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‘Charm City Kings’ star Chino Braxton gets real about bike life

He discusses bike life culture, his journey to the big screen and what keeps him inspired

Professional dirt bike rider Chino Braxton plays the lead in Charm City Kings, a bike life drama executively produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The film debuted at the Sundance Festival earlier this year.

The unforgettable journey of the infamous dirt bike group is a story Braxton knows all too well. After riding alongside the real 12 O’Clock Boys, Braxton got his start on YouTube with bike stunts that attracted more than 10 million views. His stunts helped place Baltimore’s unique bike riding style on the map with partnerships with Meek Mill and brand deals ushered by Roc Nation’s sports division.

Bike life culture has been criticized as dangerous and illegitimate, but Braxton and others are working to transform the sport into an official league. Separate from motocross, dirt bike riding for young men in urban communities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, New York, result in criminal charges for the illegal use of dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles on city streets.

“Over time we’re going to build the league out to become a sport, and kids are going to be able to start making a living off of the way we ride dirt bikes and not only motocross sport,” Braxton said.

Today, Braxton is one of the pioneers leading the movement to create a sport for bike riders like him to thrive. With Meek Mill as his mentor, he turned a series of tragic events into an innovative and lucrative brand. The Undefeated caught up with Braxton to discuss bike life culture, his journey to the big screen and what keeps him inspired.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you get into dirt bike culture in Baltimore?

I was looking up to a guy, his name was Lift, and he was the nicest guy in the city on dirt bikes. That’s who I wanted to be like, and as I got older, I started riding more, started riding with the 12 O’Clock Boys and riding with him. He started showing me what I needed to do to start wheeling how I wanted to, and I took that and I just got better over time. I was actually self-taught, but I had information that was given to me to help me. Nobody took me on a field. I learned by riding in the city or watching people ride and giving me tips.

How has the transition been from launching your own sports brand as a bike rider to starring in a feature film?

It felt great for me to play in the movie because I was home and I was in my own element. I was just so happy to play in that movie because of the storyline behind it. Other kids from other cities will see what we go through and take something from that. I think it just sends a message to never give up and just focus on wherever you’re determined to get to in life.

What keeps you inspired?

There are a lot of things that keep me going. I’ve been through some tragic stuff in my life. I’m not sure if many people know, but I’ve got shot in the head. That was a tragic situation in my life.

That’s a life-changing situation.

Gun violence coming from where I come from, we’ve become so immune to it. We treat it like it’s nothing, when really it’s, like, a serious thing. Coming from where we come, it just happens all day, every day, so it’s regular to us, but something like that should never be regular to us. For a while, after it happened, I couldn’t — like, when I’d be in the car sometimes, I’d jump when I get to a light. That just comes with being in those situations, but I got over it. It made me move differently and know that I’m here for a reason and focus more on my career.

How was it working with like Jada Pinkett Smith, someone who is respected in the film space, but can also personally understand the communal trauma of a place like Baltimore?

It was great being a part of the movie, and just her having me a part. I know she knows about Baltimore, and she could’ve been someone that just bought the story and put a bunch of major actors in it that she has access to. But she kept the story as authentic as possible, and got some people from Baltimore. I think that was a great thing, because it could’ve gone another way.

Ericka Claudio is a writer and strategist based in Los Angeles, CA. She is passionate about culture, politics and baby hairs.