Writing rhymes to the top of the club
Midvale • Sixteen-year-old Steven Guzman used to do it "in secret."
In sixth grade, he used to write hip-hop "rhymes" in notebooks about his life growing up in Midvale, watching his Mexican immigrant parents struggle to make ends meet, the peer pressure to join a gang and dreaming of being successful.
Steven didn't share his work with anyone because he was shy and didn't think much about his blossoming talent. "I was trying to do good, but I didn't know how to," he said.
Now, Steven's working on his music, performing around the Salt Lake Valley and trying to keep his grades up to become the first in his family to graduate from high school and go to college.
Steven, also known as "Speedy G," was honored with the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Valley Youth of the Year award in January and is serving as the clubs' youth representative for 2010.
Boys and Girls Clubs of South Valley include the clubs in Murray, Midvale and two elementary school-based sites in West Jordan and Kearns. Steven was chosen by staffers out of about 200 students ages 15 to 18 among the clubs, said Midvale Club Director Billy Swartzfager.
"He was hands-down the strongest candidate," he said. "Among his peers, he stands out."
Steven, a Hillcrest High School sophomore, is not deterred by statistics facing Latino students or the challenges he endures, said Swartzfager, who's worked at the club for six years.
"He's got his own dreams and ... he goes after them with no fear," he said. "He's willing to do more for people than he ever would for himself."
Steven was born in Salt Lake City and raised and still lives with his family in the same trailer park on the Midvale-Sandy border. He's the middle child of three kids. His parents, who are from Jalisco, Mexico, work as maintenance workers for Sam's Club.
Steven said his parents sometimes don't understand his goals of making it in the music industry and going to his "dream school," the University of Southern California.
He has told his dad, "I'd rather work smart than hard," a philosophy he learned from a club presentation by actor Danny Trejo.
Still, his parents have taught him respect and the importance of working hard, and he knows they are proud of him. And it was listening to his parents' traditional Mexican banda music that first inspired Steven to play with kitchen utensils to make music when he was a kid.
Steven didn't do much with music, though, until eighth grade. He said he started free-styling over beats and taping himself using a Karaoke machine. He started using the Midvale club's studio to rap and record in the summer of 2008.
He's written songs about topics from immigration to having crushes on girls. Steven's favorite: "Good Vibe Song," a tune about working hard to accomplish goals, staying positive and not letting others bring you down.
Joshua Johnson, a Midvale club teen youth development professional, has worked with Steven in the studio for about two years. Steven is creative in how he uses sounds, messages and lyrics, which shows a lot of maturity for a teenager, Johnson said.
"He puts a lot of time and effort to be in [the studio]," he said.
Steven's first performance was April 2009 at the club for a hip-hop show. Since then, he's rapped at other concerts, schools and quinceaÃ±eras. He said he gets "butterflies" but doesn't get too nervous.
"I feel cool rocking the stage," he said.
Steven doesn't have a CD yet, but he's produced two mixed tapes/CDs and wants to eventually record his own.
He hopes that through his music he can inspire youth. "I want them to see I went from nothing to something."
To learn more about Steven Guzman's music, go to: http://www.myspace.com/speedygreloaded
"Good Vibe Song": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJOu7C1iEwU
"We Belong": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRSmfZtQSrA