BEATING VIOLENCE WITH A BEAT

Albany youths transform feelings, experiences into music, song and poetry

TOM KEYSER STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: C1

Date: Sunday, November 23, 2008

ALBANY --The car with tinted windows slowed to a stop next to Tyler Rhodes, a ninth grader at Albany High School. Walking alone on Southern Boulevard shortly before midnight, he feared he was about to become a drive-by shooting victim.


The car suddenly sped up, did a U-turn and then, on the other side of the street, shots erupted from one of its windows. "Pop, pop, pop!" Tyler said. "All I heard was that car screeching away and people over there screaming."


No one was hit, but that jolt of terrifying violence provided the backbeat for Tyler's rap Saturday at an anti-violence presentation at the Palace Theatre called "More Rhymes, Less Crimes." Tyler was one of 14 Albany County students who rapped, sang or read poems decrying the shootings, condemning the killings and proclaiming that enough is enough.


Standing in a spotlight on stage in front of about 100 people, Tyler rapped:


... shall we explore what horrible tragedies happened to unsuspecting families when their loved ones die in the crossfire by the murders cold eyes why must parents keep cryin' at the sky and askin' god why ...


As part of its ENOUGH campaign to get guns off the streets, the Albany County District Attorney's office teamed with Jams 96.3, the hip-hop radio station, to organize the show and provide for the 14 performers to record their rhymes on a CD. The CD will eventually be available to the public, and the radio station will play the recordings.


When Tyler heard about "More Rhymes, Less Crimes" while listening to Jams 96.3, he knew immediately that he wanted to participate. He's a showman.


"I be rapping sometimes, and I be dancing in the street, making people laugh, making them smile," Tyler said. "When I heard I could be on a CD, I said, 'What am I doing wasting my time rapping on the street when I can do this?' "


Tyler rapped about the 10-year-old West Hill girl shot and killed in May :


They were two years in Albany when lil Kathina Thomas jumpin' rope all on her own gets shot in the back by a stray she feels the strength go away but goes to her mama and says 'I got shot' and then she drops on the stairs now the mama's scared cryin' cryin' some more asking god tell me why'd you have to take my lil girl's life at the age of 10 ...


Third- to 11th-graders performed for six judges from the community who selected winners for lyrics, message and performance. Tyler was a winner for message. He and the other winners received an Albany County District Attorney medallion on a ribbon that Big Ray, Jams 96.3 morning-show host and emcee of the show, hung around their neck.


Tyler's mother, Stacey, beamed. She said that Tyler is a good kid who can make you laugh even on your worst day.


"Not every kid in Albany is bad," she said. "They get labeled. They get stereotyped. And a lot of this stuff going on is not the kids' fault anyway. It's going on in the homes. It all starts there."


And Tyler rapped:


Albany a place I call home and every street I'd roam but now the very same city that raised me is tryin' to consume me too enough is enough ... Stop the crime lil ones it's your time to shine keep your heads in the books and don't waste time with the Capital Region's crimes cause you know your mama didn't raise no fool so keep it true no more glocks berettas pistols or nines enough is enough with this crime.


His mother hadn't heard her son's rap until they were driving to the Palace. When she heard it from the youngster who can always make her laugh, she cried.


Why?


"Because it's so true," she said.


Tom Keyser can be reached at 454-5448 or by e-mail at tkeyser@timesunion.com.