DeWayne Taylor is on a path. He has little idea of where it’s taking him. But he’s sure it’s the right one. Because the bricks are being laid in front of him.
He uses the phrase “laying bricks” to describe moments in his life when something happens to reassure him that he’s on the right road or in the right place. And DeWayne is certain his place is on the stage.
He first started beatboxing in high school. Initially it was a hobby, something to do with his friends. He was a part of the speech team at Lincoln Southwest and had the opportunity to emcee a few pep rallies and school events.
Some of his very first performances after high school were on the small stage at Knickerbockers. He was a freshman in college and didn’t own a car, so he’d catch rides or take the bus to get to the venue. But his shows often ran later than the bus schedule and some days he was forced to walk back home to the south side of Lincoln. Worn shoes and aching feet, all for performances to a nearly empty room.
“It’d be a room full of no one and the one guy listening would come up to me and be like, ‘Man that was really good!’” he said. Encouragement from strangers was enough to keep him going.
Eventually, DeWayne started helping out at university gatherings, hosting greek events and emceeing for campus functions. Slowly, word started to spread. He was contacted for bigger events around town that boasted crowds of a thousand or more.
In October of 2012, DeWayne spoke at TEDxLincoln about the history and evolution of beatbox.
“It was such a life-changing experience, being able to see so many people talk about their passions and talk about their story,” he says.
Until then he was known mostly as a beatboxer. The TEDxLincoln event boosted his reputation as an emcee and speaker, which he’s realized is his true passion.
He labels himself, surprisingly, as an introvert. Being on stage pushes him to connect with people in the audience.
“It’s really interesting to be able to feel that energy being played back and forth,” he says.
Of course, there are days when the energy just isn’t there. DeWayne was booked to emcee a watch party for a university football game. The team was playing away, so Memorial Stadium opened it’s gates and showed the game on the big screen for students wanting to cheer them on from Lincoln. The day of the event DeWayne fell incredibly ill. He was throwing up every few minutes while sitting in the booth waiting for the gig to start. But when the time came, he pulled through.
“I put the headphones on and all pain goes away. My body was like, ‘Game time.’”
He finished the job, took the headphones off, and was immediately sick. While it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, DeWayne says it proved he was doing exactly what he should be.
“That was a big defining moment. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t have the energy to do this. I don’t think I can do this.’ But you have to. This is your passion. This is your calling.”
A few policemen patrolling the event got his attention on the way out. They’d seen him throwing up before and heard him during the performance.
“We couldn’t believe that was you up there, man. That was crazy. Hey, we know what you’re supposed to do in life.”
More reaffirmation came after he emceed an event featuring a the cast members of the movie “Neighbors” when they visited the university campus. DeWayne later received an email from the Universal Studios representative who accompanied the actors on the trip. “I’ll see you hosting the Grammy’s in five years,” she wrote.
“That was more than a pat on the back,” he tells me grinning ear to ear. It’s the voice in his head spurring him on, saying, “I promise you’re not making the wrong decision.” Another brick laid in the road. Another step in the right direction.
Still just a junior in college, DeWayne is only at the beginning of his journey. But his story radiates an underlying assurance that he’s headed in the right direction.
Anyone who’s chased a passion knows there are days when you question. You wonder if you’ve made a mistake in following a desire that feels farfetched and out of reach. But then something happens. Someone or something you encounter adds a single brick to your path and unknowingly paves the way for you to continue with renewed certainty. “I promise you’re not making the wrong decision.”