He is an inspirational Christian rapper known for his ability to cross into the mainstream markets, as well as an actor. His music albums include: “Redeemed Hoodlum”, “Tha Life of a Hoodlum”, “Tha Hoodlum’s Testimony”, and Bone-A-Fide. His fourth album, “The Last Street Preacha”, was nominated for the Rock Gospel Album Grammy Award in 2000. It was the first rap album to debut at #7 on the Christian Contemporary Music charts. His film credits include, “The Fighting Temptations”, “All You’ve Got” and I’m In Love with a Church Girl.” He received three Grammy nominations in 2001, 2007, and 2008. He also won a Dove award in 2004 and 2008 along with 11 nominations from 1993 to 2004.
Growing up in San Francisco, drugs and gang life are the norm. As a young child, he wanted to stay away from that life. In an interview with CBN, he said, “Our icons and our people who we’re looking to are the pimps that got all the money. The drug dealers are the ones with the nice shoes and the jacket and the bling on. A lot of my fears growing up were about getting shot, getting stabbed. … Music was something that really kept me focused and kept my head straight, because I knew I didn’t want all that life.”
However, that mentality changed during his teenage years. Though his parents became Christians during this time and shared their faith with him, he wanted nothing to do with it. He said, “A lot of my friends were involved in the gang life and the drug dealing, and they were trying to pull me in. So I started hanging out with them. Eventually when you’re hanging out with them, when those are your buddies, their enemies become your enemies. …I didn’t want nothing to do with Him, because I felt He was a God that wanted to strip me of my joy, strip me of my happiness, strip me of my friends, strip me of, you know, this life – what I thought life was about.”
All of that changed when one of his close friends got shot and killed during a drive-by. He said, “I really began to search for God. Not because my parents told me to search for God, not because other people were telling me, but because I was really searching for God for myself.” When a guest speaker gave the invitation at his parents’ church one day, he said, “He made a call and said, ‘If you want to know who Christ is for yourself, come up the altar.’ I went up to the altar, and as soon as I went, man, I began to cry. The presence of God was there. The Holy Spirit hit me, and I said the sinner’s prayer.”
After his life changed, pretty soon, his music began to change as well. He said, “There’s thousands of kids that love God, all over the world, that probably come from this environment or that even maybe don’t come from this environment but they’re young and they want to listen to music that they can relate to. …I’ve seen thugs come to the Lord, prostitutes, police officers, soundmen, gang dudes take their gang rags and lay their gun and their colors at the altar. When you see those things, you know God is in it. …God wants [people] to know, ‘It’s okay that you’ve made all these mistakes. I forgive you and I love you and accept you the way you are.’ I’m just so thankful, because I’m a person that deserves hell. God has allowed me to live through all those things and He spared me for a reason. So my life is His. The reason I exist is Jesus. Like Paul said, ‘for to live is Christ, to die is gain.'”
His name is Rene Francisco Sotomayor, better known as T-Bone.