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14-year-old Records Anti-Meth Rap Song

Billings Gazette, Aug. 19, 2010

Lionel “Yung Leo” Cruz knows something about the pain of addiction.

“When I was a little kid, my dad was a really big drug addict,” Cruz said.

So when the opportunity came for Cruz to encourage others to stay off of drugs, he took it. With the help of his stepfather, Travis “Platinum” Smith, and local rap label Pitlock Entertainment’s Colt Draine, the 14-year-old recorded a song, “Leave it Alone,” for the Montana Meth Project’s Paint the State competition.

“A lot of kids listen to music,” Cruz said. “I decided that I could make a song. I thought if I could make a song for it, it would change a lot of kids’ minds, not to do drugs.

“A lot of kids usually listen to songs that talk about it, and a song that’s against it would catch a lot of kids’ interests, and they would want to hear what it’s about.”

Smith, who performs with Draine in the rap group Impurity, was happy to help his son.

“My son, he came to me and he wanted to do something different,” he said. “Everybody does the art and paint. Music is art itself, so we decided to do it that way.”

They approached Draine, who helped record the song and is featured on it.

“I’m pretty anti-meth,” Draine said. “The scare campaign stuff is great, but in my head, I feel like that’s only going to go so far. I want to do something that kids Lionel’s age can relate to.”

Draine is the “owner/operator/everything else” of Pitlock Entertainment, which puts on rap shows, markets local artists and offers a recording studio.

“We had the tools to do it, and I knew what the kid wanted to do,” he said. “We went ahead and did it.”

The lyrics were all written by Cruz, with his father in mind.

“All I could think about was when I was a little kid,” he said.

The song has earned attention from the Montana Meth Project.

“It’s one of the most interesting projects that we’ve seen,” said Bill Slaughter, executive director with the Montana Meth Project. “It’s very creative, and the kids did a good job.”

He was so impressed, in fact, that he invited Cruz, Smith and Draine to perform “Leave it Alone” during the Paint the State awards ceremony Friday in the rotunda of the Montana State Capitol.

“We’re really excited to have them perform,” Slaughter said. “They put a lot of work into it, and the message is really, really strong.”

Jim Duncan, president of the Billings Clinic Foundation, was approached by the trio to help promote the song.

“We actually became a supporting sponsor for their efforts,” Duncan said. “We see firsthand the devastation that meth has on our population. We want to be as supportive as we can of all efforts that will prevent anyone from using meth.”

Duncan, too, appreciates the creativity of the song.

“I had the opportunity to review the rap song, and I think what’s really unique about this particular approach is this team … is closer in age to the population who might be at the greatest risk. The creativity of how you reach out to that demographic is a great approach. If I were to think of an approach, it wouldn’t target it as effectively as they’re doing.”

To get the word out about “Leave it Alone,” which can be heard at myspace.com/leaveitalonemt.com, the assistance of graphic designer Mark Duszkiewicz was enlisted. He created posters that the team put up around Billings.

“We put up a couple hundred posters in July,” he said.

Duszkiewicz likes the message behind the song: “Life is too short to mess it up,” he said. “Leave it alone.”