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‘My Family Escaped Death’: Sri Lankan Refugee Builds Hope Through Hip-Hop

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Rajeev Nandakumaran of Duarte performs at one of his shows as rap artist G-Vo (courtesy Facebook)

Rajeev Nandakumaran of Duarte performs at one of his shows as rap artist G-Vo (courtesy Facebook)

(CBS) Diane Thompson
Diane Thompson has been a storyteller her whole life, beginning as a...
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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Sri Lankan refugee who gave up his chance to become a lawyer has instead used rap music to give back to those he left behind.

KNX 1070′s Diane Thompson reports Rajeev Nandakumaran of Duarte was only two months away from finishing law school when he realized this wasn’t the life path he was supposed to take.

“I can probably graduate from law school and be a decent lawyer, but where’s my heart?” Rajeev recalls. “And my heart was calling my name in terms of music so strongly that I just gave up the idea of living a regular life.”

Instead, Rajeev changed his name to “G-Vo” and decided to wade into the shark-infested waters of the music industry as a rapper.

He launched John Baptist Records with two of his friends and now has three solo albums under his belt.

“I have a line in one of my records — ‘I’d rather fail at being great than succeed at what’s been done / I will not take the course that’s been already run‘,” he said.

Rajeev is not your typical rap artist: instead of singing about murder and mayhem, his lyrics have a global focus and send out a positive message of hope, justice and compassion.

“I’m big into production value and the talent that’s behind [the music], but I’m also big into what is the artist actually saying,” Rajeev said. “We want to be light in a world full of darkness.”

A refugee from Sri Lanka, Rajeev managed to get out of that war-torn country with his family when he was just a toddler.

His mother, who inspired him to sing and learn piano, died of cancer when Rajeev was just nine years old.

“We immigrated to the United States because of civil war…my family escaped death,” said Rajeev.

“Obviously, when you come from that background, to have the luxuries that I wasn’t supposed to have, God obviously has me here for a far greater reason than making money,” he added.

For every album he releases, Rajeev holds a benefit concert: two years ago he donated $25,000 to help Sri Lankan refugees.

This year, he plans on donating over $5,000 to create sustainable communities in Egypt.

His friends describe Rajeev as “an incredible man of vision, persistence and talent”.

“If everyone did what they were called to do to the best of their ability, they will naturally be a hero,” said Rajeev .

Check out Rajeev on Facebook and hear some free samples of his music.

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