Orange Lutheran's Joel Debus uses basketball to inspire his rap music

The senior starting guard for the Lancers credits his faith with turning his life around. His coach says he sets the tone on the team to play hard every night.

Through music, Joel Debus of Orange Lutheran tells stories of life as a teenager, its ups and downs, its triumphs and disappointments. He's a basketball player and rapper, and both skills make him feel energized, focused and unafraid to express himself.

"You know it's funny, how nothing can turn to something, how people can rise up, take a step back, get back up. . . .We're just broken people living a day at a time."

His lyrics speak about the challenges he has encountered and how faith changed his life.

"For me, it's a way to outlet emotion, outlet faith," he said. "I get to articulate life struggles, faith, battles. I get to talk about it through music."

"Homie, I'm trying to get up on this mike, tell you about my life, because too many rappers rapping about the chicks they bash while stacking cash, and I'm not seeing enough of the cats speak about life itself."

Debus said he struggled with "chasing women, chasing drinking." He said he had suicidal thoughts.

"I kept a good mask on myself," he said.

Then, on March 31, 2012, he said had "an encounter with God" and "was saved." He went to a church and found a pastor with a message that made an impact.

"Today I'm different because I met the Lord, and He changed my life," he said.

"I've put my past on blast because I no longer loved it. My actions won't always show it, but I know I'm forgiven living a new life."

Since fifth grade, he has played basketball and is a starting guard for the Lancers in his senior year.

"He's the guy who sets the tone what you have to do to play hard every night," Coach Chris Nordstrom said.

Debus uses basketball to help inspire his music.

"In basketball, I'm very aggressive," he said. "That's my nature, so the tenacity I play with in basketball I use to pour out with hip hop. The way I rap is how I play basketball."

His first album is due out in July. It will be called "Broken Glass" after the single he released last year.

"A lot of times Christians can get caught up in this mask that I had, where you have it all together," he said. "Everything we do is good but it's not. A lot of times, we need to break down the walls and barriers. Broken glass is like a picture hanging over our lives, broken and unbinding."

Debus usually can be found on the bus or in the bleachers wearing headphones and listening to music. He's always thinking about words and subjects that can be turned into a meaningful lyrics.

"People who know me say I'm different. I still struggle but my struggle is the key and I can't do it by myself because of a god who died on a tree who gave his life to me and I'm gone."

Debus is growing up and changing and turning into a whole different person, relying on basketball and music as inspiration.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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