THESE YOUNG RAPPERS HAVE A MISSION.
RESEDA - Three years after turning their backs on their teen street gangs to become born-again Christians, Eric Crowder and Jahmy Graham are on a mission to save other young people from destructive lifestyles.
Forming a gospel rap group, Catch 2, the two began a ministry combining cautionary stories from their past with Jesus' message of hope.
``I would be in prison or in the grave if I wasn't born-again,'' said Graham, a Northridge resident. ``It goes to God's credit that Eric and I weren't killed to get out of the gang we were in.''
Graham, 19, and Crowder, 20, have known each other since the third grade. They joined the same gang on the same day and subsequently led a wild life on the streets.
``I don't mind testifying about my past. It's what the Lord took us from,'' said Crowder, a Winnetka resident. ``I was hanging with the wrong crowd when I was 10 or 11. I was snatching purses, selling dope, being shot at.
``Jahmy and I did ungodly things under the sun,'' he said. ``But God can change you.''
When others had talked about God, Crowder listened, even when he was in the gang, but it took awhile for him to decide to change. It took Michael Gree, a member of Bethany Community Church Outreach, to ``enlighten my eyes,'' Crowder said.
``He walked up to me in front of my building and asked, 'Hey, man, do you know Jesus?' Every question I asked, he answered,'' said Crowder.
Months later, the best friends were surprised to find themselves walking into Bethany Community Church Outreach, each invited by someone different.
``I think it was divinely ordained. God orchestrated it,'' said Crowder. ``People were talking about the peace that they had found and how God had been good to them. People were greeting me - something I wasn't used to.''
``I walked down to the altar during that testimony service. Tears were coming down from my eyes. I was kind of scared but I felt comfortable. I was born again of the water and the spirit that day. That's how I was saved. Jahmy got saved on the same day, too.''
Crowder and Graham joined the church, then based in North Hills, and soon approached their pastor, the Rev. Robert Johnson, with the dream of rapping for Jesus. Johnson was very skeptical about their idea.
``I really didn't believe in gospel rap. They asked me if they could do a CD. I said, well, let me see what y'all got,'' said the Memphis-born Johnson. ``They rapped a song to me over the phone. Then they came to my house a few days before my birthday and rapped. It was beautiful.
``I told them the spirit of the Lord moved me when I was listening to them.''
Johnson's hesitancy, Graham pointed out, was because of the bad reputation associated with secular rap artists.
``Our message is different. We're not putting women down or talking about violence. We're talking about love and hope,'' said Graham. ``We're lifting people up and telling people there is a hope.''
Catch 2 has garnered a fan base both with the under-25 crowd and with mothers and grandmothers who like their understandable lyrics and clean-cut image. The young men's self-titled and -penned CD, Catch 2, was released in July.
Johnson acknowledges the music business is a hard industry to crack into but said he believes Crowder's and Graham's sincerity and excitement will bring success to their rap ministry.
``I've told them always to show love of God and he will see you through. God is for young people, too,'' Johnson said. ``I've also told them, what you're doing is not only for yourselves but to help others. I know God's got his hand on them.''
Catch 2 will perform on stage at 1:30 p.m. today following the annual Watts Christmas Parade at Earvin Magic Johnson Recreation Area lake, 905 E. El Segundo Blvd., Los Angeles. Bethany Community Church Outreach, temporarily meets at 18343 Sherman Way, Suite 202, Reseda. Call (818) 705-9255 or check www.catch2.com
Jahmy Graham, left, and Eric Crowder of Bethany Community Church Outreach in Reseda use gospel rap music to save kids from gangs. Their rap group, Catch 2, will perform in L.A. today.
Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 7, 2002|
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