and off the streets. He never changed, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard him say he would. For me, when we were doing “Never Fit In,” that’s my son playing me in the video. He said to me, “Dad, I can’t believe you went through this.” He doesn’t understand the miracle that he has never had to. That’s my gift, and I’ve got to give that to my children. This is a message of hope. Yeah, it’s dark but look at the fruit! I don’t have a criminal record, and I own a mortgage branch, for crying out loud! I counted millions of dollars, and now I’m doing millions a year in loans! It doesn’t make sense to be doing what I was doing and not have a criminal record. It’s absolutely an act of God.

To the audience, it comes down to choosing a different path and being willing to stay committed to that path. I’ve never seen anybody who’s made that choice to change that has ended up upset about it.

I can’t thank you enough for your time today, Jevon. Your story and your vision are truly inspiring. I’m sure our paths will cross again very soon!

I really appreciate you having me on today, Jason. Let’s do another one of these sometime soon! I’ve enjoyed myself. Thanks so much!

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