Rapping on Iraq

"I think it was really cathartic for him," said Mayo. "Chris is very guarded, and the only way you get things out of Chris is through his music. [The CD] has been a really important thing for him to get his feelings out."

Mayo remembers when her son called her from Iraq after he killed a man for the first time.

"He is telling me about this experience, because he wants me to make it OK. It really upset me, and I had to be really cool and collected. I said this is something you are going to have to make OK with you and God. He was upset because it was a younger man," she recalled.

Many of the songs on "Voices From the Frontlines" depict actual experiences and detail real-life scenarios. Most of the songs were written by the soldiers while they were deployed in Iraq.

"There was another phone call about going out on missions and worrying about not coming back," said Mayo, whose son is currently away on training. "That is a song on the CD. He wrote this while he was there."

The song Tomlinson wrote is called "One Hour Before Daylight." In the song, he dies in battle and raps about the effect it has on his family:

"Three minutes later I'm in a shoot out

Shells' impacting back is blown out, I'm on my own now

I can see my wife on the phone now, it's getting thrown now

Flowers filling my home now

I sit above and I watch my son from heaven

His mommy can't contain her tears when he brings up his daddy"

Tackling Uncomfortable Topics

More than therapy, the lyrics of several songs deal with issues that Americans seem unable or unwilling to talk about openly.

"How real do you get? We have women in combat but people don't like to talk about it, but it's true," said Mayo.

In a fast-paced song called "Girl at War," Marine Cpl. Kisha Pollard, or "Miss Flame," as she is called on the record, raps about being treated differently for being a girl.

"Make them respect you; earn their respect," she sings. "Show them you can do anything a male can do. I know that's what I had to do. Check it."

In another track titled "Condolence," Marine Corps man Anthony Alvin Hodge, who is currently serving in Iraq, asks God to comfort the wife of a man he killed:

"If you could clear her heart, her discontent and hate.

If she gets lost in this world could you show her the way?

While you at it could you wipe all the tears from her face.

If I die before she does I'll be waiting at the gate.

My heart feeling weak and my vision is blurry.

If there's a spot for me in heaven could you give it to her?"

In a spoken-word interlude before the track, Hodge recounts conversations he has had since he returned from Iraq:

"A lot of people ask me … You kill somebody? How many you killed, man? And I tell them man, if I killed a million people, I wouldn't tell nothing to nobody because when you out there there is nothing to glorify … Sometimes you don't have time to feel …You just have to react, that's all part of being a Marine. Any sins I committed, I got to answer to God…"

Spielman said the song was "something [Hodge] said he had to do to come to peace with himself and to come to peace with the loss he has caused."

A song called "Don't Understand" opens the CD:

"Now if I broke it down Barney style, y'all still wouldn't know what we do,

Even if you asked the chain of command all the way to the president, too

Now you got to think about it cause we don't get our proper respect

'Cause if we got our proper respect, we would be cashing a bigger check"

Recording Label Crosscheck Records plans to donate 5 percent of the sales of the CD to Operation AC, a nonprofit run by Mayo, that sends U.S. troops useful non-combat items such as boots, socks, gloves, and morale-raising items like Christmas trees.

"People think about rap music today and think it is all about thugs, but the young people who are doing this have been through war," said Mayo. They are so far beyond the 'chicks and rims' things. It is real."

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