By Michael Ashcraft —
His best friend was lying twitching on the grass, dying as a result of two bullets fired in a drive-by shooting. His last words: “Just tell everybody to wear red at my funeral.”
As Ralphie slipped into eternity without Jesus, T-Bone decided to “flip” to his parents’ side. The son of pastors in the Mission District of San Francisco, T-Bone lived a double life: he carried his Bible to church on Sunday and a knife in his pocket every other day as a Blood gangster.
“I was raised amongst the gangs, drug dealers and pimps,” T-Bone told CBN. “I was left for dead. I had 15 gang members break into my spot at three in the morning and try to kill me. I know what it’s like to have a gun drawn on me, what it’s like to deal with some stuff and jump folks.”
Today T-Bone is one of the longest-standing Christian Hip Hop artists, but when Rene Francisco Sotomayor was born to a Nicaraguan dad and Salvadoran mother who together pastored a church, he wasn’t particularly moved to serve God.
What drew him was the flash and danger of the streets glamorized by shock rap like N.W.A., Public Enemy and 2Pac. He was skinny, hence nicknamed “Bones,” and started with clubs and house parties but progressed to anger and violence. He rapped from age seven.
Almost getting killed himself was not enough for him to choose the undivided life of serving Jesus. But his buddy’s death brought him to a crossroads.
“What did he die for? For this ignorant color?” he asked.
When a guest speaker at his parents’ church urged listeners to accept Jesus, young T-Bone went to the altar.
“As soon as I went, I began to cry. The presence of God was there,” he told CBN. “The Holy Spirit hit me. I said the sinner’s prayer. And that’s when I became what I named my first album: a redeemed hoodlum.”
He was already performing. He just changed his lyrics.
“I’ve seen thugs come to the Lord, prostitutes, police officers,” he says. “I’ve seen gang dudes take their gang rags and lay their guns and their colors at the altar. When you see those kinds of things, you know that God is in it.”
He started releasing Christian rap albums in 1993, making him one of the earliest pioneers of the subgenre. T-Bone has released 11 albums. Much of his music draws on his early years in the streets and isn’t appropriate for sheltered underage kids. He talks about electrocuting demons and spraying them with machine gun fire.
With a booming voice, the San Francisco native combines a heavy base beat and Latin music to produce some of the most appealing Christian rap out there. He has transcended genres, including salsa, cumbia, merengue, reggaeton and bachata. Some of his songs are half Spanish and others are 100% Spanish. He includes praise, worship and humor.
T-Bone has collaborated with Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Marcos Witt and a slew of secular rappers, whom he tries to pull into the Kingdom.
T-Bone has been nominated for three Grammys and won two Dove Awards. He performs around the world and has been in movies and T.V. shows.
“I’m just so thankful because I’m a person who deserved Hell,” T-Bone declared. “And he’s taken me and made me deserving of Heaven. God spared me from all those things for a reason. My life is His. The reason I exist is Jesus.”
To continue to shine light for the Gospel, Michael Ashcraft sells bamboo steamers on Amazon to keep the lights on.