Recently at SHS, 15 students showcased their rapping abilities in a competition known as the Spit Off, held in room 400, for an enticing and hefty grand prize of Papa Johns pizza. Judged and scored by a group of three, each auditioner had a chance to deftly deliver whatever they had to the crowd.
Among the panel of esteemed judges was former SHS student, Malcolm Gatewood, otherwise known as “Lil’ Tragic”. An SHS alumnus, Gatewood went out of his way to make sure that both the student body and teachers were all aware of his support to the ambition of the students at the Spit Off, as well as performing a grand finale freestyle for viewers.
For Malcolm, it feels like a long time since he was last a student at SHS, the birthplace for his career. He’s only been gone 1 year, but has recorded a new music video, performed at the Indiana State Fair and has been performing at different venues in cities outside of Indianapolis.
Writing and performing his own music was his way of setting himself apart in a public school already full of kids exuding their individual talents and skills. What began at age eight as a playful interest, evolved into a form of self-expression and Gatewood’s means of showcasing his abilities.
“When I hit age 13, I started taking it more seriously.” Gatewood said. “The reason I decided to take this musical journey was because kids started looking up me as a role model.”
Soon he was making music on his own for pep rallies and the football and basketball teams at SHS. His former identity gradually dipped into a different pool as Malcolm became better known as “Lil’ Tragic”. To help get his name out and plaster it in the minds of his peers, he’d walk the halls armed with his mixtapes and hand deliver them to those he was acquainted with and even those he was not. Malcolm recalls, not always feeling as brimming with confidence as he appeared, but always projecting the outward self-assuredness that lended a helping hand to convey a demeanor of composure and confidence.
“I faced people who hated my music all the time but I didn’t disrespect their opinions. I had more fans than those who didn’t think I was any good.” Gatewood said.
After graduating, his dreams were not boxed away as he turned to the next page in his life. Traveling to different cities for venues and performing at places like the Indiana State Fair has become a new part of Gatewood’s life. More recently, he finished filming a music video with Super Star O for his song “Spotlight,” showing that the right combination of opportunity, hard-work and belief may lead ambitious SHS students down a greater paths.
Gatewood finished off with an address to any aspiring rappers at “The Port” saying,
“Speak from the heart. Don’t be the same as everyone around you. Let your haters motivate you and even if you only have one fan, always show that person love.”
Prior to judging Southport’s Spit Off, Malcolm had visited New York to try and solidify a deal with Atlantic records. In the meantime, he plans to do local shows and spend time with his daughter.