Michael Yeboah, also known by his stage name 'Da Kid Emm,' talks about getting his start at Spargos/Two Doors Down in Manchester, Md., plays a game of pool and drinks lemon drops with his wife, Claudia.

It wasn’t too long ago that Michael Yeboah, now 29, was outside his house playing basketball until the sun went down and his mom called his name too many times.

But in the years since growing up in Gaithersburg and Manchester — although he still loyally idolizes Michael Jordan, and wore a graphic tee with him slam dunking last week — Yeboah isn’t making a name for himself through sports. He is doing it through music, putting his community on the map as Da Kid Emm and headlining his first tour this summer.

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“Everything’s all been happening, like, this week,” said Yeboah, a 2007 graduate of North Carroll High School who lives in Hampstead. “2018 is gonna be a big year, I can already feel it.”

So far he has booked a show with Snow Tha Product and Brain Rapp at Soundstage in Baltimore on June 15. Other dates announced this past week include shows in Cleveland on June 30 and in Buffalo, New York, on July 1.

His most popular song on YouTube, “You’ll Be Set,” has garnered 121,000 views and has been streamed more than 800,000 times on Spotify since its release last spring, and he said this summer fans can expect new music videos and songs to be released.

Keeping it local

Devoted to spreading positive vibes with uplifting hip-hop and rap in Carroll County, Yeboah’s music videos are filmed in Maryland — like “Here 4 Now,” which was filmed at Two Doors Down in Manchester and the Manchester fire company.

Yeboah leaned on a pool table in the bar Friday with a spotlight illuminating him from the ceiling above. Two Doors Down is a part of Spargos, owned by Jack and Maggie Randhawa.

Rapper brings it home: Da Kid Emm goes back to school to talk growing up in Carroll

Michael Yeboah, 28, now a rapper who goes by Da Kid Emm, went back to school Friday as part of a Black History Month presentation at Manchester Valley High School. Yeboah spoke to the teenagers about his teen years in Carroll County as well as his music.

“Everyone’s all like: ‘Oh, you need to move to L.A. Oh, you need to move to New York,’ ” the rapper said. “They always say you gotta go somewhere where it’s a music capital to make it big. I just feel like that’s not true. You can make it big from any place. You can’t just sit there; a lot of people give up before they get that break, you know what I mean?”

In addition to the black Michael Jordan shirt, he wore a black and red Chicago Bulls hat adorned with gold pins, two gold chains, and a watch that day. Yeboah’s long, black braids hung more than halfway down his back and a Maryland flag lanyard dangled from his pocket. Bright red high-top sneakers accentuated the Bulls logo on his cap and the red collar of a cotton tee peeking out from his neckline.

He said he has the community to thank for helping lift him up — especially the Spargos family, who allowed him to perform his first shows at the bar, and later allowed him to film the music video.

“I feel like as long as like your core is strong, then nothing can really make you crumble,” he said. “You know what I mean? How are you gonna fall if you got 10 people who really support you behind you? You can’t because they’re all gonna catch you. That's how I feel out here.”

And he said although it’s hard work helping build the hip-hop and rap scene in Carroll, it’s a challenge he embraces.

“What this place brings to me is just a rural humble community,” he said. “They don’t want to overdevelop.

“I’ve been out here a long time and I feel they haven’t done much with it,” Yeboah said. “So I think they want to keep that, and I think that’s good. You need that. You gotta have that — I guess what it brings really, is a different historical element to what I know Maryland for.”

Pioneering positivity

Aside from buying a home in Hampstead with his wife, Claudia, and representing Carroll County, he has decided to pioneer the industry in another way as well, he said.

“I feel like what I make definitely is missing [in all kinds of music],” Yeboah said. “Right now in this age, with the younger crowd, they definitely are drawn towards the Lil Xans and the Lil Uzis and people who really make drugs sound like something to do.”

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But he wants to make positive music that isn’t faith-based or labeled as being “corny” in a genre that places great importance on partying, sex and drugs.

“You need to hear that you could do something else besides do drugs,” he said. “You could do something else besides shake your [expletive] for cash, you know what I mean? I just feel like if I don’t do it, then who’s doing it? And it’s gotta be done a certain way, where everyone can perceive it, and not like — shun it. So I try to make it positive but pertain to what people want to hear. … If I could find that medium where they like this style beat and I could say something that’s positive over that style beat, now we’re kinda mixing those two worlds and we can draw that fanbase.

“It’s like: You gon’ get the positivity no matter what you do!” Yeboah laughed. “I’mma try to put it in there. I just need to do it. I just feel like it’s needed, especially with kids, man. A lot of kids have terrible role models for music. I just wanna be one of the few ones that’s doing something positive.”

‘I dunno’

But the good vibes have ebbed and flowed, he said, and he hasn’t always felt them.

A few years ago, Yeboah’s cousin was shot and killed outside of a Target in Germantown in broad daylight, shaking up his whole family who had just celebrated her graduation from the University of Maryland.

Support came through his family sticking together, media outlets in Montgomery County and a vigil in her memory.

“She had a real crazy future ahead of her,” he said with tears rolling down his face. “It just sucks. … We tried to be as supportive to each other as we could, because you just never expect somebody to die that way, you know. It’s hard to think about.

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“I actually wrote a song I’m going to release in July about that,” said Yeboah. “I wrote it when it happened, but I never released it, just cause my family was going through so much. I just didn’t want to make things worse, so I never released it. But now I’m to the point I can release it; it will be more therapeutic and I can move past that time. It’s called ‘I Dunno.’

“It was crazy though. I’ll tell you, man, I don't wish that on anybody. I really don’t. That is a big reason why I try to keep the music so positive, too.”

What’s to come

Last year Yeboah visited Manchester Valley High School to talk to the kids about pursuing their dreams, perform and talk about his musical career.

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Like artists he takes inspiration from — Philly-based Meek Mill and Florida-based Ace Hood — he, too, wants to make sure he continues giving back to his community by continuing to work with local schools in the future.

“For me, mental illness and certain things, they really speak to me,” he said. “So I want to do something to give back to a charity or maybe just help raise funds for something that people need help with. I feel like at some point Manchester Valley will be involved in that.”

He also wants to keep helping kids like those at the school who later reached out to him on Twitter and Instagram to talk about how his message affected them.

One Manchester Valley student, Tyler Jaworski, 16, remembered speaking with him via Twitter last spring.

“His music that he wrote really shows a new side to Carroll County that most people don’t see,” Jaworski said Tuesday afternoon. “Most people stereotype the county as being full of rednecks and hicks but Carroll County has more to offer, like Da Kid Emm.

“His music makes me proud of this county and living in it,” he said. “His music video makes me proud to see he is also in support of the fire department [and] his music and what most people I know listen to. He is a great role model for someone who has been in his situation and for someone who just needs encouragement.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” said Yeboah. “If I help somebody or somebody’s life is a little better because of something I did, that’s whats up.

“I like it ’cause it’s also never been done [here], so that’s important,” he said. “The Manchester Valley [visit] is just the first step in me wanting to do something in the community.”

According to his wife, Claudia, he also is always looking to lend a hand and spends a lot of time giving people advice online, not just to students.

“He’s very humble,” she said this week. “He’ll do anything for anybody. He’s hardworking.

“If I ever need anything he’s right there to help,” she said. “He's very supportive of everybody — actually he gives advice to random people on the internet. I always tell him, ‘I don’t know why you're responding to those messages; you don’t even know them,’ but that’s just him.”

As more information on his summer tour is announced, it will be posted to Yeboah’s Facebook and Twitter pages, both under his stage name Da Kid Emm. New songs and music videos are also on the horizon, he said.

“I feel that we were on mute for a little while,” he said, “and now the music is gonna get turned all the way up. It’s gonna be a good summer and I definitely got more videos coming, songs dropping … we are just working on more and more.”

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