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Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center School provides educational services to all Milwaukee County youth who are placed in secure detention by the Wisconsin juvenile court system. In this piece, they share takeaways from a recent conversation they had with local rapper and actor IshDARR. This article was first published on carvdnstone.com.
The one and only IshDARR took time to meet with us MCAP students, giving advice on his life and successes. He shared words to motivate us to do better, to be hungry and to follow our dreams.
IshDARR is a Milwaukee-born rapper, actor and more. He was born Ishmael Ali. He got the rapper name by putting together his first name and the name Darr from his mother’s side of the family. He attended Milwaukee schools, including Messmer High School.
His dad helped him stay focused and stay away from trouble. One piece of advice that IshDARR gives us is to stay focused. He knows there are lots of distractions in Milwaukee.
IshDARR started to focus on his music and really go for it around 8th grade. He worked on his hooks, beats and lines. People started to notice his talent.
He built much of his career through hard work and grinding it out. He teaches us to grind, grind, grind when going for our dreams.
IshDARR started getting more social media hits after he was grinding to get his music out — finding blogs that post music for free, even overseas blogs. He kept posting and posting. Eventually, YouTube picked up some songs and the hits flowed from there.
“The connects started to build and expand. It’s like a web, building every day,” he said. “It was just a matter of keeping at it, being consistent. Something was going to have to happen.”
Then in 2015, actress Chloë Grace Moretz retweeted one of his songs, adding thousands of new fans. The fan base became nationwide around then.
IshDARR teaches us to seek out free knowledge that’s out there and to grow in new areas.
He grew his own career when he followed advice from his agent and sent in an audition tape for the movie White Boy Rick. The producers loved him and eventually he landed a role in the 2018 film. He played Freaky Steve in White Boy Rick.
IshDARR comes from Milwaukee and sees talent in Milwaukee. He wants to show that “there’s more to Milwaukee than what a lot of people see and all the negative.” He wants to lift up the city he grew up in and spend time with young men looking for guidance — to showcase what’s here, to collaborate, and highlight more local people.
Who knows, maybe some of us will follow his advice, be among those he lifts up, and be among those local artists working with IshDARR in the future.
Thanks to IshDARR for keeping it real, spending time with us, and teaching us how to follow our dreams. And a big shout out to Nyesha Stone of Carvd N Stone for setting up the interview, having so many Zoom meetings with us this semester, teaching us about journalism, and being a great role model.
“Vel’s Voice” is a monthly student newsletter in which youths can express their opinions and analysis, as well as demonstrate their writing skills. In order to maintain their confidentiality, all articles — including this one — are anonymous.
Students writing these articles are part of the Milwaukee County Accountability Program, an alternative juvenile corrections program that offers young men a chance to change their self-destructive behavior before they end up in the adult prison system.
The full “Vel’s Voice” newsletter for Feb. 2021, including this article and more student work, can be read here.