BROCKTON — In a cramped homeless shelter that smells like Black & Mild cigars, 15-year-old Brandon Tory dumpster-dives for salvageable parts to build his own computer as 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” plays in his headphones and he slowly mumbles the words.
Tory now lives a double life as a senior engineer at Google and a rapper.
Tory, as a teenager, stayed up all night in a Brockton shelter where his family lived and spray-painted a computer he built from scratch black.
Building computers, hacking, coding and reading carried Tory through the unstable environment that was his life.
“My family faced a lot of financial struggles, but my mind was always focused on becoming a hacker and learning how to code. So I taught myself how to code and different coding languages, and I was good at it at a young age,” Tory said.
Computer skills pave way for success
He was mesmerized by the world of technology and got lost in it. Computer technology was his escape from the world around him.
School was never something Tory enjoyed. He went to Brockton High School without supplies and did his homework between classes or during study hall.
His reasoning was like most kids who are transitioning into homelessness that school felt trivial. “How could you think about homework when everything is falling apart around you?” Tory said.
“Everything in my life was unstable, I hated school, and I hated homework. If I couldn’t do my homework at school, then it wouldn’t get done,” Tory said.
Luckily for Tory, he was a great test taker. He got high SAT scores and earned the John Abigail Adams scholarship when he graduated in 2005.
The prestigious scholarship funded his college journey at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he pursued an engineering degree. Despite despising school, Tory wanted to attend college, and his parents pushed for him to do so.
Tory saw college as his great escape and left everything behind in Brockton. He felt he had an advantage over his classmates since he’d been coding since he was a pre-teen. But old habits die hard. Tory didn’t have the motivation to do well in his academic classes.
It wasn’t until he met a peculiar friend that motivated him to do better in class. Tory was the only Black student in a majority of his computer courses, he said.
He sat in the back, away from his classmates, and always wore his favorite Champion hoodie.
Luke Root, Tory’s classmate, sat in the front and wore a full suit every day to class.
In Tory’s mind, they both didn’t fit in the dynamic of the classroom. As a result, they both were the odd ones out.
“We had something in common. We’re both alone, and we both looked weird. One day I started talking to him, and I found out he was a straight-A student, and we started hanging out and studying together,” Tory said.
With this newfound friendship, Tory was able to connect and build with Root. His grades improved, he became a straight-A student and graduated college in 2010.
Now, this is where life truly began for Tory. He finally got a good-paying job as an engineer, and his family, who had been through so much hardship financially, was proud of him.
As an engineer working in a company, this was not enough for him. Tory had a lust for life that a 9-5 job was not fulfilling. He decided on a whim that he was going to chase his dreams.
Leaving it all behind to chase a music dream
“I quit my job because I wanted to make music, so I dropped everything and moved to Atlanta,” Tory said. “That life wasn’t enough for me. I was good at technology, but I wanted more. I have bigger dreams for myself, and I wanted to try something different.”
Tory bought a van for $1,200, packed all his belongings, and moved to Atlanta with his fiancé.
Every day for three years, Tory created music, attended different networking events and pushed unique visuals for his music videos.
At one point, he wanted a different sound and decided to move closer to Los Angeles to change his tempo.
Once Tory arrived in Los Angeles, he made three songs that received positive feedback. A friend suggested submitting one of his songs to the Microsoft and Lenovo Timbaland national songwriting contest.
To their surprise, his was chosen out of 6,000 contestants.
“Meeting Timbaland is probably one of the best days in my music journey. First, I had no idea if I was going in the right direction at all. I’ve been doing this for years, and I have no idea if I’m making progress then boom, I’m in the studio with Timbaland,” Tory said.
Timbaland is a Grammy award-winning producer, songwriter, rapper and singer.
“After working with Timbaland, my following grew. People in LA started paying attention to me and my music career elevated,” Tory said.
The lifestyle of renting mansions for extravagant pool parties took a financial toll on Tory.
“If you don’t have a song that’s popping or the money to back it up, you’re not going to make a lot of money in LA,” Tory said. “I went from being in the hidden hills with 600 people trying to get in my party and on FaceTime with Timbaland to the next day only having $300 in my bank account.”
Tory completely let go of the other side of himself, his tech side and was reluctant to tap into it due to what the rap industry might think of him.
He then decided to join big tech, and Apple moved him to Cupertino. He was an engineer by day and rapper who drives 10 hours to Los Angeles every weekend to chase his music dream by night.
“I called it the multi dream, but it was wearing on me, all the travel and not telling my friends both sides of myself. My sister helped me put together this video of my talent and I sent it to Jimmy Iovine. He founded Interscope records,” Tory said.
Tory messaged Iovine, and he responded and agreed to meet with him. After the meeting, Iovine gave Tory several contacts to valuable people in the industry. Iovine wanted Tory to zero in on a goal and focus on that.
“Right after the meeting, Mr. Iovine retired. It was almost like a parting gift,” Tory said
Tory continued to live his double life but incorporated Iovine’s advice to further his music career.
Then one ordinary afternoon, while working at his desk, the computer screen went completely black. Google sent him a coding challenge.
After he reached level five and completed the task, Google invited Tory to work for them. Tory took the job as a senior software artificial Intelligence engineer.
The best of both worlds
At that point, Tory was thinking to himself, now what? What are some other ways I can elevate music and technology?
The conversation with Iovine put in perspective different ideas that got Tory’s creative juices flowing. As a result, he began working on a tech company called Formless that incorporates music, technology and software.
Tory started leaning into his new technology company to make technology and music combine in a fresh and exciting way, Tory said.
He plans to continue to build his company, release a new album called Unicorn and write two books, one about his life experiences and the second one geared towards 6-year-olds learning how to code.
“I hope the book about my life story can be an inspiration for kids who look like me and can show them the different options,” Tory said.
“Life is a marathon. In Brockton, we tend to be very short-sighted. When we think about our life in terms of what we need to do by the end of high school, life is so much longer than that, and there’s such a bigger world about there. We need to pace ourselves better and be patient. You can have anything you want, but it’s going to take time,” Tory said.
“If you play the long game, you will have much more success.”
Enterprise Staff Reporter Alisha Saint-Ciel can be reached by email at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @alishaspeakss. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.