From streets to service, rapper changes his verse

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

“It’s not easy growing up in the hood. In fact, most people are lucky to make it out alive.”

For Staff Sgt. Stanley “Tyrone” Crawford, 460th Space Communications Squadron client systems technician, this quote from him defines his life all too well. Growing up in urban Cleveland, he spent his childhood surrounded by violent crimes and drugs.

“My neighborhood was rough,” said Crawford. “There were constantly fights, both in the streets and at school. Then, you have someone selling drugs almost everywhere you go.”

It might be different if these actions were only occurring in the streets, but for Crawford, it was everywhere. There was no escape; he lived in a single-parent household with his mother, who was selling and using drugs. Even at home, there was no respite from the streets.

“I can remember so many times when the police would come kick our door in looking for drugs, money or anything else they could find,” said the Cleveland native.

By middle school, Crawford had become a product of his environment. The lifestyle of his idols quickly became his own. Idols such as Tupac and Biggie Smalls inspired him to pursue a career in rap music.

So, 11 year old Tyrone pulled out his old, junky karaoke machine, and begin to spit … hot garbage.

“I was terrible,” said Crawford. “My friends were decent at rapping, but I quickly discovered that I was going to be the one to make the beats.”

These pre-teen rappers attempted to replicate the lyrics in the songs they loved. Fitting for his lifestyle, these lyrics were made up of foul language, degrading women and promoting violence and drugs. These actions would later become more than words in a microphone.

“These lyrics become reality”, said Tyrone. “When I felt angry, I began acting out the violence portrayed in my music.”

His musical hobby continued throughout high school. As he grew, so did the intensity of his music; which meant the intensity of his actions followed. So much so, that at 18 years old, Crawford was prepared to take an action that would forever change his life.

I was actually getting ready to go shoot someone, recalled Tyrone.

The very night this shooting was going to take place, Crawford was handed a second chance at life.

“My cousin called me right before I was about to leave,” said Tyrone. “I picked up the phone and she invited me to attend some sort of event occurring at her church.”

Completely uninterested in going, he still agreed to show up as long as he was able to bring a friend with him. With approval to bring whoever he wanted, Tyrone and his friend headed to church.

They agreed the original plan was not called off, but simply delayed until after this event.

“I walk in and they’re playing this movie called ‘The Truth behind Hip Hop’” said the Cleveland native. “Man, by the end of that night, that movie changed my entire life.”

The movie, which explains the spiritual and religious influences behind the music, seemed to really hit home with Crawford; it caused him to realize that the music he was not only listening to, and making, was a direct correlation to his behavior.

“That movie really saved me,” said Crawford. “If I didn’t answer the phone that night, I wouldn’t be here right now. It motivated me to spend the next five months studying the New Testament, and I knew God was telling me to take my music and focus it on him. So, that’s what I did.”

At 18 years old, Crawford began making positive music, but he decided to do the same with all aspects of his life. In fact, the college dropout channeled his sudden flow of motivation and headed back to complete his education.

“I had a terrible grade point average when I left,” said Crawford. “I wasn’t the greatest student, but I went back and did what I had to in order to finish.”

Following the completion of school, he began searching for a job. In August of 2006, Crawford found himself enlisting into the Air Force.

Now, a decade later, Crawford lives a life opposite of his childhood. Tyrone now moves forward using the lessons he learned to prevent his past from affecting either himself or his family.

“I would say that his past has definitely allowed him to experience the kind of parent he does not want to be,” stated Bridget Crawford, Tyrone’s wife. “Sometimes trials either break or make us, and for my husband, he allowed his past to make him into a supportive, interactive, loving, involved husband and father.”

However, leading his family in the right direction isn’t his only goal; the Air Force NCO continues to produce music in hopes of helping any listener who might be struggling with the same life he once lived.

When I make music, my only goal is to build a connection with my listeners and show that it’s possible to make a life change, said Crawford.

Crawford’s music has been heard all over the United States, from his live performances to his online downloads.

“His music has touched so many people,” stated his wife. “A few months ago we received an email from someone who decided to walk away from the drug and gang life and said that “NGB” has been a big influence in his life. “NGB” is one of my husband's songs that means never going back to a life void of Jesus.”

Hearing the stories of lives his music affects seems to make the countless hours, both in the studio and on the road, well worth it.

“I love being able to share my stories through music,” said Crawford. “I plan on continuing to make music and touring for as long as I can, while still putting the Air Force and my family as a priority.”