Many kids dream of becoming actors or singers or rappers. But it’s not always easy to turn those dreams into reality.
One young Portland artist has been dreaming since the age of 12 when his mother gave him his first set of music equipment. Now at age 18, he is making big things happen for himself.
Ezekial Jones, also known by his stage name Yung Mil, faced some challenges early on in his musical journey. He couldn’t always connect with his fans because many venues were restricted to 18 and older, and he didn’t have the funding to record with other artists.”Being a young rapper in Portland has not always been the easiest,” says Jones. Therefore, Jones has become multitalented, writing, rapping and producing his own music in his Portland home studio.
“My music expresses who I am and without music I think the world would just be boring,” Jones says.
Jones finds inspiration in his personal experiences, his life in Portland and his family. He is often compared to Grammy-nominated rapper Slick Rick due to their similar storytelling styles. Jones himself describes his style as “lyrical hip hop with a dash of swag.”
Jones has been performing on stage and in many venues in the Portland area since he was 14 years old. He recently entered — and won — the Def Jam Rapster Get Schooled Video Contest. Each participant submitted a 60-second original rap or spoken word video about how education influences their life. Jones’ contest-winning piece, called “ The Leader of the New School,” received more than 900 views within a two-week period.
For Jones, entering the competition was about more than just winning.
“A lot of my classmates weren’t taking education seriously at that time. I thought it would be a good way to inspire my peers,” he says.
As a result of winning the competition, Jones received an all-expenses paid trip to New York City and the opportunity to meet Kevin Liles and Russell Simmons, founders of Def Jam Record Label, and a chance to perform on BET’s hit show 106 and Park.
“Meeting Russell Simmons was a life-changing experience. He told me that I needed to be sure about what I want to do in life,” Jones says. “I know that it is creating music.”
Jones looks forward to doing more projects with Get Schooled, a growing network of students, schools and partners committed to improving education, and he also continues to pursue his dreams of making it as a rapper.
“Music should have more meaning than just making money,” says Jones. “To be a voice for people who don’t have a voice is what is important.”