Richmonds Bosco Poon, stage name B.O.Z., comes into the News, and with a firm handshake and a kind smile sits down. He looks a little like an Asian Michael Jackson.
Anyone would be hard pressed to picture Poon as a convicted felon spending four and a half years behind bars for kidnapping charges in 2006.
The 28-year-old rapper was granted parole on Nov. 29, 2010 and hes talking about his years in jail through his music.
When I was first incarcerated I lost all hope, he said. I lost my will to survive and any passion I had for music.
Born in Hong Kong, his family immigrated to B.C. when he was 12.
Because of his small stature, Poon said he was relentlessly teased and bullied. It didnt help either that his parents didnt speak English or that his grasp of the language was spotty at best.
He was easy picking for gang members at his school.
A Chinese gang adopted me and I really felt a sense of belonging, Poon said. They spoke my mother tongue and introduced me to drinking, smoking and ecstasy.
It was the time when raves hit the scene and ecstasy was the drug of choice for many young teens.
After high school, Poon distanced himself from the gang to pursue a musical career.
I loved rap and in those days there were no Chinese rappers, he added.
In 2002, he won a Warner Music Taiwan Hip-Hop talent contest and began recording for the record company.
However, after a year we broke off the contract, Poon said.
Instead of calling it quits, the young rapper persevered and joined a band, Syndicate a local Chinese hip-hop band. In 2004, Syndicate was offered a record deal with EMI Music Taiwan.
I was about to fly out to Taiwan to work on our record label contract negotiations when I got into trouble, he said, adding that in Asia his band was dubbed the Chinese Black Eyed Peas. The gang I had met back in high school was getting deeper and deeper into trouble.
Boscos parents had just purchased their home in Richmond so their Coquitlam home stood empty. The gang members asked him if they could use the vacant home.
I let them use the house and found out later they used it during a kidnapping incident, he said.
Within a week, the police found and arrested not only the kidnappers, but Poon as well. He vividly remembers watching his parents sob as he stood, shackled and accused of kidnapping.
My parents used up $220,000 of their own money to help me and at the end of the trial I was handed a 12-year sentence in jail, Poon said of the two-year trial beginning in 2004. I was numb I entered into a world I couldnt even imagine coming out of.
His first three months were spent in solitary confinement at the Regional Reception Assessment Centre (RRAC) he was 22.
He was then transferred to Mission Institute, a medium security jail.
I was just trying to survive I was so depressed, Poon said. But through time, jail changed me and brought me to a place of reflection.
Poon said he found his faith in the prison chapel, and he became a chapel worker and peer counselor.
He also found new inspiration for his music when Juno-award winning songwriter and singer, Brian Doerksen, came to prison to sing to the inmates.
I met Brian in 2007 and he asked me to share my story with him during an Abbotsford concert he was putting on, Poon said. The warden gave me a three-hour pass and in my prison garb I went on stage and told my story.
That inspired Poon to tell his story to other youth and to write music again. Today, Poon said hes back on track, and his music has a far different message.
Media plays such an important role in the development of young minds, and I want to be a positive influence to them, he said. Ive made many mistakes in life and I dont want to see others make the same foolish decisions I made.
His lyrics are about hope and how to live a positive life. He writes about his time behind bars and about redemption and faith.
In fact, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) interviewed him last November. Recently, Poon was asked by Corrections Canada to speak to inmates on Thursday, Feb. 16.
With the support of family and friends, he recorded his first English single, My Hearts Last Beat, which was released earlier this month and has made it into the RadioStar singing competition. For more information, visit www.bozstyle.com.