Words by: Richard Coyle
Snaps by: Taadow69K

Bodybuilders are often stereotyped as self-obsessed, two-dimensional freaks who mindlessly lift pounds of iron in their egoistic pursuit of aesthetic perfection. They are creatures of habit executing their routine of dieting,
lifting and sleeping with a constant eye on the clock all day, every day. As a result of this faithful dedication to their craft, many of today’s top bodybuilding personalities can be, for lack of a better word – vanilla. Kali Muscle is a man that tosses this stereotype on its head like a Jake “The Snake” DDT. Entrepreneur icon, actor, author, philanthropist, motivational speaker, and father. Kali has been all of these over the course of his life. But, more importantly, this former herculean blockstar is also an inspirational figure. His checkered past from ex-con to icon has forged a path by way of bodybuilding and he is living proof of what anybody, regardless of their aspiration or history, can achieve when all the odds are stacked against them.

Kali is the epitome of nonconformity and like Frank Sinatra, he did things his way. He’s not your typical white-collar bodybuilder that would grace the likes of commercial fitness magazines, but the counterculture avatar of real world application. He’s not here to school you on proper dieting and macros or how to get massive biceps or shoulders. He’s here to disrupt the narrow scope and mindset of the current state of the union of fitness.

Kali Muscle was born and bred in Oakland, California into a neighborhood afflicted by crime and poverty. As an active and gifted teenager, he quickly developed a love for the gym and copped his first gig at 24 Hour Fitness. Not one to become a product of his environment by slanging dope or gangbanging, Kali was forced to own his first gun at Elementary School for protection from his surroundings. Outside of the gym, he excelled at a number of sports, including wrestling, track, and even received a football scholarship to Fresno State University, where he was a running back. The stars aligned and the universe opened itself to this young kid from the hood. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Notwithstanding, in Kali’s senior year, tragedy struck his family when his older brother was killed after ‘messing around with a gun’. You know what they say when it rains, it pours. His once bright future spiraled deeper in despair, when, in his second year at Fresno State, Kali ran into financial hardship, and soon found himself resorting to robbery to make ends meet. He was later arrested and ended up in San Quentin State Prison, where he collectively spent 11 life-changing years. As a resident of San Quentin, Kali once again turned to lifting for therapy. Pushing weight like a man obsessed, Kali began throwing them thangs around like Skittles. His renewed focus on building his Adonis-like physique gave him fresh resolve, a temporary escape from the truth of his circumstance. But disaster struck again when the state decided they were going to confiscate the weights from San Quentin. Not being one to give up on anything, Kali improvised and developed new innovative ways of working out like using laundry bags, pillowcases and human weight for example. His resourcefulness frustrated his prison officers, and, consequently, he was sent to the hole for not conforming. Kali saw this as a speedbump shit was not going to derail him from his goal to be the biggest and baddest.

Released in in 2010, Kali Muscle decided to move to LA to pursue his new aspiration of becoming a professional bodybuilder and actor. After just two weeks of relocating, Kali was offered a role in a Matthew McConaughey-directed music video. This proved to be the launching pad he needed and resulted in an avalanche of bookings to appear in commercials for Fortune 500 brands like Snickers, Comcast, and Honda to name a few.

Kali’s bodybuilding Ascension has met with similar success in recent years. He has landed a series of prestigious titles, including Mr. California 2012, in addition to a slew of other first place finishes. He also has his own Hyphy line of workout supplements as well. Kali also works as a motivational speaker, where yuhe delivers his uplifting message of rehabilitation to diverse crowds and completed his book, which aims to instill hope and positivity across America.
The real narrative of Kali Muscle is his inspirational, motivating and empowering journey. From a troubled upbringing on the streets of Oakland, and being locked up, Kali Muscle has made a complete 180 and turned his life around to become the epitome of the old adage, from the Streets, to Success. Kali Muscle doesn’t demand your respect, he commands it. He is proof positive that it is possible to transcend society’s handcuffs. With relentless motivation and focus, anybody, regardless of race or circumstance, can forge their own path to success.

You’re clearly a social icon with a massive following, what do you think your messaging is on your channels?
What I teach my fans on social media is that if i made it after doing 11 years in prison that anyone can become successful, I am also against Bullying, so I let my fans and supporters know that ain’t nobody gonna bully us. I clap back to any negativity. Back in Oakland, all the bullies got they shit handled to them back in the day, so I always been anti-bully.

Who was your inspiration for working out?
My uncle Butch, rest in peace was my inspiration. He was buff and was the protector of my mom. He was the first positive role model I seen growing up, but he was the man to me. He was buff and handsome and I thought that’s what a man was supposed to look like. Also, Everybody in my neighborhood
was going to YA (Youth Authority) or Juve (Juvenile Hall) and they were coming home all buff so being swole was the thing to do. I had also got into sports, and I wanted to be the biggest and fastest.

It’s well-documented that you are proof positive of the mantra, from the Streets to Success. How did that start?
My whole objective in life back then was to get into the NFL or be an FBI agent. My major was even in Criminology [laughs]. I did everything in power to get a scholarship. I got an academic and athletic scholarship graduated with a 3.8 overall and was the senior class president.

Growing up in the hood, did that derail you from your goal?
Before I got accepted to Fresno State, I had never got into trouble in Oakland. I had no beef, no nothing. People in the hood just said this youngster is going somewhere. I was this kid that all the dope dealers protected and all had my back because they knew what I was about. Ironically, two months before I caught my first case, I was a camp counselor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I was invited to come be a counselor and I had gone through this extensive biblical course to qualify. Then I went to Northern Arizona University and Cal Lutheran football camp as a coach/minister.

When did things start going downhill?
I had this Chevy Chevelle Laguna with chrome rims (back when they were the shit). It broke down driving from Oakland back to Fresno. All I needed was $500 to get a new engine. I was having a hard time coming up with money to pay to get the engine. So, I called my mom and she didn’t have the money, so I asked my football coach, Coach Sweeney for an advance on my scholarship and he didn’t have it but he said something that changed my life forever. He said, “A man gotta do what a man gotta do to survive in this world.” Me being from the hood, I took that as a negative instead of something positive. So, things got lost in translation and you made some bad decisions. I had a pistol at the time and I been critiquing all these robberies I seen on the news so I decided to hit some licks (Robberies). That was my demise. It’s so funny to say because I was working for God and then this happened. I blamed God for a while, but that wasn’t God. That was me. I did 7 straight years in the penn for that.

Word was in prison, they took the weights from the inmates. How did you maintain?
In San Quentin, they took the weights from us which was all we had and I started writing down what exercises I could do without weights. I improvised. Everything I was able to do with weights I made happen, laundry bags, water bags, pillow cases, or pushups with people pushing me down or sitting on my back. Squats with somebody sitting on my shoulders.

What did you do after your release?
I got released and the first week out, I started stripping and personal training to make ends meet and making a ton of money doing it. I got a new 5.0 and I rear-ended somebody and wrecked it. I drove up to the neighborhood and all the people there were laughing with my car smoking. Just hating on me. Personal training got slow and so did the stripping. I saw all these cats in the neighborhood selling dope and they weren’t even that successful at it. I said I’m gonna show these n*ggas how it’s done, so I went out and bought 9 zips of coke. I started selling dope, but it didn’t last 3 months. I got caught up and I actually went back to prison several times after I did the 7 years. I ended up doing a total of 11 years in prison. After my last 16 month bid, my patna Trae let me work at his barbershop cutting hair and I made good money doing that.

You did a complete 180 from being a Christian camp counselor to a felon. What do you think the issue was?
My problem was always trying to get rich the wrong ways.

When did you realize your YouTube videos were picking up steam?
Once I moved to Los Angeles from Oakland In 2010, I had a few videos, nothing viral just some workout videos that I posted on YouTube. I’ll never forget this. I was at Universal Citywalk and people were calling out my name like Kali Muscle! I was like what? All this from YouTube? It was eye opening.

What made you decide to get into show business?
I was watching TV one day and noticed that there was no buff black real n*ggas out there except Michael Clarke Duncan and Terry Crews, so I thought maybe I should try this acting shit. Money was short and I thought why not? I Googled, “how to be an actor”, I followed the steps and a week later, I was working with Matthew McConaughey. From then, the commercials started banging out, and I started to do TV Appearances and a few low budget movies.

What are your thoughts on bodybuilding back then to today?
Then, it was trial and error. Today, the technology is there so it’s simplified. Fitness is life. Everybody around the world wants to be fit especially with social media. Fitness now is at an all-time high. At the Arnold Classic Expo, there were kids 15-16 as swole as me!

What are your thoughts on cannabis and bodybuilding?
I had two workout partners back in the day that used to smoke a whole blunt before they worked out, and they were as was swole as me. I’ve grown it and I have my own cannabis card. One thing to remember is, it’s not organic unless you get it from an organic trustworthy source. Back in Oakland, we used to pour chemicals in the hydroponic growing process to speed things up or make it more potent. Unless you’re growing your
own or have an organic source, I don’t fuck with it. If it’s organic, I’m all for it.

What does it mean to be a public figure to you now?
It’s deep. I still talk shit. I tried to tone myself down at one point, and people did not like that. People enjoy the craziness that I bring along with the raw uncut realness. People don’t want to be preached to. They want it real. I got in this for fun, but now, I know I’m helping people and changing lives. It motivates people. I’ve been blessed to be where I am now. God chose me for a reason. If I could change the path of someone doing wrong in their life, I’ve done my job. I wasted 11 years in prison, so I try to tell youngstas my story as much as possible so they won’t have to go down the same path.

Any last words for your fans?
There’s no reason for nobody to not be successful.

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