George Reeves stands on a sunny street in Cold Spring Park, a small Milwaukee neighborhood tucked away on the south side of Vliet Street. The eight-block oasis of old homes is a breath of fresh air for Reeves, who grew up on the west side of Chicago.
“16th and Homan, call it Holy City” he says. “Man, it’s a rough neighborhood, man. I grew up in the 90s out there, man. You know, it ain’t nothin’ but a drug trafficking thing in Illinois.”
“But, right here, man — this, right here — this [is] called ‘Laid Back & Easy.’ If you want it, get it,” says Reeves, referring to Milwaukee. “I came here to get a better lifestyle.”
“You’ve just gotta know how to eat if you’re gonna fit in.”
Reeves, his mother and two of his sisters came to Milwaukee and stayed with a friend of the family near Buffum and Burleigh; later, they moved to 7th and Burleigh. He attended Robert Lafollette Elementary School, the old Malcolm X Academy and James Madison High School before ending up at Project STAY, an alternative school downtown.
“I kinda got into a little trouble,” says Reeves. “I made it out of that.”
That’s when he realized his shot at success wouldn’t come through academics. But encouragement was in short supply for Reeves, who dreamed of rap fame. Even his mother didn’t believe. “[People] gonna always say, ‘Hey, you ain’t gonna never amount to nothing,’” he says.
“Yeah, man — school, man, hangin’ around with fellas, battle rappin’, beat boxing, dancing and all that other stuff.”
Reeves was in the game; he says he even had a play or two on V100.7. But his taste of the dream was short-lived. “It lasted for me for like a couple years,” he says. “I let it go.”
“I’m on a little disability plan, right now, man. It’s payin’ the bills,” says Reeves, who was shot through the head. The mark is still there.
“Right now, I’m looking for work,” says Reeves, who is pursuing other opportunities and ideas, as well. “Just really doin’ me, man. Tryin’ to do this entrepreneur thing.”
Reeves has worked as a security guard and got his first job at the Jewel Osco on 1100 E. Garfield Ave. as a bag boy when he was 17. “It was cool, it was a breeze,” he says. “I loved it, I made plenty good money off of it.”
But, he adds, “a mind is a terrible things to waste.”
Again, the conversation returned to his mother. “The struggle was, my mom with a habit. Not sayin’ she got a spendin’ habit, drug habit — it’s just the habit of seein’ she needs, but don’t want to do.”
“You know, you can make somethin’ out of nothin’ but you acknowledge that it’s nothin’, you know what I mean?” he says. “You got a lot of people that tell you so many words and so many ways and things to do.”
“There’s certain stuff in life that you’ve gotta try to step up to or, you know, really want the correction. If you don’t get it, then, you’ve missed a blessin’ and a message.”
In the end, though, Reeves says, “Everybody’s got a story to tell.”
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