Andreus Street Troubadour

Andreus--a.k.a. Deandrias Abdullah, a native of the South Side ghetto--hasalready gained European acclaim for his hip-hop-soul symphony, "StreetTroubadour" (Dialogue Group). It was released overseas as essentially a homedemo in 2002, then domestically re-released a few months ago with a handful of new tracks and spiffier production. It merges inner-city blues laments aboutdrugs, gangs and wayward youth with wah-wah guitars, keyboard funk andshimmering string orchestrations. It's consciousness-raising art in many respects: musically, lyrically,spiritually. And it took Andreus most of his 33 years to get there. "Where would I be if I hadn't discovered music? I wouldn't be talking to you right now,that's for sure," Andreus says in an interview. "I was on the streets doingwrong. My mother was supportive, but she had to work and raise my two younger sisters, and she didn't have time to watch me every second of the day. Iwouldn't be living now if it weren't for music. I ran with gangs, I got locked up a couple of times, I had a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. If themusic hadn't gone over, I'd be a statistic." Andreus' first musical love was hip-hop. "At age 7, hearing the first rap tunes coming out of the East, it took over the 'hood--it was like an A-Bomb that blew up our culture," says Andreus, who performs Jan. 24 at Nevin's Live. "I started writing lyrics and battle-rhyming on the street corners. We were children ofVietnam veterans looking for some music to call our own, and this was it." While devising rap lyrics, Andreus taught himself to write about the grittyreality around him. But he didn't see music as a way out of his waywardlifestyle until his mother remarried and moved the family to Evanston. There, he got into more trouble and was awaiting a bond hearing at a Cook County lockup when he began singing. A couple of his cellmates took notice."These two older white guys were in there, real Charles Manson-type dudes with tattoos, and they were like, `What are you doing here, young blood? You've got a gift. With a voice like that you should be out there becoming the next Michael Jackson,'" Andreus recalls. "That really stuck with me. Be the next MichaelJackson? That was the real turning point. Nobody had told me anything like that before." The young singer ended up in a recording studio before his 18th birthday,recording vocals on a local house record. The record didn't do much, but theexperience dazzled him. Bit by bit Andreus began assembling his own homerecording studio and taught himself to play various instruments--guitar, bass,keyboards. He struggled through most of the '90s, fatally obsessed with finding the correctformula for "making it." "I was watching videos, trying to emulate what was hot, obsessed with getting a deal," he says. "I did demo tapes, but I was struggling. It wasn't until about two years ago that I decided I am not going to keep trying to do what everyone else is doing. The music began to change, and the soul came back. I let me be me." Many of the songs on "Street Troubadour" were improvised in front of themicrophone, Andreus pouring out a lifetime of observations about streethustlers, prostitutes, gang bangers and drug dealers. His songs were underpinned by subtle moralizing, a sense of having lived and learned about what youngunderprivileged ghetto denizens will do "For the Love of Money," as one songsays. "I'm not doing anything new," Andreus says. "I'm picking up where CurtisMayfield, Marvin Gaye and people like that left off. This music was always there in my life, because my mother was a record connoisseur. I realized that this is music that could make a difference, because it made a difference in my life." Though a social consciousness has never left popular music, it's taken a backseat lately to bling-bling odes about acquisition, wealth and sexual conquest. "Music is a cultural weapon," Andreus says. "It's about feelings and emotions, and politics and life. It's about what's going on. But I haven't listened to the radio in 15 years, because music isn't saying anything. Even hip-hop has been transformed into this pop illusion. But bling-bling is not what life is about. Not for the people I speak to and for--blacks, Latinos, Asians, underprivileged whites. I wanted to make a record that said, `This is what we're thinking.Listen to us.' The stories on this album aren't just my stories, but the stories of everyone who has ever lived in a ghetto."

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