On a visit to the UK, rapper PATRICK DAVIS spoke at length to Tony Cummings
When the rapper from Cleveland, Ohio, Patrick Davis slipped into Britain in April and May this year to undertake a short UK tour few in the UK knew who he was. And such was the nature of the little publicised music and speaking engagements in UK churches arranged for Patrick that, in truth, that situation hasn't changed significantly. Yet not only has this gifted MC released three independent albums, 'To My Last Breath' (2004), 'The Death Of Innocence' (2009) and 'Every Tribe: The World Album' (2011), the latter featuring guest appearances from rappers and speakers as far away as Nigeria, Australia and India, but his darkness-into-light story needs to be heard. For God's power to rescue the sinner is brought into clear perspective in Patrick's powerful testimony.
When visiting the Cross Rhythms headquarters Patrick, in a crowded radio studio, held forth. "Cleveland has always been a really rough city. I grew up in one of the worst neighbourhoods, called Slavic Village. When I was about five or six years old, my father cheated on my mother. The way that she found out was he gave her a sexually transmitted disease. Then he just pretty much packed up and left, abandoned us and moved to the other side of the country to Colorado. There was five of us kids, I had three brothers and a sister. So from that point we were pretty much thrust into abject poverty. I grew up in the projects, grew up around violence and drugs."
When Patrick was 10 he and his brothers were sent to stay with their father in Colorado. But though it was an escape from Cleveland's urban jungle the children found no relief in the home of their father. Patrick recalled, "I had this picture in my mind of what my dad was going to be like - he was going to be this great guy. I didn't know him very well. When we got out there, me and my two older brothers pretty much just suffered horrific abuse for several years. One time my brother was smacked in the face with a dinner platter, so hard that my dad pretty much knocked his four front teeth out. And I'm witnessing this when I'm 10 years old. My dad tells him, 'Hey, I'll take you to the hospital, but if you tell 'em what I did I'll do it again.' I would come home and see him on top of my brother punching my brother in the face. Then, at one point, my other brother was sexually molested by one of my father's many girlfriends' son. My dad knew about it and never did anything. And so, the rage inside me just grew and grew and grew."
Back in Cleveland the teenage Davis turned to crime. "I got involved in heavy dealing of narcotics, stealing cars, strong-arm robbery. And when I was 16 I was arrested for aggravated kidnapping and five counts of robbery. Basically what happened was I owed a drug dealer between seven and 10 thousand dollars. I was dealing drugs. Today I tell people that God's a thief. Yeah, he stole my drugs. How the drug game works in Cleveland is that the dealer will front you. He gave me around seven thousand dollars worth of crack cocaine, and when you sell it you usually triple your profit. There was a specific place I kept my drugs, no one knew where it was at. I mean NO ONE. One day I go to look for the drugs and they're completely gone. So I owed this guy thousands of dollars and had no way of paying him. He wants to kill me. He drives past my house with assault rifles, pulls guns on me, runs me off the road, I could go on and on.
"I had two options in my mind. Either I could shoot him first, or get out of town. I had this idea, Hey, I'll just take a gun, I'll rob somebody really quick, get on the bus, get out of town. I wasn't ready to kill somebody. Unfortunately, no one has money in my neighbourhood. So, I'm robbing all these people and they're pulling lint out of their pockets. It just turned into a mess. Eventually I ended up robbing a guy, and other people got involved. They were held against their will. I got arrested. So at 16 I was facing five counts of kidnapping and aggravated robbery. I was facing 45 years in the penitentiary. I'm thinking, I'm 16 and my life's over, I'm never going to get out of jail. I did the math one time and I would have been 63 or 64 years old when I got out of prison. So I'm sitting there, freaking out, when a correction officer came into my cell and said, 'Hey, I got some bad news for you.' I thought it was some kind of sick joke, you know. 'Bad news! What do you mean dude? My life's over, how could it get any worse?' But unfortunately, it could. He told me that my brother Larry, who was the one I played baseball with, he was the one who came to my games, he was the one that tried to do the right thing in life and tried to guide me in the right path; he had gone to a nightclub the night before and got in an argument with a guy. The guy pulled out a knife and stabbed him eight times. Larry bled to death. My best friend was with him but didn't realize what happened. He went to help Larry. He didn't know the guy had a knife and the guy stabbed him too. My friend is blind and paralyzed to this day. When I heard all this I just freaked out. I started like fighting everybody, started swinging at everybody, fighting all the guards. They strip all my clothes off, naked, put me in solitary confinement. So basically I'm sitting in this tiny room the size of a closet, nothing but concrete, no mattress, freaking out."
The tragedy of losing his brother was subsequently to be compounded when the family of the young man responsible for the stabbing spent close to a million dollars in legal fees for his defence. Said Davis, "The guy's defence said my brother and his friends had surrounded him and were beating him over the head with bottles, and it was self-defence. Even though there was no evidence supporting that. If you have five people from my hood beating you over the head with bottles, your head is going to be split open bad. He didn't have one mark on his head, no evidence. In fact they found out later that he was trained in martial arts and with knives. But they found him not guilty! To top it off the guy's a police officer now. I felt absolute rage, a combination of just rage and despair. I didn't want to live, I wanted to take my own life."
In a torment of rage and despair Patrick sat for hours in his cell turning over how his young life had turned out. Slowly, his thoughts began to go beyond himself. He said, "I think every human being, if you're truly honest with yourself, you know that there's something bigger. Like, you may not know the details and all the fine print, but like, I always had that sense, even when I was dealing drugs, I always thought, man, there's something bigger, I don't know what it is, I can't figure it out, but there's something, I feel something. So as I'm sitting in that cell at one point I began to hear this voice in my head. It wasn't like it was an audible voice, but it was like that voice when you're a kid and you're about to do something bad and you know you shouldn't do it and you feel, oh I shouldn't do that. Sometimes you'll see this on TV, the little angel, the little devil, I don't know, people describe this in many different ways. Anyway, I began to hear this voice, and the voice said to me, 'I love you.' And, you know, the way that I grew up, the environment that I grew up in, those were not words that are heard often.
"It was the middle of winter and I remember being on my knees, not praying, just like, broken. Then it felt like somebody put an electric blanket on my shoulders and was hugging me. For a moment I thought somebody snucked into my cell. But there was no one there. And that's when I began to hear that voice even more. When I heard those words 'I love you' it wasn't like in the way that I heard it in the world, like, 'I'll love you if you behave this way, if you act this way, you live the way that I think you should live or if you're the person that I think you should be, then I'll love you.' It was like, 'Hey dude, I see everything you are. I see everything you've done, not just what you got arrested for; I see your thoughts, I see every word you ever spoke.' I had this sense like this voice in some weird way knew me, like he had opened me up and saw everything and still loved me. That just blew my mind, blew my mind. I knew it was Jesus. I just knew it. I had no church background, I didn't have some preacher come in there and say 'Hey man, you need the Lord Jesus Christ.' It was nothing like that."
As Patrick explained he "went through things in reverse," ie, an experience of God before repentance. But after his encounter with the living God repentance soon followed. "I acknowledged who I was, 'Hey, this is who I am, I've rebelled against you, I've rebelled against, the way that you made me, I've caused destruction in my life.' And I repented. I said, 'Jesus, I know you're real,' and I said, and I'll never forget this, I said it and I meant it, 'even if I do 45 years, I know that's your will and I'll serve you and follow you.' So from that point, that's when I started reading Scripture. I started studying Scripture in there. It was weird, it just started talking to me. With no counsel, no preacher, no Bible study, and that amazing book, man! I tell people all the time, I think the Bible reads you."
Three months after his dramatic conversion Patrick's case finally came to court. Said Davis, "I knew in my mind that I was gonna go in there and be honest, because this is what I've done, I deserve to be here, whatever the sentence I'll do it. I was going to apologize to the victims, 'cause the victims were there too, that was very, very difficult. But I read 1 John that morning, before I went to court, that verse, 'If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.' And I just felt, again, that voice say to me, 'Hey, I have this taken care of.' Now the way the law works in America, even as a juvenile, you can be 10, 11, 12 years old, if you commit a violent crime with a gun, murder, anything like that, robbery, they will send you to the adult prison and charge you as an adult. And so, what was going to happen at this court case was that I was going to go in there, they were going to deem me a violent aggressive offender, and then, they call it 'bond over', they were going to transfer me over to the adult system to be sentenced.
"And so I walk in there and I had the most strict judge for these kind of crimes. She had a reputation. I had already been locked up before, I had escaped from prison, I had violated parole. And so, she says at the end of the court case, she said, 'I don't know why I'm doing this, but we're going to keep you in the juvenile system.' What that meant was the longest stay I could expect was 'till I was 21, which would be four years. Which was an absolute miracle! When I got back to the cell block they thought I was crazy, like I'm dancing, I'm doing the Mohawk, the Running Man, whatever, doing The Worm on the ground. They think I'm crazy! 'You got four years, you're happy?' But what I had been facing was 45 years. It was just monumental."
Over those next four years Patrick became a passionate Bible student. He also began to write gospel raps. He recalled, "The first song I did was in jail before a bunch of inmates." On his release Patrick went to live in Colorado. He said, "The city I ended up in was Littleton, Colorado. This was in 1999. If you know anything about Littleton, Colorado, this was where the Columbine High School shooting happened, in 1999. The first concert I ever played was outside Columbine High School, two weeks before that shooting happened. Some of the kids that died were there. So, it's kind of crazy, this path my life has taken. The shooting reminded me that you don't have to be in the 'hood to experience some pretty messed up stuff. I mean, if you know anything about Littleton, it's a middle-class, upper-middle class, Caucasian, 'safe' for the whole family kind of place, and this would not be the place you would expect that to happen. And not only that dangerous stuff can happen, but people everywhere are hurting."
Back in Cleveland Patrick met a young lady, Jacqueline, who was to become his wife. Today, as a speaker and rapper, Patrick takes every opportunity he can to tell others about the new life he has found in Christ. In many ways Patrick may be a long way from the Dove and Grammy Award winning gospel rappers but the prisoner-turned-emcee is a strikingly powerful communicator of Gospel truth. Many of Patrick's concerts are in US prisons. At the close of our interview he commented, "I don't buy into the idea that I'm taking God to those in prison. God is already there with them, they're just not aware of it. And I feel part of my mission is to help them realise the God that's already in their midst. I believe God's in prison. I have experienced God's presence in prison, and in bars, in shady places with shady people. Now I'm not saying that God isn't moving in church. I'm in the process of planting a church in Cleveland. I believe in the idea of church. But I don't think God's presence is just restricted to church. I don't think we've cornered the market on him. God's presence is everywhere."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.