By Briana Boykin
Hope is not so far away for this generation. In fact, if you listen closely enough, you will hear it in the melodic sounds of eighteen year old Andrew DeBarge of Riverside, California.
It began on the bleak, notorious Sigsbee Street of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Total poverty. Drug dealers. Crack houses. Chaos and crime. Homicide rates that supersede your typical hood.
This was DeBarge's environment, but it would not become his reality.
After years of hardship and struggle Andrew's parents decided it was time to pursue a different dream. So they packed up and headed for California where Andrew might receive a better chance at making his music known to the world. They ended up in Riverside, California.
But even after the three exhaustive days of traveling in a packed sedan and finally arriving in the state that promised them new beginnings, their dream seemed even further away. They had no place to stay; their car would become their home for the next several days.
Yet even under such severe circumstances, Andrew and his family would remain faithful and count it a blessing when, a week later, his mother's friend discovered shelter for them at the "Come on in Motel." It was still not a home, but the DeBarges honored the welcoming gesture of its name and trusted that home would always be a place inside of them.
Through constant prayer and determination, their faith would see them though and bring them out of the motel and into the two bedroom apartment where they currently reside. Andrew says it was his music that kept him strong.
"Many people underestimate music," DeBarge reveals. "Music is one of the strongest forms of communication; it holds a great deal of power. My music is about my relationship with God."
For this young man, what most would consider extreme conditions of social injustice and despair has become the fabric of the multi-talented teenager's undaunted and tenacious character.
"These events have shaped me. When you have nothing, you realize what life is really about," says DeBarge whose conviction of this truth is carefully reflected in his multifaceted lyrics. "I don't take my music lightly; money is not an object because I value my brother's life more than music."
Andrew's debut album "Your Place" which includes fifteen self-composed and produced tracks that he recorded in his own apartment studio, is "sort of like [a compilation] of parables," he reveals. Each song illustrates the value that he places on brotherhood. His favorite is song number five, entitled "Where I Belong," and is a message to his brothers and sisters from all walks of life that meditates on feelings of loneliness and helplessness. In the song he encourages his listeners that "when you are going through so much, you can bring something beautiful out of it."
"My message is important. No one should ever feel like they don't matter. There is at least one other person that needs your help in this life. Everyone has a purpose for being here," he emphasizes with a confident wisdom seldom found in the heart of an eighteen-year-old.
But DeBarge is indeed a teenager. He has a youthful, vibrant style and a refreshingly free spirit. He takes courses at Riverside Community College (RCC) and will receive his Associates degree in Business in the Spring of 2009. In between classes you may be able to spot him at the basketball courts at RCC. But usually, if he's not in the studio composing new songs on his guitar, he is working at Cold Stone in the Riverside Plaza earning money to put back into his self-owned record label: Andrew DeBarge Music, Inc.
DeBarge says that he learned in one of his business classes that an entrepreneur is someone who risks all their time and money to accomplish a goal, and by that definition he certainly has the heart of a true entrepreneur, but he reminds us that his work is done with a clear vision and purpose out of his love for music, for people, and for God.
Reminiscent of a modern day King David, a great man in the Bible who would play his harp and calm souls, DeBarge associates himself with the likings of a contemporary David. Similar to the Biblical king, DeBarge, who is both a talented vocalist and an excellent guitarist, brings peace to his audience through his music. But just as David was not simply a great musician, DeBarge also possesses qualities of a true king.
Desiring that his listeners understand the transcendental elements of his music, he informs that "music is what I do, but it's not what I am. I am a child of God. Music is just a form of communication that God has given me."
Giving his mother and father credit for investing within him their love for him as well as their love for music, DeBarge is thankful for all the situations he has encountered in life. "If all the circumstances in my life hadn't happened, I would not be who I am today," he expresses with the utmost gratitude.
There is a rare quality about DeBarge - about his music - that is seemingly missing in today's popular culture. DeBarge will undoubtedly touch lives in a generation who is in need of the leadership, knowledge, and the authenticity that he emanates.
DeBarge is currently performing at various local venues and promoting "Your Place" throughout communities in Southern California. His album can be purchased online at www.amazon.com. You can also check him out at his personal website: www.andrewdebargemusic.com or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/andrewdebarge.