Angel Chairez, 26, admits he was a bad kid. He used to go to school wearing headphones, blast his music and breeze through the day, not caring about anything.
Chairez hit a low point in 2005 and from there managed to turn his life around. People from his church, Crossroads Restoration Church in West Chicago, visited him during his two-week stay in a mental health facility and helped him see that he wanted to make a change.
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Chairez grew up going to Crossroads Restoration Church, but drifted away from religion in his teens. After 2005 he started going back and watched as good things started to fall into place for him.
"Since then, I decided to try to do the same thing for other people because it was a great help for me," Chairez said. "Sometimes it takes other people to get people going in the right direction."
The Elgin man didn't leave behind the rap and hip hop that helped him ignore teachers during his school years, but he did find new musicians to idolize. Chairez started writing music in eighth grade and in the last few years has started to incorporate themes about God, religion and change.
He admires Lecrae, Sho Baraka and T-Bone as other Christian rappers and hip hop artists. He hopes young people will look up to him one day and preference his Christian lyrics over the sex, drugs and violence dominating mainstream hip hop.
Chairez works with a revolving group of other songwriters and artists to record low-budget CDs and perform when they can. The group meets in East Dundee to record and has performed throughout Elgin and the region. Chairez said young people will probably connect best to the themes of the songs, but the music is for a broader audience.
"Anyone who is going through a hard situation or has to make a decision in their life," Chairez said. "We want to influence them to make a smart choice."
The lyrics talk about education, relationships, immigration statuses and problems with drugs or gangs. Through everything, there is a focus on how God and faith can help people make better decisions.
Chairez said he isn't the only one in his group who has turned his life around because of renewed faith. He said some of the men he records with used to be in gangs and were involved with drugs. But they stopped. And their experiences factor heavily into their music.
"God is the center of it all," Chairez said. "He touched all of our lives."
Chairez said a group gets together about once a week to bounce song ideas off each other, record and produce their music. Everyone has day jobs and gives as much as he can during the evenings and weekends. For Chairez, it's his whole life. He has had multiple jobs over the years, but never stops thinking about and talking about his music and plans for the future.
One day he would like to support himself entirely on his music. But if that doesn't work out, Chairez knows he will never give it up, or his faith.
"Jesus has changed my life," Chairez said. "Understanding who he is and what his message was has helped me to understand what I'm supposed to be as a person."
Find his music on Facebook by searching Calabo and Spin Circus or email email@example.com for details.