Kwayzar in his personal performance space.
The city of Downey has a rich history of musical talent. It spawned The Carpenters and Metallica's front man James Hetfield. The town's newest addition to the roster is an 84-year-old rapper named Kwayzar.
His real name is Stanley Jerry Hoffman. When he was starting as a rapper in the early 1990's, he was looking through some astronomy books and found the term quasar, "It's a big pulsing, massive amount of energy, but very mysterious and unknown," he says, and it described him perfectly. He changed the spelling, but he's still full of energy.
Hoffman started his career in showbiz long before he picked up rapping. When he was four, he tried to break into acting. It was 1932, he auditioned for a role in the The Little Rascals. Hoffman's mom was bed-ridden with tuberculosis, so a family friend drove Stanley to the audition.
The director made Stanley's guardian leave the room, which made him panic. He said they began to ask him basic questions -- like where he was from, his name -- and he just froze. The studio called him back for another interview, but the same thing happened. He didn't say a word. Kwayzar still thinks of that moment, and says; "What would have happened to me in that career if I just talked?"
Stanley changed his game plan, and instead of talking his way into stardom, he started singing. He was touring the country doing comedy gigs in 1951. While on the road, he wrote a song about the space race between the U.S. and Russia. When Stanley had a tour stop in New York in 1956, he recorded his song and called it "Satellite Baby."
He went to radio stations around New York City to get them to play his record. But Hoffman couldn't land a record deal, and spent $3,000 on trying to get the song pushed.
Stanley wasn't going to give up and pursued a career in stand-up comedy. He almost landed a gig on the Ed Sullivan show, but right before he was booked to go on, the show got cancelled. He then went on to a more stable career in real estate, and finally started making money -- before losing $375,000 in the stock market.
After all of his setbacks, Hoffman said, "What do you do in life? Are you just gonna quit? So I figured, the hell with it! I'll just go back into showbiz and see if I could drum up anything."
He read an article in the paper in the early nineties about Ice Cube--the rapper. That's when he discovered a new kind of music. He took a listen and said, "Hell, all they're doing is rhyming, and a lot of it is really bad rhyming. I said, 'Well God, I could do that.'"
He took a bunch of his comedy routines and turned them into rap songs around 1992. He wrote songs about space, the Internet, and futurist sex.
Kwayzar has now been in the rap business for twenty years and like a lot of artists, still hasn't broken through. His YouTube videos only have a couple thousand hits. So why hasn't he dropped the whole "showbiz" thing? "Well I know one thing," he says. "If you stop you're dead. I got so much behind me. Why would I just want to leave it all and forget about it?"
Kwayzar says -- especially to older people -- pursue your dream, never quit, and follow his personal motto, "I Can Still Do It."