Many Christian rap artists are known more for the breadth of their content than the quality of their rhyme skills, but Latino West Coast MC T-Bone has been praised for both. As one of the early rappers within the subgenre, many of his peers could not match his rapid-tongue delivery and witty rhymes. Believing that "hip-hop is the language of the streets" and that "God is the language of love," he has been determined to win over people off the street and into the church through his rap music. His Nicaraguan father and Salvadoran mother, who were both pastors, raised him in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA. For many, that would mean a strong Christian upbringing, but as a youngster, T-Bone identified more with the street life and the tales of N.W.A and 2Pac. His moment of clarity from the dangerous life he was leading came after his best friend was killed in a drive-by.
Putting to use his rhyming skills as a part of his transformation was an easy decision. Starting in 1993 with Redeemed Hoodlum, he managed to release an album almost every other year, working exclusively with producers the L.A. Posse and Chase. With Christian rap still in its infancy, T-Bone's second album, Tha Life of a Hoodlum, in 1995 did receive some attention, charting in the Top 40 of Contemporary Christian albums, but it was not until his fifth full-length, The Last Street Preacha, in 2001 that he received more widespread praise. The album had some radio hits, placed in the Top 25 of Contemporary Christian albums, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. By this time, T-Bone had gained the respect of artists ranging from KRS-One to E-40 to Yolanda Adams, all people with whom he has collaborated. He also obtained a role as a rapping inmate in the 2003 film The Fighting Temptations, which starred Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Beyoncé. Having garnered more exposure, T-Bone decided to make more of a crossover attempt with his seventh LP. Bearing on the cover his best impersonation of Latin American socialist Che Guevara, 2005's Bone-a-Fide had him teaming up with several notable producers, including Louis "Buster" Brown of Buster & Shavoni (Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams), the Avila Brothers (Usher, Janet Jackson), and Fred and Rodney Jerkins (Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Lopez). The album was nominated for a Grammy and peaked at 25 for overall Christian albums. ~ Cyril Cordor