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09 Jan 2019

Homies Making Music: Daniel Sullivan, aka Provoked, Says Prison Was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Him

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Daniel Sullivan, aka Provoked. Daniel Sullivan, aka Provoked. Brian Blueskye

When I met with Daniel Sullivan, who goes by the stage name of Provoked, he brought a portfolio that chronicles his history in the local music scene.

A couple of nights before, he’d performed at The Date Shed, celebrating the release of his new album, One Life.

The portfolio included write-ups from publications including The Desert Sun and Desert Entertainer, information on his history with local television and radio, and news about music releases from more than a decade ago.

I asked him about the gap in his history. He sighed and then spoke publicly for the first time about what happened—a felony assault charge.

“I made a mistake that I’m remorseful for,” Sullivan said. “I went to prison. I was gone for five years. I had a lot of time to think—spiritually, mentally, physically and all of that. I feel that it was really the best thing to have ever happened to me. It (led to) the discipline that I needed, and it put everything into perspective.

“I’m back now, and I’m really thankful to be back. I feel blessed that I’ve been getting the response that I have. I want people to know that I’m remorseful for what I did, and I’m thankful for that experience. This might sound crazy; the happiest times of my life were in there, because I knew it was the adversity that would produce the refinement in life that I needed.”

He showed me an employee performance review that was stellar, as well as past and present letters of support from people including County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez; Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia; and Oralia Ortiz, co-founder of Culturas Music-Arts, who wrote in 2012 that she was surprised to hear about his situation due to his community work—including mentoring kids to stay in school.

“I would say that the discipline is really what upped my drive to the fullest and to write as much as I fully could,” Sullivan said. “I have a whole new attitude and gratitude that makes me want to write things that are uplifting. I grew up as a battle rapper, although most of my music was positive. But I was used to saying negative things when I was rapping about other people and clowning around. I want to spread a message of love, consciousness and the things that really matter right now, especially in this crazy time we’re living in.”

One of the tracks on One Life, “17 Years,” features local hip-hop artist J. Patron, whom Sullivan has known since they went to school together. Patron performed at the show at The Date Shed, as did another classmate of theirs, Willdabeast.

“We all went to La Quinta High School together. I met them in 2000,” Sullivan said. “When I met J. Patron, we met battling each other. I was trying to find anyone who was rapping. We had just started going to school there. They told me J. Patron was the guy, so we battled, and then we became friends shortly after. He’s been making music since the late ’90s. Willdabeast has also been rapping since around 1999, too—so we’ve all been rapping for about 20 years or more.

“It’s a trip that everything is coming full circle right now. For me, J. Patron has definitely done a lot out here, and I respect him for that. There’s a lot of history. From 2005 to 2010, we had a really strong five-year run of shows out there. There was so much local hip-hop that was really good. It was so cool. J. Patron said it was like our golden era. It was something really strong that we had at the time.

“But I feel like right now, it’s about to be stronger than ever.”

Sullivan said he sees a lot of positive things going on locally.

“I was happy to see so many artists really doing it. It isn’t even just the hip-hop, but the art and music scene in general and the growth I’ve seen,” Sullivan said. “We’re finally getting to the point where we’re almost giving people out of town no choice but to recognize what we have going on in this desert. This is ushering in a local time for us where local music and local art will get the exposure it deserves. It’s really unique, and we have a really good vibe out here.”

He wasn’t originally planning to make a new album.

“It’s kind of crazy how it all came together,” Sullivan said. “My friends Kancun and Sourcefirst were a big help to me. Originally when I got out, I was doing as many videos as I could, because I felt that was the formula that was really going to work for me. I was focusing on videos, and I never really planned on doing another album.

“I was close to a dozen videos I had done with my friends, and I was like, ‘I have an album.’ I just started organizing it, and it just came together. I was really excited. I felt like the videos were the important thing at the time, but I forgot about the importance of an album and giving people content they can listen to. I have seen how important it is … based on the reception I’ve gotten from this album. I feel like it’s such a full product that was produced in the Coachella Valley, down to the engineering and the graphics.”

Sullivan has returned to helping local youth.

“My friend Roland Gomez at MAEX Academy has been doing stuff with kids out here for a long time. What we’re doing is youth mentoring through music and art,” Sullivan said. “My approach is more toward the at-risk kids. I’ve been through what I’ve been through, so I’m trying to tell them there are a lot more resources for them now when it comes to the music and art. There are centers for them, and we’re working on creating a center for them as well. … If kids can actually meet some of these more established artists and artists that are really big right now, as well as local artists out here, it’s something that can really inspire them. … There are so many different aspects for them to get involved in. I feel like career-wise, aside from music, that’s what I’m really interested in.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/ProvokedPoetry or provokedmusic.com.

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