“Music is powerful,” Dot the Don told the Amsterdam News. “It can make you feel like I’ve known you forever and I’ve never even met you. I want to make that kind of music so people say, ‘Wow, I’ve been there.’ Music is about life experiences. There’s more to music than cars and liquor. I’m trying to become an entrepreneur, hopefully with the business mind of Sean Combs and the lyrical skill of Shawn Carter.”
Grandma Dorothy Dozier calls her grandson Terrence; swaths of Flatbush and others know him as Don the Dot.
The Don, aka Terrence Washington, takes the Dot of his stage name from his grandma Dorothy Dozier, “the motivation for everything I do.”
What he does includes making music, handling a day job and teaching dozens of city children the art and ability of basketball at free after-school sessions in Brooklyn.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, mostly Flatbush, Washington, 27, has four sisters, Takira, Lisa, Nicki and Essence. The aspiring entrepreneur and youth advocate went to James Madison High in Bensonhurst. From there he went to Touro College, where he majored in business management.
“I coach basketball for young people from all over the city. My partner Pam has a company called Next Level, and we not only coach the youth, but we also provide a safe environment for them after school,” said Washington, who currently works in a Manhattan retail store.
Washington explains that the main reason he got into coaching basketball was because he lost his cousin Christopher Sandy just a few years ago. “He played ball in Finland, and he was killed by a drunk driver. I stopped balling because it wasn’t fun anymore.
“One of my nephews Raquan Taylor started playing ball and I watched him develop his game. Christopher played for the Harlem Globetrotters and wanted to watch Raquan grow into a pure point guard. He went to Fresno State in California, where he played point guard under legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian.
“Chris died at age 28 on Thanksgiving Day in 2007. Raquan is 13 years old now. We will hold the fourth Christopher Sandy Memorial on August 29 at Broadway Junction and Kelly Park.
“I decided to build a basketball team to keep the dream going. I met my coaching partner, Pam Holley. She already had Team Next Level, and I basically latched on.
“I deal with about 30 kids on a normal Tuesday or Thursday practice. My kids work really hard, but the most important thing is their school work. They are scholars and must keep up great grades. I teach them to be young role models. They range from 7 to 16 years old.”
Washington added that they are from all over Brooklyn: “Any kid from all around the city can come; we can work with them. We just want to show them what hard work can do and what you can get if you really try.
“I don’t really pick them. If you want to play, you can come. A lot of kids come because they have nowhere else to go. I keep a real respectful line with my children. It’s not always about basketball. They learn the value of hard work and discipline. Sometimes practice isn’t even about basketball; it’ll be about the value of life and what you can learn from it.”
Fully entrenched in their development, Washington said, I know all their parents. I check up on the kids and their homework, their social patterns. I’m involved with my kids like I’m an extension of their parents.”
Here’s the rub though, Washington said, “Everything is out of our pocket, from Team Next Level. We just make a way.” While Washington has not been soliciting sponsorships, he acknowledged, “It would really help to get extra things for the kids like team apparel and travel costs, but we strive on regardless.”
Practice takes place twice a week at a public school on Atlantic and Clermont in Bed-Stuy from 4 to 6 p.m.
Despite the $40 referee fee for every game during tournaments-they can sometimes play three games in one day-Washington said, “We don’t ask parents for money. Each tournament might be $300.” Adding, “We travel a lot citywide and even to New Jersey, especially in the summer.”
Washington obviously adores his work with the youngsters. “I’m looking to watch my kids grow up and become great college students,” he says. “If they become great athletes, that’s fine too, but my thing is to get them into college.”
Mild mannered when he is not performing with the bravado of the hip-hop genre, Washington grins as he says, “My grandmother is really the motivation for everything I do. She is the strongest woman I’ve ever met. I’ve seen her go through trials and tribulations, and I never saw her shed a tear. She keeps the family together. I don’t know what I would do without her. She keeps us striving.”
And then comes the music.
“I love making music,” Washington says. “I love all types of music. I would love to do music as a career. I love the feeling of music-the way it brings things to life and how you can relate to a song even when you don’t know the artist. It is just a feeling.
“I feel I have lyrical ability of Shawn Carter [Jay-Z]. Some of his songs are like a movie to me. He helped me get through certain parts of my life because he made me feel like I wasn’t going through certain things alone. I am looking forward to bringing hip-hop back to its essence, when it was just about making good music and not just about street cred and things that don’t really matter.”
And then Washington waxed a little lyrical: “Music should be about growth. Music to me is the best, most purest thing in world. You can relate, be normal and forget about everything because music can remove all barriers-racial and political and social.
His single, “So Official,” really is just that, official. Certainly grown folks music, but it has a beat to knock you over and out. Wait till it hits the streets. Its lyrics aren’t the least bit revolutionary, mind you. The Don speaks to a certain clientele most definitely.
Managed by Bugsy and working with his Golden Child Entertainment company, Washington declared, “I have songs for the streets, but I have romantic songs too like ‘Let’s Get Acquainted’ and ‘Footsteps’ with that Isley Brothers flow. I want to inspire people and celebrate life and living.”
He insists that he is not going to be a 50-year-old rapper. “Never that,” he laughs. “If I don’t make it as a rapper, I will be an entrepreneur and run my own record label with my own artists. I studied how Sean Combs came up in the business. I can write bridges, songs and verses, but I am trying to learn all the steps in the business.”
The Don advises those so inclined to check out his music at wwwdatpiff.com. For a free music download, search for “From Flatbush to Forbes.”