His real name is Earl Simmons. As a child he placed higher on tests than his fellow students, and liked to spend mornings with his mother and sisters playing games and making pancakes.
But for young Earl—a boy growing up on the streets of Yonkers, New York—that kind of childhood didn’t last long.
Beatings, abuse, and neglect very soon had him moving on to other things, like robbing, stealing, drugs, and, eventually, jail. Along the way, however, he found a talent and a passion for rhyme.