When Fifty Cent rapped about dealing drugs and surviving a hail of bullets, he had credibility. The Game claims his from having 'banged with the Bloods during a Compton upbringing. So you'd think dealing drugs and a federal penitentiary stay would confer industry advantages to a 30-year-old West Palm Beach rapper named Edwin Camacho.
Or to put it another way: That hard time had better be worth something, because it sure isn't helping Camacho keep a job.
"The system is really messed up," says Camacho. "You've got a guy who was in prison for drug dealing but he wants to get his life right - and you won't let him get a job? It's going to drive him to do harm."
Camacho started dealing drugs when he was a teeneager, living near Cleveland, Ohio. Cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, mushrooms and whatever else had a street value. He was busted in 1998, at the age of 17.
A man he met at Lima Correctional Institution in Ohio persuaded Camacho to read the Bible. With four years to kill, he gave the book a whirl, and soon Camacho was born again.
Not long after his release in 2001, Camacho left the Midwest. "All those years doing things the wrong way, you accumulate the wrong friends," he says. "And those people won't respect your change. You have to find people who believe in your new life."
Camacho found them in the north Tampa suburb of Carrollwood -- or at least he thought he did.
Having been hired by a staffing firm called Construct Corps, and doing the occasional hip-hop show on the side, Camacho was made the subject of a feature story in the June 28, 2008 edition of the St. Petersburg Times. The headline told of how Camacho had gone "from chaos to Christianity."
The day after publication, Camach says the company fired him. The company said it wasn't because of the criminal record, which Camacho says he detailed in his job application, but given the timing, there's little doubt in Camacho's mind.
A few months later, Camacho found another job at a temp company in West Palm. It was so eager to hire Camacho - who boasted a perfect attendance record and rave reviews from supervisors - that it paid to move him across the state. In late December, the Times tracked Camacho down again and published an article about how the bad-guy-turned good had landed work in West Palm.
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Again, Camacho was pulled into his boss' office. This time, it was called a layoff, but Camacho suspects otherwise. He hadn't even been here long enough to start looking for gigs as Godsent the General.
Asked whether he'd stay in the region, Camacho says, "God has me here for a purpose. He didn't send me here to play with my emotions, so I'm going to stick it out." The only way to keep a job, Camacho reasoned, was to start his own company, which he calls All-Purpose Staffing. Until he gets that off the ground, he won't have the money to cut his next two records as Godsent the General. Sample tracks, however, are available on his alter ego's MySpace page, (They were good enough to overcome my admittedly powerful bias against modern gospel music.)
There's an authenticity to Camacho's music, more so after his recent hardships. And the name is the only militant aspect of the music - unlike other gospel acts, Godsent tracks aren't bogged down by message. "I wouldn't call myself a gospel rapper," he says. "I'm just rapping about what happened in my life, and I rap about God because God is part of my story."
Camacho's looking for gigs. If you can help him, email him here.