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SUN VALLEY : Rappers Ready to Spread God’s Word to Youth

With its reputation for hard-core, rage-laden messages, rap music may not seem a likely path to salvation.

But for Armando Portillo, a pastor at the Arleta Foursquare Church and a former gang member from East Los Angeles, Christian rap is one of the best ways to reach taggers and gangbangers who have fallen prey to the streets.

“The rap is hard, it’s something they can relate to,” Portillo said.

On Saturday, five local rap and hip-hop groups will rap about God in a Sun Valley parking lot, hoping to offer their listeners a way to turn their lives around.

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“You get tired of seeing the kids out on the street, just getting their lives messed up,” said Eddie “Brimstone” Sierra, a rapper with one of the groups, 12th Tribe, that will perform Saturday. “We are going to the kids that this world has forgotten, who have no hopes, no dreams and no visions.”

Sierra, 23, started 12th Tribe with some friends in San Fernando when he was just 14.

Like most of the rappers performing Saturday, as well as several guest speakers who will be there, Sierra grew up in a tough neighborhood and joined a gang before starting the group.

Portillo said what makes Christian rap so effective is that its messengers have lived the lives their audiences are living.

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“Some of the young men we have are ex-gang members who were heavy into drug dealing,” Portillo said. “The kids may not accept their message, but they respect it.”

Church members are getting ready for the concert by blaring Christian rap from the back of pickup trucks at well-known gang hangouts in the Valley and hand-carrying flyers announcing the concert door-to-door in the grittiest neighborhoods.

“What these people need is acceptance and compassion,” Portillo said. “That’s why the gangs are so successful. The gangs accept them as they are.”

The Saturday concert, which will also feature Lord Byron, Nubian Decree and Shabang, will begin at 6 p.m. at 8025 Wheatland Ave. in Sun Valley.

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Former notorious tagger Chaka and Pastor Jo Jo Sanchez, who is known for his motivational talks, will also speak.


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