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The Caw: Kelechi Osemele, The Writer

Posted May 19, 2013

Guard Kelechi Osemele used writing and football to deal with a tough childhood.

It was the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVII when I sat down next to Kelechi Osemele and we started chatting about how cool it was that, as a rookie, he was about to be on the NFL’s biggest stage.

“Wanna switch jobs?” I said with a chuckle.

To my surprise, Osemele didn’t scoff at the idea. Turns out, he likes to write.

I circled back to the subject last week to find out where this comes from and really learned a lot more about the man we all call K.O.

“I’ve always been a writer, like my whole life,” Osemele said. “It started with writing and football. Those were two things that probably saved me.”

Osemele didn’t exactly have it easy growing up in northwest Houston.

When Osemele was 3 years old, his father moved back to his home country of Nigeria. His mother was stressed working double nursing shifts, trying to raise four children and keep a clean house. His three older sisters had their way tormenting and beating up their young brother.

In a house of all girls, Osemele felt he didn’t have anybody to relate to. Even outside his home, he felt like an outsider due to his Nigerian roots.

“A lot of my stories were a lot more imaginative then because I didn’t have a friend to go to,” Osemele said. “Writing was my outlet.”

Osemele’s writing began in middle school when a teacher would have the students write about anything in their journal. Osemele would always go over the time limit. He had a lot on his mind.

She told him he should keep a notebook by his bed (he specified that it not be called a diary).

“I would just write in it when there was trouble at home or couldn’t sleep,” Osemele said. “It’s productive and it kept me from being out later and in trouble.”

Osemele made up cartoon characters when he was in middle school. He had one short story about a young African boy falling into a pool of radioactive waste and getting super powers published in a Nigerian-based magazine called the Christian Herald. Osemele still remembers that his mother put it on the fridge.

Once he found football, Osemele’s writing had moved on to poems. He wrote about his passion for football, the smell of grass and things going on in his mind before games.

As he got older, Osemele transitioned into rap lyrics. That’s the vast majority of what he writes now. Fellow lineman Ramon Harewood calls Osemele the “freestyle king.” Osemele said he’s written about 20 songs.

“They’re most about adjusting to my new lifestyle,” he said. “It’s stuff with being young and having money and people around you changing.”

Once alienated within his own house, Osemele now is comfortable in his skin and welcomed in the Ravens locker room. He still isn’t a flashy, loud guy. But when he gets those fingers typing, it all comes out.

“I could write one on the toilet. I’ve actually done that before,” Osemele said with a laugh. “It honestly doesn’t take me very long because I have a lot to say. I tend to bottle a lot of stuff up, so when I sit down and actually have time to myself, it comes pretty easily.”

Osemele gave me a copy of one of his raps:

Still hungry than I ever was...
The chrome lying where the leather was…
The sword slicing where the devil was...
This is America

Land of opportunities
Collecting annuities
You don't have immunity 
Do not think you’re foolin me
Neither tha community
Oceans where the sewage be
Jealous exes eyein me
Everyone despising me
They must see the God in me

My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me

Made in His image
Plays from the scrimmage
I start then I finish
I’ll never diminish
Yeah I'm big business
The game yeah I'm in it
You grind then you winnin 
You whine then you sinnin
We ballin we spendin

My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me
My closets where designer be
They can see the God in me

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