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Band Hip Hop Singer/Songwriter


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"He inspires others through telling his own life story of triumph over tragedy. THE PRODUCT urges his audiences to live life to its fullest and illustrates how to overcome some of the common and not-so-common struggles facing today’s youth." - Ida Goodwin Woolfolk (Former Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools)

"I truly believe The PRODUCT's life experiences can enhance the quality of life for anyone who exposes themselves to it. PRODUCT, was passionate, heartwarming, and he tells it like it is!" - Ms. Kathman (Speech Pathologist) Mesa Public Schools

"His dynamic and engaging presentation skills will light up any audience but even more importantly, his message always has a positive and lasting effect!" - Parent Volunteer (from the Arizona Youth Partnership, Globe, AZ)

“I checked your website. You have some very important messages on it. I really like the way you're thinking ... and feeling. I emailed you just because I respect the wise men, the individualists. And I always recognize them ;)” –Don Perinion (Music Producer)

“Wow! What an awesome testimony of perseverance. I listened to "My Life" and so many of our kids can relate to your message.” - Johnette R. Winfrey Baton Rouge, LA (Math Specialist)

“You made a big difference in the entire Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant, from your workshop, which all of the girls loved, to the performances at the Center of the Arts and the park festival. I did an exit interview with each contestant the day before the pageant and asked them what portion of the program was the biggest benefit to them; each of them stated that your Leadership Workshop made the biggest impact.” - LaVon Woods South Chandler Self-Help Foundation, Inc. (Project Manager)

“Your willingness to share your experience, message and expertise with our attendees helped to make this another successful and effective conference.” – Patti Wheater (Pride Conference)

- Various Organizations

"Singer Shapes Up His Life"


When Eric James was a student at Northwest High School in St. Louis, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, empty desks on Mondays were a very bad sign.

"Sixteen people didn't come back to school during the time I was in high school," James said. They'd been killed in gang violence.

One day, St. Louis police officers delivered a "scared straight" presentation that inadvertently included the photo of a former classmate who hadn't returned on one of those Mondays.

"It doesn't hit home until you see someone in a car with 56 bullet holes," James said. The bloodied face and dead eyes in the photo, could have been his.

James was the son of a 13-year-old single mother and a 17-year-old single father who spent time in jail.

His mother's boyfriends battered him physically and emotionally. She died when she was 26, and James was adopted by his grandparents. But they lived in Walnut Park, a violent area of the city.

A street gang beat him severely when he first moved there. He joined another gang. They retaliated and the pattern repeated. That was life for several years.


James said he was lucky enough to listen to advice and bank it for later use.

Some of that advice came from a social studies teacher, Patricia Banks-Slaughter, who was known for not sugarcoating the truth.

She once told the gang members in the class they were headed for a jail cell or pine box. He mostly recalls her encouragement and that he controlled his destiny, not his past. The words changed his life.

But Banks-Slaughter felt some disappointment when James quit school in his senior year.

"Sometimes what you teach doesn't take hold (immediately)," she said. "I just go home and look at myself in the mirror and if I've done the best I can do, I turn them over to God."

James' grandfather had recognized the youngster's penchant for music, especially hip-hop. The family, including a younger brother, moved to a less violent part of the St. Louis area. His grandfather built a makeshift recording studio in the basement of their north St. Louis County home.

James began to mix music, rap and give concerts at middle-school gatherings around the area. His message was that gangs and drugs weren't the way.

But those days, quitting the Disciples was a death sentence. He had to leave town, so he joined the Army.

In the Army, he received his GED and then his bachelor's degree. After he was discharged, he later moved to Phoenix, where he earned two master's degrees in education. He works today in Phoenix as a middle-school teacher and is working on a doctorate.


During a trip to St. Louis some years ago, he found a sad irony. He was safe. Those who hunted him for quitting the gang were dead, in prison or destroyed by drugs.

He returned to Arizona, where he put more time into developing his music, blending it with a message of redemption and success to young people rather than the gangster lyrics that give the genre a bad name.

That effort has grown to a program where he travels the country training teachers in how to work with at-risk youth. His effort is called C.H.O.I.C.E., which stands for Courage, Habits, Obstacles, Imagination, Character and Evaluation.

When James visits here Sunday, he'll work "Shape Up Missouri," a free program sponsored by Shape Up US, Parkway School District and other health providers.

He'll deliver two renditions from his hip-hop CD and speak with young people and educators about overcoming challenges.

However, he won't be staying in town too long. He has to get back home to study for his doctorate.
- St. Louis Post Dis-Patch


My Life - The Struggles of A Changed Man



“As a child I remember having a burning desire to want to be acknowledged, and thinking it would be impossible to have a life, other than the one I was cursed with”. The life that I have created for myself today was fueled by the hell I experienced yesterday. This is proof to me that even in the worst of times we still have choices. In my head, I can still hear the echoes of those who believed that I was nothing, a thug, and that I would die as another “black statistic” who blamed all of his misfortunes on everyone else. The worst thing is that, for a while at least, I believed them, and that I would die as another “Product of the Environment”. However, with the help of loved ones, and a longing for a better life, I became a “Product of Choice” instead. Eric Antuan James was born in St. Louis, Missouri to a 13-year-old girl named Sandra Vershell James. His father was a 17-year-old boy named William Melton, who was in and out of the penitentiary all of James’s life. After Eric was born, he and his young mother traveled from house to house, pathetically moving from one abusive relationship to another. After many years of struggling with the fact that she would never be able to experience childhood, Sandra James accepted Christ, re-married, and died at the age of 26, two days after James’s 13th birthday. He was then adopted by his loving grandparents James T. and Bessie M. Wafer, and moved to the crime infested community of Walnut Park, in North St. Louis. It was here that James was given yet another reason to consider his life a “living hell”. James continued to be physically and emotionally battered throughout his young life, feeling alone, and isolated most of the time. With the exception of his grandfather, the only male role models he encountered were drug dealers, womanizers, and thugs. At 18 years of age, Eric was “jumped in” to Chicago’s largest black gang, the Black Gangster Disciples. It was a small consolation that Eric was accepted without any of the typical and unlawful rituals. It was not too long before he was fully caught up in the gang life. Although James has never killed anyone, he was considered one of the top ranking “folks” in the area. James’s five year rivalry with bloods from Plover St., initiated his decision to become a banger. Knowing the pain and the potential that James had within, his grandfather overheard James expressing himself through rap music one day. He was amazed that James had found away to release the pain and misery that had poisoned his heart. Soon after this, Eric’s grandparents seized an opportunity to help him and his brother. They moved the family into a nice suburban neighborhood and his grandfather built a professional recording studio in their basement. Eventually, Eric realized that he was in desperate need of a change in his life. A very influential person in his life was his high school History teacher. With her encouragement, Eric was exposed to a new world, the world of education and knowledge. Driven by his love for music, and with the support of his grandparents and his History teacher, a new door opened for Eric. A door opened to a world of choice that James would have never imagined, not even in his wildest dreams. Eric soon pursued his dream of becoming a rap artist and went on to perform concerts to middle school students across the St. Louis metropolitan area. He used his talents to spread his anti-gang, anti-crime message to at-risk youth in St. Louis. Two prominent newspapers in St. Louis wrote articles chronicling Eric’s life. Eric then went on to serve in the United States Army for three years and was awarded the Army Accommodation Medal, and (2) Army Achievement Medals. He earned his bachelor’s Degree while serving in the army. Eric is an avid reader, believing that knowledge is the key to a successful life. He has committed hundreds of hours to community service and has received honors for doing so. In 2002, Eric moved to the Phoenix area to pursue other goals he set for himself. He has earned two Masters Degrees in education while living in the Phoenix area. Currently, Eric is a middle school teacher and plans to continue making a difference with his campaign against gangs, drugs, and youth crime. “At times, I do find myself gazing back into my past, and I can feel the pain from the little boy that so desperately wanted to be validated, that wanted to escape from his loneliness, but the feeling doesn’t last long. I now have family and friends that I can turn to when I reach an obstacle that are hard to overcome, or when I feel myself regressing back into those old feelings of hopelessness. No one should ever underestimate the resiliency of the human heart. I had the courage to follow my dreams and I never gave up on myself. I always knew that there was more to life than my dismal experiences in childhood. Motivation, fortitude, and a strong belief in self are absolutely critical when trying to attain your goals. I have made it through some te