FAIRFIELD — Tony “Freddy B.” Adams was a West Coast rap pioneer whose partnership with Todd Shaw, aka Too $hort, was derailed when Adams’ lifestyle landed him in prison.
Now, as the division director of evangelism/mission at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Fairfield, Adams helps steer young people away from negativity, aids the less fortunate at home and abroad, and uses his rap skills to teach “holy hip-hop.”
Adams and Too $hort met when they had a rap duel in the early 1980s. While others argued over which of them had won, they decided to team up.
“On the East Coast, they had Kurtis Blow, DJ Kool Herc, Melle Mel and others, but in the streets of Oakland, California, me and Too $hort were the first,” Adams said. “We would make tapes in my mother’s house on her Montgomery Ward stereo, on tapes we bought from Radio Shack – three for $1.99.”
Adams and Too $hort made custom-made rap recordings they called “special requests.” The usual clientele for their products were dope dealers in the local parks, Adams said.
“We’d take a beat and put lyrics behind it that blew you up. If you had a bad car with big rims on it or you wore a big gold chain, we would make that beat all about you,” Adams said. “We sold them for up to $50 a tape.”
Adams adopted the name Freddy B. – the first name after a guy he met named Freddy Favors and the last after Benz in Mercedes-Benz. While rapping about the everyday life in Oakland helped Adams make money, living the lifestyle caused him trouble.
“I was doing all the wrong things: drugs, alcohol, everything you can imagine. I caught a minor drug case and they violated my probation in 1987,” Adams said. “I went to jail, then walked out on March 8, 1990, and never looked back.”
In 1995, Freddy B. guest rapped on Too $hort’s platinum “Cocktails” album on the song “Game.” By that time, however, the game of the “playa” life was getting old and soon a new chapter began in Adams’ life.
“In 1996, I had a ‘Damascus Road’ experience. I fell down to my knees and God said, ‘Give me your life, I want you, I will take care of you,’ ” Adams said.
Adams was baptized, but struggled with going to church until he went to Mount Calvary. The difference was the senior pastor there, the Rev. Dr. Claybon Lea Jr.
“His preaching and teaching is like none other and it literally saved my life. I gave the Lord my life in 1996, I met my wife La Toya in 1997 and we got married in 1998,” Adams said. “She has given me two beautiful daughters and 17 years of helping people get better.”
The passion that Adams felt for the streets that he and Too $hort expressed in customized rap tapes is still present; Adams just channels it into service now.
“In 2009, I was appointed director of evangelism and missions and we do everything from building houses with Habitat for Humanity to feeding the homeless in the park,” Adams said.
Mount Calvary also reaches out internationally, helping people in Haiti, Nigeria and South America. A trip to Israel is planned for this year.
“In 2011, I led 18 missionaries into Ghana, West Africa, to build water wells,” Adams said. “They used the same water to cook, wash, bathe and drink. Children went down to a sewage-infested lake to fetch water and some never made it back because of snake bites and malaria.”
Adams is working on completing his autobiography, “From the Gutter to Glory: The Tony ‘Freddy B.’ Adams Story,” with an eye for a summer release date.
He now uses his rap skills in his Christian ministry, as well.
“I teach workshops called ‘Hip-Hop on High,’ where I teach young people how to write lyrics that lift God in music, and then at the end, they are able to record the lyrics they have written and take it home with them on a CD,” Adams said.
When making his rap albums before he was a Christian, one of Adams’ favorite words was the “b” word. He still uses a “b” word frequently, albeit a different one.
“Now I am saying ‘blessed’,” Adams said.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.