Edward "Slick" Harris says he's anti-everything.
He's anti-drugs, anti-alcohol, anti-violence, anti-black-on-black crime, and those stands are reflected in his music.
Harris, 20, of West Baltimore, is an accomplished rapper. He and Caletta "MuvaLita" Brown and their posse, Shock-Trauma, perform at dance clubs and festivals throughout the city, and hope to record an album soon.
But Harris' raps aren't full of braggadocio and violence as are a lot of rap songs. He delicately weaves warnings of the perils of drugs and violence into his songs that, typical of the genre, feature a pulsating beat.
An example of his lyrics:
"Chains won't release you, but you've got the key,"
"Get one step ahead and you think you're free."
"But you're not free, you're still a slave,"
"Because the easy way of life is what you crave."
Harris says that rap music is perhaps the only vehicle to get messages across to teen-agers.
"My raps don't say don't do this or don't do that. It just tells them what can or will happen," he says. "I give them a story and implant [the message] in their heads not to do it. That's my straight-up message."
"This is what they listen to, so you might as well put some meaning into them. It's like we're still reaching people but on a different level. They can still dance and enjoy the music and also learn about what's going on around them. It might keep them out of trouble."
He gets criticism for using the nickname Slick.
"People think that with the name Slick that I'm into everything and doing everything wrong. But that's not it," he says. "I'm Slick because I'm avoiding all of the bad things out there. That's how I'm slick."
Selwyn I. Ray, coordinator for the male outreach program for the Baltimore City Health Department, says Harris provides an alternative to the negative images portrayed in some rap songs.
Ray met Harris this summer at the Young People's Health Connection, a treatment center for youths with physical ailments, and often attends his performances. "He is everything that isn't on the radio," Ray says.
Brown, 16, a junior at Forest Park High School in the city, says the message in the raps she and Harris perform is not subtle.
"Our style of rapping has a strong impact that will hit you and make you think about what's up," she says.
Harris considers himself a good role model for youths -- he's a high school graduate (Woodlawn High), has a full-time job at Kernan Hospital and is trying to carve out a career in show business.
But he hasn't always been the best one to tell others to stay out of trouble. He says he did a certain amount of "experimentation" while growing up and he has bullet and stab wounds to show for it.
"Certain organizations wanted me to be a part of what they were doing, and I didn't want that," he says.
"That's the whole thing I didn't want to get into, but this [getting shot and stabbed] is what happens for something I was trying to avoid," he says.
Harris has many friends who were, or are, involved with drugs and gangs.
"Right now, I'm sure a lot of drug dealers hear my message. The drug dealers know what's up and it makes them think."