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Then comes the classic Coy story of his Saul of Tarsus moment. He testified that he was halfway through dialing his connection for $100 worth of crack rocks when the phone fell out of his fingers and he collapsed to his knees in prayer.
"I said, 'Jesus, I don't wanna slang dope no more. I don't wanna work for the fuckin' white man for $6 an hour and get treated like a fuckin' worthless wetback. I am a worthless wetback, I just don't wanna be treated like one.' I didn't wanna work for no chump change, you know. I've always known that I had something great in my mind. I could've been the best fuckin' supervisor at Kmart."
He asked God for a sign. Collecting himself, he picked up the remote and zapped it at the TV. There, on the ad by the music talent agency, he saw his version of the biblical burning bush: three huge letters.
I ain't start from the bottom, I dug myself out a hole / Grabbed a pen, and taught myself how to flow / Life hit me like a double shot of whiskey / In every song I give a piece of my history -- "Who's Over There"
Gangsta rap flourished as the soundtrack to the crack boom so familiar to Coy. But the genre, which first gained popularity in the late 1980s, had been considered largely the domain of L.A.-based artists.
Houston had nudged its way onto the hip-hop map through the Geto Boys, who attracted attention simply by being more deranged and depraved than everyone else. The rapper Scarface, a former Woodson Middle School classmate of Coy's, left the Geto Boys in 1991 and became the godfather of a new genre, so-called Dirty South rap. It's slower, often accompanied by a discernible gospel tinge.
Coy himself had early tastes in music that no rapper in his right mind would claim as influential. His favorite song was the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." He also admitted an appreciation for Barry Manilow. Now his tastes turned toward Marvin Gaye, and a little later, Run-DMC.
Befitting his conversion in front of the TV, Coy says he initially become a Christian rapper. However, his gospel rap lapsed within months, after he went head-to-head at a party with a secular rapper.
"I did my rap and people were laughing at me," he testified later. "Then this guy, who I knew hadn't done the kind of things I'd done in the streets or been through half of what I had, rapped that he was gonna kill my mama and put her body in the trunk of his car. Everybody at the party cheered him."
Coy had learned the first lesson of gangsta rap: shits and fucks attract fans, milk and honey don't. Rappers say the thug lyrics glorifying drugs, sex and violence are needed so the core ghetto audience (and their suburban white doppelgängers, who live vicariously through gangsta rap) will stay tuned for their real message. They say they have to prove that they know of what they speak, otherwise they just come across as yet another hectoring milquetoast that hard-core gangbangers learn to tune out at about 14 years of age.
Credibility -- street cred -- is all-important. Vanilla Ice made it big boasting about his roots in the Miami slums. When it was revealed that he actually hailed from the white-bread Dallas suburb of Richardson, his rapping days were over.
Coy, apparently adopting almost messianic tendencies, said he didn't target kids with good homes or religious values, because "they already have it going on.
"I rap for all the crazy muthafuckas, for all the muthafuckas that need help. For all the muthafuckas that are lost," he said. "I let them know that I've been lost and needed help just like them, and I put that in my lyrics. That's why everybody who follows me are the sickest, craziest, most ill people in this world 'cause that's who I want to help and change."
Armed with this new philosophy, Coy wrote six poems. To set them to beats, which cost money, he turned to his last remnants from the dope dealing: a garage full of lawn mowers, Weed Eaters and various other appliances that he had taken earlier in trade from desperate crack fiends. He sold them, along with his junker car, for $900, in order to transform his street poetry into rap.
A Christian tape duplicator believed Coy's lie that he had more Jesus rap, and the technician never listened to the mayhem that was spinning on his reels. Coy ordered a batch of 100 tapes, paid $130 and was in business.
The genius of this street hustler came into play not in poetry, but rather in pure sales pitches. And what he sells best is himself.
Carlos Coy hit the low-rider car shows, and when he couldn't afford a booth, he haunted the men's rooms. Rare was the visitor to the toilet who didn't came away $5 poorer and one South Park Mexican tape richer. Coy trolled for customers at car washes and convenience stores in poor neighborhoods, where he waited for customers to come out with their 40s, malt liquor bottles, hoping that they had enough pocket change left to spring for his tape.