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Redemption song

By NAN BIALEK

October 1, 2012

Mark Phillips Jr., aka MP Luciano, turned his life around through music.

His friends and family know him by his birth name, Mark Phillips Jr., but Milwaukee recording artist MP Luciano ó who adapted his stage name after gangster Charlie "Lucky" Luciano ó is a master of transformation. Now, at 31, heís feeling mighty lucky himself.

The jazz, gospel and hip-hop vocalist founded his own record company in 1996, which evolved into Truly Blessed Entertainment LLC in 2010. He recently signed a deal with X Records and Malaco Music Group to take the business national.

Phillips says he is also "a writer all the way around the board," and was encouraged to hone that craft when he was published at the Milwaukee Young Authors Conference in 1992. His new book, "Qualified to be a Legend," is intended to demonstrate to "the young men and women here in the city that you can be what you want to be despite negative surroundings." What it takes, Phillips says, is focus and persistence ó a tough lesson to learn.

"Being a knucklehead in college led me down the wrong path," he says. "After going back and forth to jail in my early 20s, enough was enough."

His father, Mark Phillips Sr., helped him to concentrate on cultivating his musical talent as a way to accomplish goals and stop sabotaging himself. Heartache still found him.

His youngest sister, Keena, a star high school basketball player, lost her life in a car crash before she could go to college on her sports scholarship. Two grandparents died within months of the accident.

"When that happened to me, I didnít know how to handle it," Phillips says. "It spilled out over into the music, though. I was able to arrange my emotions so that I could understand what I was feeling."

The example of loving parents that he saw in his father and stepmother, Dana, were taken to heart.

"My dad is what I would call the definition of a real man," Phillips says. "My father has worked at the same place since right out of high school and now heís in top level management. Then he chose to go back to school and get his bachelorís degree.

"He got all four of his kids through school. He never walked away, and I appreciate him for that."

Phillips says his strong faith in God has also turned his life around. Today, he is a father himself, with two girls and twin boys on the way.

"The key message in my book is that if you keep God first, anything is possible with hard work and patience," Phillips says.

 


This story ran in the September 2012 issue of: