Terrell Bryant got his stage name, Nakuu, from his father, Jason.

Jason is a member of the funk outfit The SOS Band. Terrell was talking to his dad, who was on tour in Japan, when they overheard someone say "Nakuu." They didn't know what it meant, but it stuck as a nickname.

Terrell's dad isn't his only musical inspiration. His mom, Carmen, and siblings love music, too.

"I've been singing my whole life," said Terrell, who's a freshman at William Penn Senior High School.

He started performing in church and joined his grade school choir. He learned to play the piano and rap. In seventh grade, he started writing music - mainly love songs and dance tunes. He counted Usher and T-Pain as his biggest influences, but didn't start thinking about his own music career until recently.

His mom showed him an online ad for the Are You the Next Teen Superstar competition, sponsored by New York City radio station WQHT-FM (Hot 97). He decided to give it a shot.

"This was my first time in any competition," he said. "I only performed twice before this."

In the fall, Terrell and Carmen traveled to New York for three rounds of competition. Singers were divided into groups. They sat together and listened to each other perform. They all wished each other good luck.

"Nobody was putting anybody down," Terrell said. "I would just say, 'Let's just go and get it over with.'"

When his turn came, he was nervous. He hoped the judges, who worked at the radio station and in the music industry, didn't tear him apart. He was surprised when the only criticism they had was that his eyes were closed.

"When I first started singing, I would always close my eyes," he said. "I felt like I was the only one, so it would be easier to sing."

At the end of the day, judges selected the top three performers to continue to the next round.

Earlier this month, Terrell learned he was one of five finalists.

"It was so surprising because it was a tough competition," he said. "I thought I did a good job, but there (were) a lot of good people. I was the youngest there. I was just amazed that I made it."

Terrell is scheduled to go into the studio to work with producer Sean Garrett soon. After that, judges will select a winner, who will receive a recording contract.

The experience motivated Terrell to write more music and share his voice.

He sang for the crowd at I Will Graduate Day in New York City. A few days after that, he tried out for "America's Got Talent" in Washington, D.C.

He even enlisted schoolmates Naquan Coakley and Derek Brown-Middleton to krump to his music as backup dancers. With the help of his mom, he hopes to create an I Will Graduate scholarship fund at William Penn Senior High School.

Terrell said he's now ready to take the spotlight.

"I see myself making a lot of money and giving back to the community and making people happy through the power of music," he said. "In a couple of years, I'm going to be producing music, too."

- Erin McCracken,
FlipSide staff

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