Southside Jamaica, Queen’s, New York is where Daniel Calliste grew up after his mother migrated from Trinidad to the US in 1988 with her then seven-yearold son.
On the streets of New York, he quickly became famous—an influential and feared gangster with the Lost Boys gang. That gang would also host member and Calliste’s childhood friend, American rapper/actor and producer, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson III.
When they we not committing crimes, they would be chasing the hip-hop dream. Calliste known in the entertainment world as “Bang ‘em Smurf,” would think his thug life to be his destiny, as it came with its own “luck” and “shine.”
In time, he would become the founder of the popular third millennium rap squad G-UNIT, whose front man would become Jackson. The previous year, May 1999, Jackson had been shot several times by opposing gang members. As he lay in recovery, Calliste his business partner worked on getting their rap dream out there.
In 2003, their Hollow Point Entertainment company reached a milestone with the release of the Guess Who’s Back album.
Immediately G-unit was signed to Shady/Aftermath Records, a record label founded by Caucasian rapper Marshall “Eminem” Mathers III.
It was no turning back from here but the euphoria of hitting it big would be short lived for Calliste after the brotherhood he and Jackson once shared came to a bitter end. Calliste fired his mouth off in numerous interviews saying Jackson had double-crossed him and was taking all the credit for the work he had put into G-UNIT. The strife between the two continued up to 2016. Today, Calliste tells the T&T Guardian, he has put it behind him, letting bygones be bygones.
Retracing his steps, to add to Calliste’s frustrations of “losing” out, in 2004 he was arrested and charged for possession of a criminal weapon in the second degree. He would serve a four-year sentence at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the town of Shawangunk, Ulster County, New York. His conviction also got his permanent resident status revoked and Calliste was deported back to his homeland in 2008.
But though his path may have begun rough, Calliste eventually saw even his imprisonment as a blessing in disguise as he says it transformed his life.
The former high school drop out said, “Change came with the matters of experience. Being incarcerated I went back to school and got focused. That’s where my vision changed. I learned humility and patience from the older heads who taught me a lot. I am thankful for that experience because it made me the man I am today.”
Calliste also made use of the prison’s degree programme and obtained a degree in marketing and promotion. The training would make for the better as today he owns his own book publishing company and has authored his first book Wisdom of a Wolf: The G Behind the Unit. The book he explains is a five-book testament in which he shares his experience of growing up in a single parent home and becoming attracted to the gang life. The book also spans topics on betrayal, greed and the reality of the socalled lavished hip-hop life and industry in America.
Being incarcerated Calliste said, also got him to see things clearer.
“You know with age comes wisdom. I was a part of the hip-hop game since I was 12. The rap business is a trap — modern day slavery. Hiphop entertainers are used to brainwash the youths with the violence and drugs and the degrading of women. These ‘investors’ get the best of both worlds because they own the music business and the jail system. I acknowledge I played a part in breaking my community down, so now that I have the chance I’m building it back up,” says Calliste Rebuilding the community indeed is what he is committed to. When Calliste isn’t writing, he is assisting with community projects and education drives in his community of Morvant, through his Feed The Wolves Entertainment company. Be the hero they need No guidance or “father figure,” worked against Calliste as a youth. He says with his mom working two, sometimes three jobs, he had a lot of free unsupervised time on his hand.
Like the fate of many in his former position, Calliste said the streets became his home and gang members his family.
“Young people sometimes have so much working against them especially if they came from impoverished or marginalised communities. They have much potential but with no mentors, they devalue themselves settling for what seems to fill their void. Most times and I can tell you coming from an urban community, lack of confidence and low self esteem is what plagues us. We don’t know what to make of life until a divine intervention happens and we’re awakened. Now that I know better, I can help prevent another young black boy…man from taking the same path.”
At 37 years old the father of three has left the thug life behind for good and vows to work the rest of his life uplifting communities and young black men.
He leaves these words of advice, “Young black men, you could be any thing you want to be in this world, anything is possible once you put your mind to it and you’re willing to take good advice.
“The streets or being gangster is not worth it. Make your mother or your father proud.
Too many youths’ lives are being snuffed out before their time.
It is not worth it. Respect lives, they only have one…you only have one.”