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"They Wrestlemania this rap shit / Dry-mouth rappers can't spit / They rap bricks / But identical to bum's outfits...Robert Earl with the brick grey tape on / Ezal on his back in the store they fakin'." — Mayalino, "We Alive Now"
Houston rapper Jeremiah Morin, known as Mayalino, wants illegals deported. God willing, he's going to use his music to do it — to deport them from the place he calls home.
His home is hip-hop, and Mayalino has made it his personal mission to help save it by cleansing it of the rappers who have invaded the borders that separate fake from truth. Those who rap about bricks but have never wrapped bricks, the ones who spit flow about money, expensive cars and big houses but don't spend, drive or reside in anything close to what they claim in their lyrics.
And he is going to start with his own people, the Latino hip-hop artists in Houston whom he considers to be impostors for adopting the city's signature chopped-and-screwed sound and regurgitating the rap subgenre's value pillars of candy paint, syrup, trunk-popping and driving narcotics up and down Interstate 10.
Mayalino says these are rappers who don't do Robert Earl Davis's (aka DJ Screw) legacy any justice, and cheapen the signature mantra the man created. He likens it to comparing Wrestlemania XXVI to UFC 112. He says they are Ezal in the movie Friday, taking a bogus fall in the corner store yelling, "Oh, my neck, my back, my neck and my back."
Most offensive to Mayalino, they are breaking hip-hop rules by abandoning originality and telling lies through their rhymes. They are illegal with their rap game. He calls them "WetWacks," and he's going to send them back to where they came from.
So where do they come from?
They come from a place where hip-hop was once exclusive, but today, is a total free-for-all. It's a place where social-media sites like MySpace and Twitter have transformed how music is fed to the masses. It's a place where recording and editing software has become easily accessible, enabling so many home studios they're as common as piece chains that dangle around the necks of aspiring artists.
Plainly put, the technological barriers that kept the hip-hop fan from trying to contribute to hip-hop aside from buying it have essentially vanished, and the MySpace Music platform allows anyone to dress the part.
So the floodgates are open to anyone and everyone who dreams of being Jay-Z. The evolution of how we communicate gives any MySpace subscriber an all-access pass to the microphone, to being in a photo shoot, to pressing up an album or mixtape, to performing at a show, and — maybe most dangerously — to calling themselves a rapper even if they don't deserve to be.
Mayalino has an issue with this because in a genre that glorifies drug dealing, paying dues through prison sentences, not snitching, not rolling over on codefendants, being prison gang-affiliated and having lots of money and cars, this 28-year-old has major street credibility. All of those things appear on his résumé.
He has the ability to spot real gangsters because, frankly, it takes one to know one. Still, he sees very few who can accurately put their lives where the mike is.
To understand Mayalino's fierce defense of a lifestyle that is probably offensive (and illegal) to most people, you have to understand that he is truly a product of his environment. He lives by a set of rules different from those of normal society, because he didn't grow up in a normal society.
Born in Houston, but raised in Miami the first five years of his life, Mayalino had a drug-dealing father and a drug-using mother. It resembled the movie Scarface, he says, only with a brother and sister inserted into a storyline that took place against the same South Beach backdrop.
And it had the same tragic ending. His father met a violent end with a bullet in the head at a Miami nightspot. Couple that with his mother putting a five-year-old Mayalino and his slightly older sister on a plane by themselves with a "bunch of jewelry, gold and money" to live with their grandmother in Houston, he says. Mayalino wouldn't see his mother for another 20 years, but "Ginger" is what pops up on his caller ID when she calls today.
He hardly landed in salvation. Try the southeast Houston neighborhood known as Magnolia on Avenue J, a drug-infested place once frequented by gang members who primarily sold drugs for two prison gangs, the Texas Syndicate and Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos. Mayalino's grandmother did her best to keep him away from "the life," but cared for many other children.
"I was her favorite," he says. "I can't blame grandma. She couldn't keep me from the streets."
However taboo a path Mayalino walked, the streets provided what his absent parents couldn't: Guidance, a career path and mentorship. The ways of the Texas Syndicate became his surrogate father; the ways of Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos were a stand-in for his mother.
In fifth grade, Mayalino was tired of seeing other kids have what he didn't. At 11, he stole a car to teach himself how to drive. At 12, he was tired of stealing cars to get money.
"I wanted to move up," he says.
At 18, he was selling crack out of his grandmother's house, and at 21, a member of the JBlock Street Gang, soon becoming its leader after his predecessor went to prison for murder. At 22, he was indicted on three federal counts of conspiracy, after being caught in a vehicle in his name with two bricks and a gun.
He had a chance to roll over on his codefendant because he wasn't driving the vehicle, and get off scot-free in the face of a possible 45-year prison sentence, but he chose to follow the G-code: Never snitch, never roll over on your homeboy.
"It feels good not to snitch," he says. "Snitching is worse than murdering somebody."
After writing a letter to the judge confessing to everything, he lucked out and got only three years. He emerged from Federal Detention Center a member of the Tango Blast Houstone prison gang, a feared group who live inside and outside Texas prison walls and have taken informal ownership of the Houston Astros' star logo.
You can often find it inked on the necks of the gang's members. You can find it on Mayalino's.
Mayalino's latest project, Fuck These WetWacks, echoes his story and his disdain for fake rappers through a unique, intelligent and original form of metaphor usage throughout his lyrics. He uses this style of rap to toy with the consciences of hip-hop artists who know they are rapping about a life they don't lead, and to offend their sensibilities.
His beats and production are of the highest order, provided by some of the nation's top emerging producers. His music doesn't feel anything like his past, grimy or gutter. It doesn't have a Southern accent either. It could be from anywhere.
Mayalino's body of work is surprisingly sophisticated, bringing a smoothness to the rough edges of the life he's followed. His whispery delivery and conversational flow, spread over high-quality and unique beat production, dilute the in-your-face aspect of his message.
Instead, he replaces it with easygoing mockery blanketed with a certain cool. But it doesn't lose the gangster persona he's trying to portray and promote.
"I do want to challenge everybody in the game," he says. "I attack the younger generation, the motherfuckers rapping in my class. When I was selling dope on the block, if your clients came to me, they are going to stay with me. I'm going to hustle them a better product that is uncut and pure.
"When you are a Houston artist, you have to make a powerful statement every time," he adds. "We're rapping about the streets, so you should expect that, right?"
What? Hustling better music that is uncut and pure? Houston certainly hopes so, because although his life may have been illegal, as far as hip-hop is concerned, Mayalino is following the rules.