Phreedum: Talk to me about how you started writing poetry.
O?R: I started writing not to long after my brother died when I was 13. My brother had a brain tumor and it turned into cancer. I was listening to Tupac at the time and saw how he used words and talked about a lot of things he struggled and dealt with and figured I would do the same. I was writing rhymes but I wasn’t rapping or anything like that.
Phreedum: And the name. Talk to me about that.
O?R: When my brother Eric died I got into a lot of negative things. I stayed getting caught but not necessarily in trouble. It was like another Tupac song, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” where Tupac is an angel. I saw me not getting into trouble as my brother watching over me and I knew I needed to do better. So, I decided to change, and go in a better direction and against the odds. Hence the name- Odd? Rod.
Phreedum: Who is Odd? Rod in 5 words?
O?R: Poet, philanthropist, friend, survivor, inspiration.
Phreedum: What has been one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far?
O?R: To stay myself and to not be afraid of sharing who I am and what my story is. My identity and staying true to myself has been what has sustained me. I don’t look at my performances as performances as much as conversations I get to have with people and just tell my story.
Phreedum: Favorite place you have spoken?
O?R: Not too long ago I got a phone call three days before Tyrese was set to perform in Jacksonville, Florida and was asked to open for him. There were about 2000 people at the show. I was given 8 minutes and performed 4 poems. The feedback and love from the crowd was crazy. I sold about $600.00 worth of cd’s that night. Not to mention it was just a cool opportunity to bring poetry into the limelight that hasn’t been seen in a while.
Phreedum: How do you stay motivated and inspired?
O?R: The people around me. My family needs me and as I have traveled and shared my story I meet other people who need me to do what I am doing. I also would consider myself a giver. When you like to give you have to have the means to give. I also work hard so I can continue to give.
Phreedum: What has been a highlight for you since you’ve started traveling and performing what you’ve written?
O?R: My mom getting clean coming to see me perform and telling the stories of what our family was going through while we were going through it. She said I was her inspiration.
Phreedum: How does the work you do as a spoken word artist change the lives of others?
O?R: By telling people how I survived I remind them that they can make it out whatever situation they are in. I think the best education you can give someone is a allowing them to see how you are living. I can tell people what looks good and what is the best, but it will always look better when I am actually doing what looks good and what is best. I tell people all the time that I am a nobody that became somebody.
Phreedum: What’s one piece of advice you carry with you?
O?R: Stay humble. My grandma reminds me of that. I keep with me when I was poor, and fat, and alone. That person keeps my feet on the ground.
Phreedum: Any advice for other writers/spoken word artists?
O?R: The same thing I tell myself- stay yourself. People think because they see the whole spoke word circuit on HBO that’s the right way to do it. It’s not. I sound nothing like them. Staying myself was what got me where I am. If you write, write for and about you. Write your story and that will get you by. Oh, and be a great person, then a great poet or whatever it is yow at to be.
Phreedum: Okay, last question. Who is your favorite writer and why?
O?R: You won’t be surprised when I say, Tupac. I feel like he saved me when I listened to his music about his mom being on drugs and surviving. He made me want to get out of the hood and get an education. Where I’m from drug dealing is what was expected. I felt like Tupac’s words were always to get out and do what I needed to do, and nobody was going to be mad at me.
Phind out more about Odd?Rod by visiting www.oddrodd.net or follow him on Twitter @Odd_Rod