Whether it’s promising a friend to put out a new book or his mother that he’ll avoid negativity like the plague, Damon Smith, aka Mr. Hey Now, keeps his word.
The Midwestern writer, poet, multiple sclerosis activist, musician, entrepreneur behind Freshoutent Apparel and best-friend/owner of cutest dog, Bear, Damon is a 21st-century jack-of-all-creative-trades and outsider artist on a mission to live out his best life.He’s the author of four books: Loud: A Strong Story (0.5), 142 Thoughts of A Convicted Felon, Solitary Confinement: My Walls Are Talking and the forthcoming book, December: A Story of Burning My Bed. CONVICTS caught up with Damon earlier this week to talk about becoming a freestyle rap king in prison, the liberating qualities of transparency, his writing process, and of course, his dog Bear. Here are some edited and condensed highlights from the interview.
I suffer from depression and multiple-personalities, so I have six entities within me, and I gave them names to separate them. Whatever I do, one of my other personalities wants to top it. The more I accomplish, the more I have to accomplish. I’m chasing myself, see? Kind of like a dog chasing its tail.
I was incarcerated for seventeen years. I was nineteen, going on twenty. I played in the streets my whole life. I am addicted to the street life, that is my drug. I have no qualms or ill feelings about saying it. That is my drug. Selling drugs, murder, killing, running the streets. That is my drug of choice. I don’t drink, but everyone has their vices.That’s what sent me to prison, because there are consequences and repercussions to your actions.
My mother’s name is Edna Jean Smith. I lost her to multiple sclerosis. It is what it is, but I had her funeral while she was alive. It was her dying wish. I had to give her those flowers while she was still here. That’s just my mantra. She always loved my poetry and spoken word and she told me before she took her last breath that she needed a book in her hands. She didn’t want it digitally, she didn’t want an audio version. She said she wanted to hold it before she lost the use of her hands.So I put my book out.
My writing is different because I don’t use proper grammar or anything like that. It’s basically me sitting down and having a conversation with myself. I’ll be a different person. I can sit down and put my words together and tell you a wonderful story about something that happened. But when my writing personality is finished, I’m onto something else. Until I get back in that mood.
When I came home from prison, I couldn’t get a job. I was almost forty. If I get a job and try to work at a job…I’m not going to live long enough to retire. The only other option I had was to open a business. So I opened my company called Freshoutent Apparel and put out the first book. Then I started putting out music and videos and exclusive apparel all of that. The book Loud actually has a soundtrack to it.
My music changed when I discovered a company called Neurotic Media. In the Missouri Department of Corrections, where I was doing my time, they have tablets now and can buy music from this company called Neurotic Media. I figured out how to get my music on Neurotic Media. I even stopped cussing so they wouldn’t have to edit it.Now, [the incarcerated] can buy my music and walk around the yard knowing me. I can keep giving them shout outs and speaking their names.
Freestyling in Prison:
I battle-rapped my whole prison bit and made a nice living on it. I would bet my whole locker on me. Anyone else around was going to bet their locker on me. If anyone who knows me, who was locked up with me would be like, “yeah. his locker stayed full.” I’d bet my whole locker on me. I don’t care who you are. I never lost.
The Name Mr. Hey Now:
People with prison mentalities are considered aggressive. To reverse that, I thought of using the saying “hey now.” I started using that saying, because no matter how you say it you can’t say it aggressively. You can scream it, but it still doesn’t come off aggressive. So I started using that in my street life because it made it easy for me to deal with people and be in places and take away the element of being aggressive.
My whole purpose in life is to wake up every morning free and not do anything against the law. I have a completely different struggle. I’m not worried about a bill, I’m not worried about going broke because I don’t care. I can sleep on a park bench. As long as I don’t go back to prison, I keep my word to my mother and that’s all that’s important to me. Everything else is going to come with it.
I don’t want no problems. I don’t post negative content. I don’t share it. I don’t want to see it. Not because I don’t understand it, but because I gave someone my word that I wouldn’t indulge in it at all.That’s how the world works. This is the strangest thing ever, but I never thought in a million years when I stopped living the lifestyle I was living with flashing money and being in places I had no business being, that I would ever be on a scale where I had a high range of popularity because I don’t do anything negative. That’s the weirdest thing ever because negativity rules the world. I thought my chances of being popular were over with and that wasn’t even true. So that’s where I’m at in life.