He's known as the Ice-T of Annapolis.
Delray Richardson, a brash, young rapper who grew up amid drug dealing and sporadic violence in one of the city's public housing projects, doesn't flinch from confronting the tough issues of the times.
But even though his outspoken music has attracted fans and angered at least one Annapolis police officer, the 19-year-old rapper known as M.C. Delphonic says he strives to be more educational than hard-core.
He listens to funk artist George Clinton and rapper Ice Cube, not Ice-T, who was condemned by police organizations and conservative politicians for his song "Cop Killer."
"I wouldn't even describe my stuff as having a dissin' view," M.C. Delphonic said. "But I tell the truth. I think the way Ice-T came off was valid -- it was his feelings, and it's the truth. Everybody may not agree, but people can relate."
A growing number of teen-agers in Maryland's capital have discovered they can relate to M.C. Delphonic's music. His $5 demo tape, "Total Conquest," produced by a friend, is a hot item on the streets.
FM radio station 92Q has played his songs, and he has appeared on a Tele-Communications Inc.'s public access Channel 15 in Annapolis. Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, the host of the show, calls M.C. Delphonic a "talented voice of today's youth" and compares him to Ice-T.
When the show aired a couple of months ago, it bothered Annapolis Police Officer Wilhelm Burger. The officer was identified by name -- and, he claims, defamed -- in M.C. Delphonic's song "Please Stop Sweatin' Me."
The singer said he wrote the piece after he was hassled while hanging out with his friends in the Robinwood housing project.
In his song, he raps: "One afternoon, me and the fellows, we was chillin'/ This police rode up named Burger, he be illin'/ He jumped out of the car and asked for some ID/ He said 'You first' -- I said, 'Yo, why me?' " The song concludes with M.C. Delphonic begging, "Please, Mr. Burger, please stop sweatin' me."
Officer Burger denounced the show last month and told a reporter he was considering taking legal action. He could not be reached for further comment this week.
Defending his song, M.C. Delphonic said he did not mean to show disrespect for Officer Burger, but simply wanted to tell the story of his life as a black 19-year-old from "the projects."
He grew up in Robinwood and never finished seventh grade. By the time he was 13, he was selling cocaine and stealing cars.
The next five years of his life were spent in and out of drug rehabilitation and juvenile services programs. He was sentenced to time at Waxter Children's Center in Laurel and the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Cub Hill. He also did stints at a handful of drug-treatment centers.
Every time he got out, he went back to using heroin and cocaine. Then he discovered music.
While he was in a drug program at age 17, M.C. Delphonic wrote his first song. He still has the lyrics to "I Want You," an ode to a girl he liked, set to conventional music.
He turned to rap because he found he could express himself better in that rhythm. It was better suited for "Naptown's Deceased," about six friends who died on the streets.
The shooting of his friend Renaldo "Reno" Green in the summer of 1990 led him to try to express his pain through song. In it, he talks matter-of-factly about his "main man Pyron," who was "so slick, so sly" until "one day he went to D.C. and got sprayed." And he raps about his friend "Pooh," who was "very laid-back and calm" and "drove a 300ZX -- and, yeah, he was next."
Overcoming his drug addiction has been a long struggle, one he has often lost. But he says he has been clean since his birthday in June.
Even now, as he collects the songs for his first album, M.C. Delphonic is haunted by some of the decisions he has made. He wants to find a steady job but fears the prospects are dim with his record and today's tight market. But he is grateful that he has survived his troubled youth and optimistic about making a success of his rapping career.
"I don't know what I have in me until it comes out," he said, leafing through a stack of songs he has written. "It sure is fun, though."