The rapper, born Carlos Coy, had it all: money, his own record label, a nightclub and, most importantly, the ear of a generation. He was the voice of a new type of person: the Southern and Southwestern Mexican-American who acclimated to American life through black culture - specifically hip-hop - instead of white. As Tejano music and culture started to wither and die in the wake of the murder of Selena, SPM stepped into the breach with a new style and swagger. As the '90s progressed, young Texas Latinos stashed their hand-tooled leather belts, ostrich-skin boots and Charro-style hats and replaced them with, as commentator Rolando Rodriguez recently put it, " 'south side fades,' fitted Astros hats, oversized t-shirts, [and] gold grills in the mouth spittin' Southern slang." And then Coy's weakness - a predilection for sex with underage girls - came to light. In June of 2002, Coy was convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of the nine-year-old daughter of two family friends and sentenced to 45 years in prison. Many of SPM's friends were outraged, and a measure of their scorn can be found in the comments at the end of our trial coverage. A sampling:
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"Yeah that all was a bunch of bullshit..... I mean dont get me wrong i dont know if he did it or not but damn they could have looked in harder on the case...there could possibly be a innocent man in jail right now and for what?? cause sum lil bitches mama has a gruge againts the family...thats what happens when u put a black or hispanic person with power in front of a jury of republican crackas and bitch prossecuter who just wants money....its all bullshit...theyll get theres in the end."- SenHow can an innocent man sit behind jails to rot without having a proper trial. I think its a bunch of bullshit of how the prosecuters sent him to 45 years of prison whithout studying the evidence. The lawyers did not bring up the girls possible intentions of accusing him of rape. All those lying bitches want is the money and publicity!! All I can say is dat SPM can be doing so many things outta prison and instead he is caged like an animal. FREE SPM!!!!!!!!!!!- Ana Sanchez from Phoenix
And again and again, variations of "FREE SOUTH PARK MEXICAN!!!!!", a cry you can also hear in underground rap videos and see on T-shirts and in videos to this day. Enough, writes Rolando Rodriguez, a native of Richmond, Texas, now based in San Antonio:
"In their minds and for the fans, all of this is a conspiracy by a bunch of "money hungry hoes" who wanted to cash in on his earnings and fame. For the sake of the community I come from and for the inspiration he brought to Hispanics in Houston and elsewhere, I want to believe that, so bad. "But I can't. I have an eight-year old daughter and the thought of anything like that happening to her doesn't allow me to support the "Free SPM" movement, and that should be reason enough for those who have children of their own and do follow the "Free SPM" movement, not to anymore. I'd rather be wrong about SPM's guilt and face my own community in embarrassment, than be wrong about his innocence and face my own daughter in shame."
You can read the whole piece here, and we highly recommend that you do. Rodriguez tells Rocks Off his iPod inspired him to write the piece. One day on random shuffle it spit an SPM song at him and he was suddenly awash in nostalgia. "Nobody had ever spoken up for this community before," he tells Rocks Off. (By "this community," Rodriguez means "Meskins," Southern Latinos who adopt black culture because they feel neither fully brown nor fully white.) "While not necessarily overly embracing of Meskins, [black people] didn't reject them," Rodriguez writes. "They didn't laugh or condemn them for looking and talking like them. Black southern rap, pioneered by the likes of Scarface, ESG, Bun B, Pimp C and DJ Screw, helped define a generation of Meskins." And SPM was at the vanguard of this emerging culture. "He was the kind of success we'd never seen before on a stage we'd never stood on before," Rodriguez wrote. "He looked like us, talked like us, and his upbringing mirrored ours, so Latino youth from Brownsville to San Francisco gave him their heart and loyalty, hanging on to every lyric. And that includes me. "I can't explain it. It's like the story of Selena. If you weren't a fan of Tejano music, you'll never understand the impact." And yet Rodriguez accepts the court's verdict. "Today, we've got to find a new hero," he says. "We need to find someone who's more socially conscious, whose delivery is more positive. Why not use that power for good?"