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Byol DaLeader: A Poet With A Purpose

Written by on September 30, 2022

Through his music, poet and producer Byol DaLeader hopes to share a message of empowerment with his community.

Humboldt Park rapper and poet Byol DaLeader got his start at an after-school job, where his passion for music was noticed by an audio editor. 

“He really saw I loved music and was pretty good at it,” Byol explained. “He then took time out to show me how to record and produce music.

Nine years after first posting mixes to SoundCloud, Byol DaLeader released his latest EP Granny’s Baby this August. Inspired by the women in his life, he is determined to have his music mean more than cool lyrics and slick beats. “I strive for greatness and Black/minority empowerment through hip hop music and poetry,” Byol states.

Byol’s love of poetry evolves his music and makes his lyrics more than mere words. He hopes that listeners will be able to learn from his music and overcome some of their struggles. 

Byol DaLeader sat down with team Vocalo to discuss his single “Selfish” off of the Granny’s Baby EP, featured in our September “In Rotation” playlist. He delves into his love for poetry, the difference between poetry and rap, the origins of his name and how he wants his music to empower the Black community.

Where did you grow up in Chicago? Where do you live now?

I’m from Humboldt Park, where I was born and raised. I currently still reside in Humboldt Park.

Growing up in Chicago, a very musically-diverse city, what music were you surrounded by? 

Growing up I was surrounded by ole skool hip-hop, ole skool R&B, funk and jazz music.

How has the music of your childhood influenced your own artistry? 

It’s a heavy influence on my artistry. I pride myself on relaying a good message in all my music and staying true to my craft and myself.

Photo courtesy of Byol DaLeader

What’s the story behind your artist name?

It’s crazy I was doing an after-school job at a studio that produced a show called “Chi Town Chefs.” There I became good friends with a guy named Cortez who did the audio recording and editing for the show. He really saw I loved music and was pretty good at it. He then took time out to show me how to record and produce music. He had a program he was working on called “B.Y.O.L,” Be Your Own Leader, pronounced “Be Y’all.” I really liked the name and concept so I asked him if I could use the concept for my rap name. He said yes and the rest is history in the making.

What made you want to start making your own music? 

Honestly, it was just the love of music that made me want to create some of my own. I truly believe I was destined to make art in any form whether it’s music, poetry, etc.. 

Tell us a little bit about your song “Selfish,” which was featured on our “In Rotation” playlist for this month. Where did your inspiration to write this song come from? How does this track relate to the EP’s title, Granny’s Baby

I got the inspiration for “Selfish” by understanding myself and how I want to love a woman. Showing her that the energy she’s giving me is appreciated and will also be a prize possession of mine, always on display for the world to see. It relates to the EP title Granny’s Baby because Granny always says treat a woman right when she’s doing right by you, and never be ashamed of loving her, no matter who you around.

What can you tell us about the cover art for Granny’s Baby? 

So the cover art is a picture of me and my grandma on Christmas when I was a baby. I chose this picture because I wanted to bring the concept for my EP home to the fans. Ultimately showing love and appreciation to the person who started it all, and the one that keeps it all together.

Cover of ‘Granny’s Baby’ EP Via Spotify

In your submission bio, you talk about being a poet. What are some of the differences between a poet and a rapper? What are the similarities? Which identity do you resonate with more — or do you resonate with both equally? 

I definitely resonate with being a poet more than a rapper. I feel the similarities between the two are they both are rhythmatic far as wordplay, and they both tell a story. The differences between the two are the delivery of the words, the audience it attracts. A poet is more natural in the creating process, as opposed to a rapper needing a sound or a beat to create.

You touch on topics like empowerment in your music. What’s something that makes you feel empowered?

Some things that make me feel empowered are praying, writing, reading, exercising, family talks, cooking and listening to music.

How do you hope to empower listeners with your music?

I hope to empower listeners with my music by giving them a sense of hope, love and faith to do anything they want to do. Also knowing they can get through anything they’re going through in life.

Photo courtesy of Byol DaLeader

Is there a performance that you take pride in? When was it, and why does it stand out to you? 

The performance I took pride in was a poem called “Chicken is finger licking.” I said at my graduation back in 2012. It stood out to me because my words were so powerful and had so much meaning I was asked to do it on my graduation day — which is one of my proudest achievements — in front of my family, staff and classmates and their families. Receiving great and positive feedback for something I wrote.

Do you have any upcoming performances or anything you’d like listeners to know about?

Yes, I would like the listeners to be on the lookout for Have Heart Will Travel, my next EP. It’s a different twist from one of my favorite cowboy western shows, “Have Gun Will Travel.” This EP is about having love for whatever you do, and going the distance to make it happen.

Follow Byol DaLeader on Instagram and listen to his music on SoundCloud below.

Interview and written introduction by Joshua X. Miller

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