Everyone who has tried can tell you, it’s no easy task to make it in the music industry. This especially seems to be true in the hip-hop industry. Nevertheless, there are millions of people out there looking for their big break and be heard by the masses. South Florida’s own Jonathan Burkett a.k.a. “John Blake” is one of these individuals who has been making moves on the underground circuit and making a name for himself. “I’m committed to the music game, not just to entertain but to share my story and inspire,” said Johnathan. “So, I just decided to let my artist name be my [real] name, because it’s going to be straight facts that I will be sharing with the world.”
Life was no crystal stair for Jonathan. His birth was the result of his mother’s rape at the hands of a man she was dating. Because of this fact, Jonathan feels that his mother always despised him. She was so disgusted with the thought of raising a child she did not plan on having that she sent him off to Jamaica to be raised by his grandparents until the age of six. That all changed when representatives from the U.S. came to take him back. “Some US people came to Jamaica said to me, I’ve been down [there] too long, I’m suppose to be in America, but family in Jamaica wouldn’t let them take me,” he remembered. “They were like that over their dead body. So I guess they went back to Jamaica and told my mother that she had to come and get me, else she will get in trouble.”
Jonathan’s step-father ultimately came down to Jamaica to bring him back to America. Jonathan was brought to Broward County, but his mother still had no interest in raising him. He ended up living with one of his mother’s friends, who he thought was his real mother. He would eventually move back in with his mother, who was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive. This caused Jonathan to get into trouble as a youth. “I had a lot of anger in me,” he said of the results of his mother’s parenting. “Most people that got a lot of anger end up taking out their anger on other people outside the house.”
However, Jonathan did take a liking to sports, choosing football and boxing as his life pursuits. “I started off weight training, lifting weights, push ups and everything, especially since I had a lot of anger holding inside and stuff,” he reflected. “I loved to fight. I was always fighting with friends. Got in trouble here and there; that’s what made me feel better.”
Life took another downward turn when Jonathan’s mother and stepfather divorcing when he was 14-years-old. After that happened, Jonathan was kicked out of the house and forced to live on the streets, fending for himself. “I was living from friend’s house to friend’s house,” he recalled.
“You know, it’s like whenever like my friends’ parents would go to bed, my homeboys would let me in the house, I’d take a shower, I’d sleep inside their room or have to make sure before they get up in the morning, I left the house.”
This period of Jonathan’s life also caused him to come into contact with the police while running the streets. When the cops would pick him up, they’d take him back to his mother who would promptly kick him back out. She eventually would bring charges against Jonathan, which were eventually dropped. They were ordered to go to family therapy. Urged by a psychiatrist, Jonathan asked his mother if she loved him. She responded by saying that she hated him. Soon after, Jonathan started experiencing seizures. He ended up having a blood vessel burst in his head due to an aneurysm. After the blood vessel healed, a tumor developed on Jonathan’s brain. By the time he was 16, doctors told him he needed surgery, but his mother refused to cooperate, so he had to wait until he was 18, so he could get it done himself. Up until then, Jonathan would continue to get in trouble in the street, blacking out at times, due to his condition. Friends would even start calling him “Crazy John” because of the things he was doing. He would even end up doing a stretch in jail before the surgery.
Before the surgery, due to the severity of his health problems, Jonathan’s dreams of being a professional athlete were dashed. Feeling hopeless, he told people that he just wanted to die.After having the surgery, Jonathan’s time in the hospital was transformative. At the behest of nurses and psychiatrists, he started writing. Inspired by Tupac, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony and Scarface, he began writing poetry.
When he was let out of the hospital, he could not find a job due to his criminal record. “I was just sitting on the street for like a week or two, just thinking. I can’t even get a freaking job. How am I going to do this? How am I going to do that,” he said. “I don’t got no family. I only got home boys but most of my homeboys are dying, getting locked up.”
Eventually, he landed a job at a hotel. He continued writing. He wrote his story and more poetry. He got into self-publishing and published several books. However, due to the fact that he did not know how to properly market his work, he started focusing more on music, which he saw as a pipe dream. “I looked at becoming a music artist, as like I said that’s a dream.,” he said. “Only people lucky in life make it in the music industry because that’s the big industry right there. You got to be real talented.”
Jonathan has been fortunate enough to be plugged in with a few notable producers. Thanks to a female companion, he was introduced to Troy Remi (composer of Sean Paul’s smash hit “Gimme Da Light”) and veteran reggae producer/songwriter Willie Lindo. He released his first track, “Changes,” as a result of making such connections. “[“Changes” is a] story about life; how you’ll go through struggles at the end of the day, you show yourself as a real person, a real man, a woman and you were able to make it through and never give up,” he said.
Jonathan has more music on the horizon, as well as plans to re-release his books, when he gains more traction. H had some words of encouragement for anyone looking for inspiration:
“My encouragement to people is always keep your head up, don’t take nothing for granted. Keep inspiring yourself. Be there for one another. It doesn’t matter if have a certain health condition, don’t let it hold you down. You might not have certain opportunities in front of you right away, but if you know you want to become something or achieve that goal, sometimes it take steps, sometimes it takes years, but long as you keep your head up, you never give up. Stay in school, learn, be social because you never know who you might get to know. You never know man, you never give up in life, man. Just keep your head up. Don’t live a life looking back. Life is a journey. The more you go through in life, the stronger you become, the more you learn. If you don’t learn from it, you don’t get nowhere in life.”
You can also follow Jonathan on Twitter at @MrJohnBurkett.
Order Jonathan’s book, ‘Neglected But Undefeated (The Life Of A Boy Who Never Knew A Mother’s Love),’ on Amazon here.