The Last Street Preacha
Flicker Records

T-bone would be one scary hulk of a man to encounter in an urban alley. And if his lyrics and West Coast rap sound are proof, T-Bone has street cred; he not only sings about living the thug life but could also live it again—if not for God's transforming grace.

T-Bone grew up in the tough Mission District of San Francisco, and he spent some years hanging out with Latino gangs. But today he mixes ominous drum rolls, desolate bells that sound like the Grim Reaper at the front door, and a flood of couplet rhymes and urban slang. "Yo, Chase," he raps to his producer as the album begins, "put some of that stank on this record, man, let 'em know where we came from, playa."

As with other CCM singers, T-Bone sometimes echoes prevailing musical styles while shaping a credible sound for his intended audience. This leads to some cringe-inducing choices, such as a woman moaning "Ay Papi" to her pimp, and a background singer belching as T-Bone describes "getting drunk in the Spirit on a day-to-day basis." Taken in isolation, T-Bone's lyrics on a few different songs make the Holy Spirit sound merely like a supernatural narcotic.

Still, the bulk of The Last Street Preacha suggests that T-Bone is a well-intentioned youth evangelist who can be forgiven the lingering rough edges of his self-expression.

What makes T-Bone most fascinating is his effort to translate rap's machismo into the typically softer genre of gospel music. Usually this means aiming his swaggering threats at demons rather than at rival gangs. He refers to "putting demons in coffins," dealing with "demons trying to settle the score" and feeling no fear about "slitting the devil's throat with a switchblade."

On "Street Preacha" he boasts ...

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