FAMU student finds himself through music and poetry

Jamal Wallace left an interview with WANM 90.5’s in a rush one evening. He headed straight to a computer, logged onto YouTube and made his latest music video public.

The song, “Money,” is the first single from his new project, “Stage Fright.”
“I look at my projects like performances,” said Wallace, a rapper and junior music industry student from Jacksonville. “My first mixtape was like my auditions. This one is representing different stages of fear. In life you go through fear in different stages.”

Wallace, who goes by the rap moniker “Mal Forte,” has been rapping since his freshman year at Florida A&M. He said it started as a hobby but became a passion. 

Long-time friend Jahaan Sweet coached Wallace in rapping. However, Sweet said Wallace already had a talent for it.

Sweet, a producer and student at Julliard in New York City, said he helped, but he did not think he had to teach Wallace much.

“He would ask me how his flows sounded,” Sweet said. “His punch lines didn’t have as much conviction as they do now. He’s gotten better, but he knew what he was doing because he did poetry.”

Wallace attributes his growth for his love for writing to Sherry Wolfe, a middle school teacher at Landon Middle School. 

“She was a friend,” Wallace said. “She taught me literature and grammar.”

It was that love for grammar that propelled Wallace’s interest in poetry. His freshman year, he joined FAMU’s Voices Poetry Group.

When he began performing poetry at FAMU, Wallace said he performed with a swift cadence. Voices founder McQuisha Smith, a senior psychology student from Orlando, said he was strong in his penmanship.

“I thought that he had a great perspective,” Smith said. “His work ethic was amazing. He’d already have his poems written and memorized.”

However, at one time, Wallace questioned dropping out of college.

“Going to school and going to the studio was really a toss-up,” he said. “Sat back with the pros and cons in dropping out. Changed major from business to music industry. I’m now in love with school as much as I am my music.”

Willie Harris II, a senior music industry student from Jacksonville, better known to FAMU students as “Willie Beema,” compared Wallace to J. Cole.

“I know his message is real because I know him as a man,” Beema said. “Many people will be able to relate to him when his music is presented to larger audiences.”

Wallace said he wants to remain humble but not shorthand himself.

“I want people to know that they’ll love it,” Wallace said. “I’m on the same level as your favorite artist.”

Smith said since he first met Wallace, he improved as an individual.

“He’s grown in the way he carries himself,” Smith said. “He was great when I met him, but he’s found himself. I’m happy for him for that.”