Hustle Hard Interview Project: Ghetto Genius

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To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that lead me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.

#7: THE COME UP

When you start out from a place of Nothing and arrive at Something, it’s easy to get caught up in The Come Up. People lose sight of keeping it real and shed their barometer on humility, kindness, and loyalty because it’s easy to replace those qualities with self-importance and entitlement. But Jay Wunder, widely known as the Ghetto Genius, has lost none of his humble, self-deprecating humor or his proclivity to stay loyal to those who loved and cared for him back in the day. He has managed to keep kindness king during his Come Up.

With over 4 million hits on his popular blog, Inside the Mind of a Ghetto Genius, and 160,000+ fans on Facebook, Jay, along with his CREW, dish out real talk advice and cutting-edge humor on a daily basis.

I stumbled onto his site last year and loved it so much, I sent him an email. I didn’t expect a response. Jay not only took the time to email back with a personal response and words of encouragement, but he also asked me to be a part of the CREW. Hanging out with the Ghetto Genius family while writing under the alias “Flo-Rich” has been a test in avoiding arrest and alcohol poisoning. I’m happy to report that the entire CREW has managed to stay true to Jay Wunder’s two rules for our nights together: No one goes off on their own. No one dies.

EJL: I respect people who find a way to get their shit together and make something of themselves, even when they have the odds stacked against them. What gave you the focus to stay out of trouble and pursue your passions?

JW: I’ve had to hustle my whole life. Growing up, I lived in fear because my 4 siblings and I were in an unstable home with an alcoholic father, and the people I knew were heavy into gang activity, drugs, and scamming. I was the first one to go to college, somehow made it through, and ended up in Chicago after I graduated. One night, I was crying, feeling sorry for myself because I had fallen into drugs and seen some shit go down. I still cared about what other motherfuckers thought of me. Then, I starting thinking about my mom who commuted 1.5 hours each way to work for over 20 years and never complained once. NOT ONCE. She supported a family of 7. And I realized that I had no right to fuck up. I owed it to myself and to the people I loved to keep a straight head.

I didn’t need to get into trouble to prove my manhood.

EJL: Is your past what has allowed you to be so compassionate towards the fans who write in seeking advice? A lot of people are so casually cruel in the name of being honest, but you seem to have the perfect balance of keeping it real and not sugarcoating anything while staying away from the unnecessary bullshit.

JW: I’ve been burned a lot back in the day, and I know the hardest thing to accept is honesty. It’s difficult to take advice from people you know, even when it comes from a good place. I think that’s why people write in. And I respect that they trust me enough to share their tough times with me. This isn’t a job for me. I do it because the emails I get back thanking me for 10 minutes of laughter or the clarity I provided keep me going. It’s rewarding.

EJL: Do you ever get hate? How do you not let it affect you?

JW: I almost quit the blog because I got a lot of backlash from people I knew. The day I said, “Fuck what people think,” my whole life changed. No one else is going to make you happy or pay your bills, and you’re going to care about what they think? People say what they say out of jealousy and spite. But I’ve gotten good at pinpointing my Ride Or Dies- the people in my life who have my back no matter what.

EJL: You’ve saved me from myself a few times. If you had to school me on how to be a little more street smart, what would it be?

JW: Know your surroundings. Don’t come off as someone who can be taken advantage of. I always think of the worst case scenario when I’m in a place I don’t know. You can either start shit and get arrested or you can make friends or you can get the fuck out. And unless you owe them money or you gave them herpes, be suspicious of people who try to come back into your life.

GGandEJL(GG and EJL recording. On Instagram.)

P.S. GHETTO GENIUS ON THE RADIO: There is a good chance “Some shit went down” is going to apply to this show. And I mean that in the best way possible. Much love, GG. I got your back. Always.

HERE’S A LINK TO THE PODCAST in case you missed the show.

P.P.S. Stay connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for (t)hug life thoughts, random shit, and not-seen-on-this-blog pictures.

Monday Dare: Thug Wife

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Become a rap educationalist

When I stumble across something especially noteworthy, I like to share it with Harv. It’s my way of saying, “I love you, and I think of you first.” Most of the time, we use the convenience of email to send links or pictures, but if the thing I want to share happens to be a song, I will wait until we are face-to-face. Music has always ruled my life, and I want to build moments in my marriage through hi-hats and modulated bass lines.

Harv and Cal were in the middle of practicing some sort of guitar and vocal gospel duet last night when I broke up their Father Daughter Moment with my latest find, Ace Hood’s “Bugatti.” I’m normally not judgmental about rap lyrics, but it seemed a little suspicious to me that anyone could just “wake up in a new Bugatti.” Could that happen to me too? Am I just hoping for things that will never come?

These seemed like important questions, and I trust Harv to give me the hard truth. He’s not afraid to be honest, even when it ends up hurting our love. Like that one time four years into our marriage when he admitted to me that he had never listened to one entire Tupac song.

Now that I’m thinking back, I’m fairly certain that his admission wasn’t just happenstance. He waited until we were in public. We had just eaten a delicious yet reasonably-priced lunch. I was well-rested after eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. That dude planned this shit out like a boss.

Have you ever walked into a pillar in your living room even though you’ve lived in the same house for almost three years and it was daylight and the impact caused so much pain in the middle part of your forehead and the tip of your nose that your vision went blank for just a second?

It felt just like that. But in my heart.

It’s impossible to know everything about your partner when you marry him after dating for just 18 days, but still, you think the details will just work themselves out because our love is so goddamn strong and ain’t nothing and nobody gonna tear us apart and I don’t need a perfect person, just someone who is perfect for me. 

I moved across the country to a town where I knew no one else but my new husband and into a home that I had never even laid eyes on until I become his missus. I missed my friends and my family and the comfort of familiarity.

He told me he liked cats. I took that in stride. He told me he liked the thermostat at 68. I froze my fucking ass off but gazed at him through the icicles forming on my eyelashes with affection. He admitted that he didn’t use coupons, even when they were attached to the item that he was purchasing. I still kissed him before bed that night.

But when he looked through my playlist and repeated name after name in a confused tone, “DJ Khaled? Rick Ross? Three 6 Mafia? E-40? Camp Lo?” SHIT JUST GOT TOO REAL.

I am not a rap pusher, but occasionally, I would share little snippets here and there, just to whet his appetite. I felt like a failure after Harv’s Tupac confession, but still, I just kept right on.

It’s time to step it up a notch. Rap music blasting through our crib, all day eryday. Thug Wife. Thug Life.

Stay connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. Image via Instagram (username: flourishinprogress).

Monday Dare: Drugs? Yes, please.

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the click to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Drugs. Take some.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Holy smokes, I can’t believe you’re still alive, homegirl!” I would have a lot of money. Not Car Money but somewhere in the neighborhood of Name Brand Lip Gloss Money. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the Disney Fairies Lip Gloss Compact that Cal gave me last year, but I get a little nervous every time I pull it out in public to touch up my pout. I can tell from some of the wayward glances I’ve been getting that it’s a hot ticket item. Thank god my purse has a secure zipper top.

The people who find my aliveness (word? not a word?) so noteworthy are folks I knew back in the day. My first instinct when I see these Party People From My Past is to run. Which I have done. If we happen to make eye contact, I try to be pleasant with a little smile or a gang sign and pray that they don’t come over for a chat. Which they do.

It surprises me that they recognize me at all. I look different. I am no longer that girl with the stringy, brittle hair and the acne brought on by not washing my face for three or four days in a row because I was too high to give a shit about a consistent exfoliate + cleanse + tone + moisturize routine. None of my clothes have cigarette burn holes. All of my shoes fit.

And I feel different. My intentions are not stitched together with ulterior motives. I no longer build friendships based on the quality of the eight ball of cocaine the other person has to offer. My feelings are no longer buried under a mound of cocaine, crack, speed, ecstasy, LSD, benzos, prescription pain killers, prescription cough syrup, or anything else I could grind up and snort, smoke, or chug.

But most of the people who only knew me when I was rooting around in the filth of my flimsy decisions will always see me as That Girl.

I don’t bother to explain to them that these days, That Girl rarely keeps alcohol in the house. And That Girl tries to act like a motherfucking hero by refusing Advil when she has a headache because she is afraid of becoming addicted. She has never heard of anyone becoming addicted to Advil, and she would like to keep it that way.

I don’t want to be That Girl. I am now This Woman.

As This Woman, I’m certain that I’ll still make the wrong choices sometimes, but it won’t be because I don’t give a fuck about anything or anyone, including myself. I give lots of fucks about lots of fucking things.

I’ve shied away from putting anything into my body because of my addictive personality, but I don’t think that’s the right solution for me anymore. I’m okay with doing drugs again. Like, the legal kind from Costco. I trust myself.

And besides, the last I heard, my dealer got out of the hustle. I guess we both got tired of being That Girl.
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P.S. Big ups to everyone for being so supportive of the new Flourish in Progress radio show! Podcasts of the first few episodes are now available. This one is my favorite so far because I share my best piece of life advice: Every time you go to a strip club, pretend it’s your first time. I guarantee you’ll get great service.

P.P.S. Most of the Baby Those Thug Lips lip balm in Buttercream and Peppermint from the Hood Goods store are gone, but there are a few left. People, these balms are the bomb. If you’d like to order one, check out the page and drop me a line.

Stay connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page or on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for lots of random shit. Some of it is funny. Some of it is just stupid and pointless. Wow, that was a really horrible sales pitch.

image via blueq.com