CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - He has the fast-flowing lips of a rap artist whose lyrics don't stumble. His songs tell stories instead of just describing hanging emotions. He rhymes with passion and recites his own words as if he were creating them on the spot.
"You know, I like to tell stories with my music, that's the thing," said Master Sgt. Isaac Alexis, of Houston. "Stories will capture people. ... Songs work best when there's something that falls in a role that people can see in, something that people can relate to ... because then they know somebody went through what they went through."
On stage, Alexis goes by Abcd, pronounced Absidy. The letters stand for Ambitious Behavior, Confident and Disciplined, characteristics Alexis values and shows when performing his music.
Around Camps Victory and Liberty, Alexis attends and even hosts open mike events and contests at Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers. His main goal through music is to tell stories that make people want to rethink and improve their lives. He understands the bad stigma rapping can have, but he wants his lyrics to evoke more than symbols of fame, sex or violence.
"If you really want to get something across to people, music is the way to make it happen," he said. "A lot of my songs are positive... trying to make change in someone's life."
His music covers such messages as taking care of one's spouse, Soldiers' commitment to serving, discouraging youth from joining gangs, and becoming involved in church.
His first album is titled, "Soldier for Life." Alexis has served in the Army for 18 years and feels like his whole life revolves around being a Soldier. He served as a drill sergeant in Fort Knox, Ky., as an instructor at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, as a gunner and a team leader. He has been stationed around the world from Hawaii to Korea and a few places in between, including Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Benning, Ga.; and Fort Drum.
Now Alexis is on his third deployment, leading troops as noncommissioned officer in charge of Team Hunter under Task Force Vigilant, a unit that conducts presence patrols around Camp Victory. His team also secures and manages an entry control point with Ugandan soldiers.
"Here you see Soldiers who work hard all the time," Alexis said. "It's the reason why we're here."
Alexis has been writing music since he was a private in the early '90s, but it was during his second deployment, from 2004 to 2005, that he realized his music touched people.
After his performances at MWR events, Alexis had audience members come to him and tell him how much his lyrics touched them. He's even seen people cry during his performance of, "We Gotta Go," a song about Soldiers leaving their homes to serve in Iraq.
"That's an emotional song for people," he said. "When I performed that song, (other musicians) moved closer to the stage, and when I got done, there was a whole line of performers up there who hugged me on the way out."
Those types of reactions make Alexis realize his music has more than volume; it has impact.
When stationed in Fort Drum, Alexis drove six hours to Brooklyn and invested his own money and time to record his first album.
After his second deployment, Alexis taught at the New Mexico Military Institute and would visit local middle schools to give inspirational speeches and perform songs to youths in danger of being swallowed up by gangs. With a song titled, "Think on Your Own," Alexis encouraged youths to rethink their commitment to violence, and he saw former gang members attend the church where he worshiped with his wife, Darla, who sings gospel music.
"Definitely powerful," he said about the experience. "I'm not going to give myself credit for that, you know, it was the Lord since He pretty much guided me to do everything I did. To see them actually get out of the gang and get a job and try to live right ... that's great. And that's what I wanted to see."
Since then, Alexis has written songs and performed for special events like boxing matches and Soldier redeployment ceremonies. He also opened for rap artist Lil' Flip and organized concerts and other music events. Alexis also has sold more than 3,000 CDs on his own, out of the back of his truck.
His own personal music goal during this deployment is to revise 30-some of his songs and compile at least one more CD. He also has shifted some of his music toward gospel singing because of the bad stigma rapping has developed. Most importantly, he has made a commitment to writing clean lyrics to keep his messages pure.
"It's definitely for people's entertainment, but at the same time, (audiences) are getting messages that can have an influence on their life."