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Malik Yusef Headshot

From Concrete Streets to Streets Paved With Gold

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Someone asked me how I would feel if we didn't win Song of the Year tonight... Although Kanye West and I took home Grammys for Best Rap Collaboration of the Year, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Song of the Year, there was an instant feeling of quick letdown when we did not take home all the categories we were nominated for.

The creeping feeling of defeat for not winning for Kanye's hit "All of the lights" was quickly silenced by the realization of a much greater victory the moment the lights came on. Coming from the unrelenting streets of Chicago, there was a sense of satisfaction as not having to see it as a loss. Adele also represents struggle and sacrifice, and when hardship accepts a win, it does so for the whole of humanity. There was respect for Adele's victory. Adele, along with Taylor Swift, Fergie and so many other women at the Grammys, represented the return of true beauty -- beauty that is a state of mind and spirit. From seeing and hearing our names called out on the big screen, to the victory of a friend of mine Bon Iver, who took home Best New Artists, we were in the company of winners.

In the moment of remembrance of Whitney Houston's life and legacy, I reflected on why I was there. LL Cool J summed it up best when he said, "The Power of Music is what brings us all here today." I understand I was fortunate to have a gift that has been able to raise its voice when so many other harmonies from the streets of Chicago have been unfairly silenced. The root of my power, the same power music holds, is LOVE. It is that same undeniable power that set me on the road that I am on today. It is the power of music that through the ages has both guided and reflected our society -- as with Tony Bennett who I spoke to this evening.

It dawned on me during a conversation I had with a friend that Tony Bennett was not just an artist, but a man who played a major part in the Civil Rights movement. A (white) man who chose the front lines when so many of his fans were willing to turn against him for taking a stand along with Martin Luther King Jr. I was able to thank him for his participation in a movement that helped advance my people's cause. I did not shake hands with Tony Bennett "the singer" but with Tony Bennett "the man of a movement"-- and that was inspiring.

The night continued with many handshakes and daps -- from Bonnie Raitt, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Wiz Khalifa to Rick Ross to name a few. Even Paris Hilton came through today, and with all due respect (that's my girl), the value of Paris was discounted tonight as Talent and "art" (beauty) ruled the night.

It was refreshing to have Drake introduce me to his father considering they have now made amends. Every boy should have the opportunity to have a healthy relationship with his father. My thoughts raced about how my own son's excitement of seeing my name on the big screen would quickly pass as the award went to Adele. I was reminded about having to teach our children that as long as we are in the "race," there is still opportunity. Whitney's tragic passing humbled me to the absence of so many others, such as Nate Dogg and Heavy D. But, it also brought me to the realization of the many more that have died nameless.

For me, the three victories that were achieved tonight are in honor of those who never made it home from school on the south side of Chicago. I won for all the kids who have ever debated whether it was all "worth while," when their minds were scrambling like mine was with dyslexia, as we continue to build a way out of a world where there seemed to be none.

Perhaps that is what Don Cornelius had in mind when he added the "scramble" board to "Soul Train": that there is always an answer and it often comes down to knowing how to put everything in its order -- and knowing the value of the pieces at hand. Wherever you find a "reason" there is hope, and when you have "hope" you can maintain a "reason" to go on. Every bullet that missed me on the streets of Chicago fueled my "reason," to be on this path today.

My life path has taken me on many "trips" -- and some have made such an impact that I carry small pieces of them everywhere I go. When I think about my most recent trip to the Pine Ride Indian Reservation vs. my trip to the Grammys, I couldn't help but think of all the children I met there. In a community ravaged by an 85% unemployment rate, many of the youth have come to see suicide as the only way "out". They are the ones that could not "un-scramble" all the troubles and things that are oppressing them, and I had a chance to carry them all with me tonight.

Although the Grammys gave but one ticket for Malik Yusef Jones, I brought more people with me than they imagined. Most of all I brought with me the hopes of the Lakota tribe children, the youth of Boston's Press Pass TV and all the way to the young Kings and Queens left to roam the streets of Chicago.

Beyond the awards, this is about the art -- about putting something beautiful in the world. That is what I savored from under "All of the Lights" of the Grammy's tonight.

Congratulations Adele! I'll see you next year.