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Raymond Smith (AKA “Smoke is Mota”) was born and raised in Chicago’s treacherous West Side, where life is cheap and it’s much too easy to fall through the cracks. From an early age, Smoke found himself amidst a vicious gang war that ravaged his neighborhood and ultimately robbed his childhood of peace. Blood ties gave way to polarizing rivalry that replaced love with hate, laughter with violence, and brutally divided Smoke’s family.

Smoke’s father, a hardened street hustler who didn’t pull any punches in life. Driven by anger and desperation, his hazardous enterprise exposed Smoke to fully-loaded street justice and put him in the center of gang enforcement, robberies, and high-stakes transactions.

Throughout his childhood, Smoke survived a series of lethal events; escaping directed bullets by local lost boys, a heavily armed home invasion, countless fights, and most menacing of all, the lure of gang affiliation and criminality.

Given an opportunity to reflect on the dysfunction from which he came, upon his return to Chicago at eighteen years of age, Smoke embraced his intelligence and learned to process his rocky roots. At the same time, he discovered his extraordinary talent for rapping and storytelling, which gained him local notoriety and ultimately became his creative passion.

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