Hip-hop spoken word artist Gabriel “G. Delo” De Los Reyes began writing poems and short stories at age five. After learning to read, De Los Reyes said, “I wrote all the time just to cheer up my mother. My parents divorced when I was young.”
At age 12, the Miami resident began recording in the studio, where he said that he “learned about things like tone, musicality and working with the voice. My mom, instead of gifts, would give me studio time for my birthday,” he said. His passion for hip-hop, De Los Reyes said, “made me want to cover all of its elements.”
At 13, De Los Reyes, who performed in HBO’s Brave New Voices, said that he began deejaying, and by 14, was performing spoken word. “I devoted three years to mastering the craft,” he said. “And now that I feel I have it down, it’s all about going into the music at 110 percent.”
Now 20, De Los Reyes, a University of Wisconsin-Madison junior, will perform on Wednesday, July 28 at Arthur R. Ashe Middle School in Fort Lauderdale.
He will perform along with other Florida music, spoken word, dance and theatrical entertainers at the first-ever Tree of Life youth concert.
The event, presented by The League of Xtraordinary Talent LLC, in association with the Urban League of Broward County (ULBC), will serve as the grand finale show for the ULBC’s juvenile diversion summer program.
“I always felt that adding a spoken word component to the summer program was important,” said Deru “Ritchie” Franks, ULBC’s juvenile diversion program coordinator. “This year, Chris [Deon] decided to turn the last workshop into an extravaganza that will allow the kids exposure to several spoken word artists.”
The program, Franks said, has been in place for three years.
He explained that participants in the program are between the ages of 8 and 18, have had some type of contact with law enforcement, and have been referred by the State Attorney’s office.
“It’s usually because of a non-violent misdemeanor like disturbing the peace, shoplifting or battery,” explained Franks.
They can enter the program as long as they are not 18 at the time of arrest, he said.
The program’s facilitator, Chris “Da’ Imperial” Deon, said he, too, was an “at-risk youth,” and knows the importance of “having someone care about you. I had negative experiences as a child that caused me to act out, and no one really looked deeper,” the New Jersey native shared.
“But I know there is something deeper in every person and they, like these kids, are screaming for someone to find out what,” said Deon, 42, who is also the founder and president of The Legion of Xtraordinary Talent.
Born in Sacramento, Calif., De Los Reyes, an English and theater major, grew up listening to all types of music.
His father, he said, worked for Capitol Records on the artist and repertoire side.
“He always brought home CDs, so I developed an appreciation for music and the industry in general.”
De Los Reyes said that he has recorded cassettes “with one song and sold them for two bucks, but that was just testing.”
Now, he said, “I am ready to really put out a project that I feel I really want to push, advertise and market.”
De Los Reyes’ first album, titled Cali-Florida, will be complete by the year’s end, he said.
“I’m looking to either get a record deal or start my own label,” he said.
Other performers in the concert include Flawless the MC, Caribbean spoken word diva Sunshine; hip-hop recording artists Kle-Cha and Kie-Money; Zarifa Muhammad El, and international recording artist Jay Smoove.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Tree of Life” Youth Concert
WHEN: Wed., July 28, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Arthur R. Ashe Middle School, multi-purpose center, 1701 NW 23rd Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
COST: Free and open to the public.
CONTACT: For event information, call Chris Deon at 754-214-6024.