Sixteen-year-old entrepreneur AJ Carr has already impacted so many lives. Not only has he created his own organization but he is also a public speaker, as well as an author and actor.
Ajani currently has a recurring role in the Showtime series The Chi, created by Lena Waithe & produced by Common. He has had co-starring roles on NBC’s Chicago PD.
O4L Online speaks to AJ Carr about his entrepreneurship, his new children’s book and he tells us why Tupac has been an inspiration since a very young age.
O4L Online: AJ you have done so much in such a short period of time. Since aged thirteen you have been the owner of the organization ‘Building Bosses’, which teaches youth to be productive members of society. Can you tell us how you came up with the concept for your organization?
I came up with the concept of the organization by literally doing what I always do when I want to talk for hours about the problems in the world and that’s complaining to my mom about it! I recognized different issues that I and my peers had to face as young people. Such as, not being supported or put into positions to express ourselves and voice our opinions enough.
I also had a problem with the fact that we weren’t learning about important things like taxes in school. I just felt like kids, especially ones from underprivileged backgrounds, weren’t being shown enough that they can be entrepreneurs or pursue their passions in general. Then when they did, the community didn’t have their back as they should’ve. That’s how the idea came about. I wanted to do something about it by empowering young people.
O4L Online: You also do public speaking taking your story on the road and getting the message of positivity and self-belief out there to the masses. What does it feel like to be touching so many people with your story of success and in turn inspiring those people to succeed in their lives?
To me, the greatest part of public motivational speaking is being able to get a message of chasing your dreams against all odds out there to the youth. My story is a real one that consists of going through so many obstacles as a young black man coming from struggle, yet still persevering through it all.
Every time I’m able to affect at least one kid in a positive way because they can relate, or gain some type of hope from talking to me, I know I’m doing the right thing. It’s the best feeling in the world. That, and landing back home in Chicago after a bunch of traveling!
O4L Online: We think your vision and drive to impact youth is for all to see and is something that Tupac was very passionate about. In your public appearances, you talk about how your Grandfather taught you a lot. Telling you to believe in your dreams and to give as much as you can before you leave earth. That’s some powerful inspiration. You base one of the main characters in your children’s book ‘Ballardine’ on him. Can you tell us about the book?
In your public appearances, you talk about how your Grandfather taught you a lot. Telling you to believe in your dreams and to give as much as you can before you leave earth. That’s some powerful inspiration. You base one of the main characters in your children’s book ‘Ballardine’ on him. Can you tell us about the book?
The book is about a kid named Lesane based on a child version of Tupac. He sees difference issues in the world, such as homelessness, and questions why these problems exist. Then when he goes to sleep at night, his questions are answered by people from the land of Ballardine in his dreams. He wakes up with another lesson learned and an idea of how to positively contribute to his community.
O4L Online: Like you just mentioned, the second main character in ‘Ballardine’ is ‘Lesane’ based on a childlike version of Tupac. You also dedicate the book, alongside your Grandfather, to Tupac. How has Tupac inspiration helped you through your life?
Tupac was always an important person in my family growing up. My mom would always say, “You can’t live in this house if you don’t know who Tupac is.”
As I started to get older and notice different problems that affected me personally such as racism, his music became even more prevalent to me. I always admired him and lived by his words. Since middle school, I would sit up for hours watching his interviews, because his voice was so powerful. He was a real human sacrifice.
O4L Online: Your mom has definitely taught you right! We believe that many people think of Tupac as a super thug and a gangsta who didn’t care about anything. That’s what our series ‘Heart of an Outlaw’ is about. We show people the compassion and love that Tupac had for people. How would you describe ‘Pac and the impact he had on this world?
‘Pac gave many people who were poverty-stricken and voiceless a voice. He gave, and still is giving hope through his music. Whether it was filled with profanity or not, every time he spoke it came straight from the heart. That’s something I think everybody should at least respect even if they don’t necessarily like it.
I feel like when a black person passionately and explicitly speaks their mind, it’s viewed as aggressive or invaluable. But everything Tupac did was for others. He was so passionate about oppression because his people at large were affected by it. Tupac truly cared for others, and that’s what he dedicated his life to, others. That’s the true definition of honorable.
O4L Online: You summed ‘Pac up brilliantly. As someone who has been motivated by Tupac ispiration, you must have a few favorite songs of his! What are your top five ‘Pac songs and why?
That’s a really hard one because there’s so many! The whole entire Me Against The World Album has helped me through life. But as far as my favorite songs, I’m just gonna name the ones that I rock with most at the moment.
Life Goes On
F*ck The World
Hold Ya Head
Do For Love
I’ve been listening to Life Goes On a lot lately because I can relate to losing loved ones. I liked how he talked about what he was dealing with as far as people’s perception of him in F*ck The World. Hold ya head has always been one of me and my mom’s all time favorites. The message in it never gets old to me. I really like Do For Love not only because of the lyrics but the production and video were too raw. Last but not least, Pain is another song that’s always been one of me and my OG’s favorites. You can really feel the emotion in it on every listen. Plus I go crazy every time it comes on when I’m watching Above The Rim. And that’s another thing, Tupac’s acting skills!
O4L Online: ‘Pac’s acting skills were on point for sure! With so much accomplished, what is next for you AJ?
Music is my heart and soul. My first single “Gotta Make It” was just released on Apple iTunes as well as Spotify. I’ve been working really hard in the studio, & I’ll be releasing my first mix tape. I can’t really tell you what else is next, because I want to say less, and do more. But I can tell you that I have a great plan this year. And that plan, is to stick to the plan, by any means necessary. I will reach my destination, even if I have to take the stairs.
I’m doing something every day of every week and that helps me reach my goals. One thing that will never change, I will always actively find ways to help the community as I travel this road of life.
O4L Online: Thank you for talking with O4L Online, we really do wish you all the best for the future. You’re doing some awesome work AJ, continue to inspire, motivate and promote positivity.
Thank you. Please be sure to catch me on NBC’s “Chicago PD” January 30th as well as “The Chi” on Showtime this spring!