Christopher Belton wants to make Toledo a better place to live.
“It’s where I was born and raised,” said the 24-year-old musician whose stage name is Jimmy Paid.
“There’s a lot of people who just want to get away from the city because they say there’s nothing here. … Me and my brother Aaron, we talk a lot, so it’s like we want to bring stuff to Toledo. Like, making parks for kids where they can play. Having businesses where people can go to, keep the money circulating in the city … I just want to do something good since it’s where I’m from.”
Much of the frustration and desire to elevate the city can be heard on a song Mr. Belton wrote, “My City,” to accompany The Blade’s series on gangs and gang culture in Toledo.
Drawing on local news events and experiences in his own life, Mr. Belton spent hours writing the song on his iPhone. He recorded the track in his basement studio at his mother’s home near the University of Toledo.
PHOTO GALLERY: Aaron Belton
Mr. Belton, who is part of a group, Flip Cash, with several other artists, started writing music when he was 7 or 8 years old.
He would write with his cousin and then the two would perform the songs for Mr. Belton’s mother.
She always said she liked them, he said.
School distracted Mr. Belton from making original music until he became a teenager, when he started writing again.
In the beginning, he recorded in a small studio on the main floor of his mother’s home.
About the series:
Jimmy Paid and Flip Cash have a small following, Mr. Belton said. They perform at local bars and venues, for now. They’re trying to make something bigger of themselves.
“There’s a lot of people who say, ‘I put on for my city’ and all this and that, but I’ve never seen it. So that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Mr. Belton, who was recently hired at Chrysler, was attending Full Sail University, an online school, but stopped taking classes to focus on music.
Growing up, Mr. Belton was called a “momma's boy.” Makes sense — it was just the two of them.
Mr. Belton’s older half-brothers, Anthony and Aaron, lived in California with their father until Mr. Belton was about 14.
Being raised by his mother and having her attention kept him out of gangs and away from people who associated with them.
Aaron Belton, 26, works with his brother on music. When he moved back to Toledo, he was associated with the Lil Heads and sold drugs, he said. He was introduced to the gang lifestyle in California.
Aaron’s attitude changed in 2008 when Anthony robbed, shot, and killed Matthew Dugan, a clerk at a former BP gas station, at Dorr and Secor roads, in West Toledo.
Anthony, who was in a gang, is now on death row.
Mr. Belton’s song is about the impact Anthony’s actions have had on his family and the death that plagues Toledo.
In the first verse he writes: “I lost my brother to a fed case; I’m tryna keep my head straight. Death row ringing in my ears, it make my head ache. These tears coming down I can’t stop my mother from crying. Every second got her thinking ’bout her oldest son dying.”
In the same verse, he raps about the need to end violence and about the two young sisters who were shot — one fatally — at the Moody Manor apartments last August.
Almost every line relates, in some way, to gangs, violence, and the impact they have on Toledo: rest-in-peace T-shirts, homicides, colors used to represent different gangs, and the change that the destruction inspires.
“The real inspiration is, like, it’s always people saying something bad about Toledo. Or all the gang violence, or the babies that got killed, or the young people dying in the city. And with my brother being in jail, it’s like it all came together on one song,” he said.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.