On the surface, Lorenzo Hollis ,aka Unkal Bean ,aka Kwansi, appears to be your average rapper. He raps about fast cars and the "ghetto" lifestyle. But if a person was to spend a day with him, they would find out that he is much more than the average rapper. This 33 year old, native Chicagoan, is an entrepreneur who owns his own thrift shop and recording studio called "Ofishu Tishu/Unkal Bean Entertainment," in the heart of the skid row area of Downtown Los Angeles. Hollis also is a fledgling author,poet and saxophonist with various projects set for release.
Hollis grew up in the poor neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. "We lived in a house that had no gas for 2 years.We had electricity, but that was it. It was hard,but we made it through." stated Hollis.
During this time, Hollis discovered that he could rap. "I was 4 or 5 years old and I began to write and compose tunes. Singing, dancing and writing has always been apart of me. My mother and father, would play and sing music all of the time, so that's what I began to do. Music is music.One day, when I was 10 years old, the rhymes just started coming out of me and haven't stopped since."
It was also during this time, that he began to play the saxophone at the Louis Wirth Experimental School in the eight grade. "My dad loved music, much like myself today, he encouraged me to develop my musical talent and that's how I started on the saxophone.If It wasn't for my mother and father I wouldn't have the heart and love for music that I have today."
Hollis began developing his raps and saxophone skills. He eventually started performing under the name Kwansi in various venues around Chicago."I choose the name Kwansi, because I liked the acronym 'knowing what's artificial natural self is' which describes my art."
Eventually at the age of 11 years old, he attracted the attention of a major music management. company. "When I was 11 and half going on 12 years old, a management entertainment company, who I don't want to mention, offered me a five year contract. I was excited, but my mother took the contract to an attorney, who basically said the contract that was being offered was an unfair one. I wasn't going to make anything out of that deal. My mother agreed with the attorney she told me 'you're not going to be anybody's puppet. What's the point of having a name and you're broke.' I respect her for looking out for me like that."
Hollis took a break from the music business and began to live a typical teenagers life. "I did the normal teenager things, I cut class, got into fights and did it all.I regret skipping class, even one of my teachers told me 'You're a bright student, the only thing is that you skip class too much.' I believe that if I didn't skip classes I would be farther than I am today."
He eventually returned to music at 18 years old. He began his independent record label, Supa Natural Productions and released his CD titled "Hard Times Vol. 1" under the name Kwansi later that year. "I wanted to tell my story, but this time I wanted to do it on my terms."
Hollis released five more CD's "Hard Times Vol. 2 & 3," "Kwansi Bounce," "Stressed Out" and "Ups And Downs."
One year after the release of those CDs, Hollis got into serious trouble that lead him to move to Los Angeles."I was on the run for something major that I had done. I decided to come to L.A. to start my life over again, which also included changing my rap name to Unkal Bean. Bean used to be my nickname as a kid. My sister and brother had children and they started calling me Unkal Bean,so I decided to use name. I felt that I had a responsibility to them and to myself to make quality music."
Another part of his growth was for him to open his first business on Skid Row "Supa Natural Productions and Video Rental Shop," which was in operation for four years."Off and on I have been a Skid Row business owner since 1999. Basically, me being the adventurous person that I am, I felt like it's appropriate for me to work for myself as opposed to working for someone else. If you have a strong work ethic you can stand throughout anything."
His first official release as Unkal Bean "7 Years In The Life," came in 2004; It was later released on Itunes and Amazon in 2005. This album features the hit single "The Life," which has become a staple in all of his live performances. "The CD was basically about everything that I had went through since the release of my debut CD."
Since that release, Hollis has released eight CD'S under the Unkal Bean name,including his controversial new CD "P.OT S.(Piss On The Sidewalk)." "I feel kinda bottled up,I need someone to rub that bottle and let me out. That's what this new CD is about.My music is about real life.One of my ex girlfriends said 'your music is depressing.' I told her and I tell everyone that my music is about real life."
In 2007, four years after his first business closed,Hollis opened his current business "Ofishu Tishu Used and New Clothing Store/Unkal Bean Entertainment Studio," which rests in heart of Skid Row on 7th street. "As I previous said,I wanted to own my own business again.I don't like working for others,taking orders is not my thing."
During all of this, he also found the time to write a self help motivational book titled "Easy To Do Bad,Hard To Do Good," which will be released in the winter of 2012. "The book is about what people do to be accepted into society and how that don't have to do that,especially the youth.All they have to do is be and find themselves, and the rest will fall into line."
Hollis' future plans include a jazz album,which he hopes to release in late 2013. He is also planning a reggae album, a dance album, self help organization, and a "History of Skid Row" book. "I plan on just using every avenue that I can to convey a positive message."
Hollis offers this advice to anyone who has dreams. "Keep on going until you realize them.No matter what it looks like you will make it." Good Advice.