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Winning his world with words

Student capitalizes on poetry, rap and public speaking

Student capitalizes on poetry, rap and public speaking

March 03, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

Gregory Walton's mother was always ready to put her son in the spotlight.

"Come on Greg," Salita Walton would say, urging him to sing or say something funny.

"Like any mother, you always knew your kid has a talent," she said.

Gregory's talent is public speaking.

The freshman at South Hagerstown High School writes poetry and is a rapper, and he aspires to be a motivational speaker.

"A lot of times people talk, but every once in a while people will come across someone who really has something to say," Gregory, 15, said. "I'm one of those people."

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Gregory performed at the YMCA's Black Achievers Black History Month program in February and was a performer at Hagerstown Community College's Martin Luther King symposium in January.

He's also performed at area churches and at school talent shows.

Gregory has his own "hype man," his best friend and classmate, John Freeman. In hip-hop speak, the "hype man" is the person who gets the crowd fired up before introducing the main rapper.

He's even enlisted friends to act as critics.

"You can have the best lyrics in the world, but if you don't have the right beat, it just won't sound right," Gregory said.

Gregory said he doesn't necessarily aspire to be a rapper, but he said that rap music was one of the most effective ways to reach young people.

"It's already a big outlet for young African-Americans - that's hip-hop," Gregory said. "You don't have to promote rap because it's already big."

He said he likes rappers Eminem and DMX for the way they deliver their lines, but he said he preferred the more positive lyrics of Common and the gospel rap group Cross Movement.

"You can make good, clean music - and I'm not even talking about gospel (rap)," Gregory said. "I'm talking about mainstream hip-hop. I don't write gospel songs. I write songs that all people can relate to."

Even at the age of 3, he knew just what to say, said his father, Ronald Walton.

"He would say things just to get a rise out of you," his father said.

Like the time when the Walton family was in the car, and 3-year-old Gregory announced: "You know what I want to be when I grow up? An archaeologist."

"Archaeologist? At 3? You know it's something he probably heard some where" Ronald Walton said. "All you can do is laugh."

Gregory has nurtured his creative talent over the years, reading the works of E.E. Cummings and Langston Hughes, and recording poems and rap lyrics in a growing stack of spiral notebooks.

"I don't desire to be rich or famous," Gregory said. "I want people to know that there are people in music who weren't about violence and hate."

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