- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Squeezed inside the empty closet of an upstairs bedroom of a Herndon townhouse, Derek Meitzer leans into an upright microphone, ready to flow. You have to start somewhere.

Besides, this totally beats Iraq.

An up-and-coming rapper in D.C.’s underground scene, Mr. Meitzer also is a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, a combat videographer stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

“Spit it how you’re going to spit it,” says Jason the producer, also known as Maestro Metaphorics. “So I can get the sound level.”

Yellow noise-dampening foam covers the walls. Posters of Biggie Smalls and the movie “Scarface” paper the ceiling. This is Jason’s studio, where Mr. Meitzer is recordinga song he just wrote, about coping with a friend’s suicide.

I remind myself that you’re gone

By breaking hearts, don’t mistake it for charm

I hurt others, to save myself from

Reminiscing, for too long

One take becomes two. Two become three. Five minutes becomes a half-hour. Peering through his glasses, Mr. Meitzer holds a laptop computer in his left hand, reading lyrics off the screen.

Grinning, he flexes his left arm.

“All that time in boot camp, holding the rifle out like this, getting yelled at?” Mr. Meitzer says. “It’s finally paying off.”

In some obvious ways, the two worlds are incongruous — hip-hop fantasies of Bentleys and champagne rooms colliding with military realities of Quonset huts and meals ready to eat; individual swagger and hedonism butting heads with patriotism and exacting small-unit values like self-sacrifice and mutual loyalty.

And yet, for the 25-year-old Mr. Meitzer, rap and soldiering are — unlikely as it might seem — mutually inclusive.

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