Face of Defense: Soldier’s Music Carries Positive Messages
By Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, July 7, 2008 He has the fast-flowing lips of a rap artist whose lyrics don’t stumble. His songs tell stories instead of just describing hanging emotions. He rhymes with passion and recites his own words as if he were creating them on the spot.
Army Master Sgt. Isaac Alexis of Houston performs “We Gotta Go,” a song about soldiers leaving their homes to serve in Iraq, during an open-mic night at Camp Liberty, Iraq, June 8, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Michel Sauret, Multinational Division Center
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“You know, I like to tell stories with my music, that’s the thing,” Army Master Sgt. Isaac Alexis, a Houston native, said. “Stories will capture people. … Songs work best when there’s something that falls in a role that people can see in, something that people can relate to, … because then they know somebody went through what they went through.”
On stage, Alexis goes by Abcd, pronounced “Absidy.” The letters stand for Ambitious Behavior, Confident and Disciplined -- characteristics Alexis said he values and shows when performing his music.
Around Camp Victory and Camp Liberty, Alexis attends and even hosts open-mic events and contests at Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers. His main goal through music, he said, is to tell stories that make people want to rethink and improve their lives. He said he understands that rap music often evokes values that aren’t constructive, but that he wants his lyrics to evoke more than fame, sex or violence.
“If you really want to get something across to people, music is the way to make it happen,” he said. “A lot of my songs are positive, … trying to make change in someone’s life.”
His music promotes ideas such as taking care of one’s spouse, maintaining a commitment to service, discouraging youth from joining gangs and becoming involved in the church, among others.
His first album is titled, “Soldier for Life.” He said he’s served in the Army for 18 years and feels as if his whole life revolves around being a soldier. He served as a drill sergeant in Fort Knox, Ky., as an instructor at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, as a gunner and as a team leader. He has been stationed in Hawaii and South Korea, and at Fort Campbell, Ky., Fort Benning, Ga., and Fort Drum, N.Y.
Now is on his third deployment, Alexis leads troops as the noncommissioned officer in charge of Team Hunter under Task Force Vigilant, a unit that conducts presence patrols around Camp Victory. His team also secures and manages an entry control point with Ugandan soldiers.
“Here, you see soldiers who work hard all the time,” Alexis said. “It’s the reason why we’re here.”
Alexis has been writing music since he was a private in the early 1990s, he said, but it was during his second deployment, from 2004 to 2005, that he realized his music touched people. After his performances at MWR events, Alexis had audience members come to him and tell him how much his lyrics touched them. He’s even seen people cry during his performance of “We Gotta Go,” a song about soldiers leaving their homes to serve in Iraq.
“That’s an emotional song for people,” he said. “When I performed that song, [other musicians] moved closer to the stage, and when I got done, there was a whole line of performers up there who hugged me on the way out.”
Those types of reactions, Alexis said, make him realize his music has more than volume; it has impact.
Following his second deployment, Alexis taught at the New Mexico Military Institute and would visit local middle schools to give inspirational speeches and perform songs to kids in danger of being swallowed up by gangs. With a song titled “Think on Your Own,” he encouraged the youth to rethink their commitment to violence. There, he saw former gang members attend the church where Alexis worshiped with his wife, Darla, who sings gospel music.
“Definitely powerful,” he said about the experience. “I’m not going to give myself credit for that. You know, it was the Lord, since he pretty much guided me to do everything I did. To see them actually get out of the gang and get a job and try to live right, … that’s great. And that’s what I wanted to see.”
Since then, Alexis wrote songs and performed for special events such as boxing matches and redeployment ceremonies. He organized concerts, performed for cadets at the military institute, sang at a city council meeting, helped his church reach out to his community, opened for rap artist Lil’ Flip, and organized other music events. He said he’s even sold more than 3,000 CDs on his own, out of the back of his truck.
During this deployment, he said, he hopes to revise about 30 of his songs and compile at least one more CD. He also has shifted some of his music toward gospel singing because of rap music’s image. Most importantly, he’s made a commitment to writing clean lyrics to keep his messages pure.
“It’s definitely for people’s entertainment, but at the same time, [audiences] are getting messages that can have an influence on their life.”
(Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret serves in the Multinational Division Center Public Affairs Office.)