Shea Serrano: The Man Who Would Be Santa Claus

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In one sense, it’s been easy to keep up with the comings and goings of Shea Serrano since the launch of The Rap Year Book in October. Just head to the man’s Twitter feed, and you’ll find him joshing with his fans, posting links to his latest articles, harassing people about J. Cole, and being a rad father.

He also promotes the hell out of that book. Which he should — because it’s excellent. And it’s started popping up on several of those end-of-year lists that people manage to love and despise all at the same time.

When I asked him about the best and most surprising responses he’s received to his book, he responded, “People have been really nice. My favorite thing that happened was we were doing a book signing in L.A. and a guy showed up and he had this retro David Robinson jacket that he'd bought for me. That was real cool. I think more than anything, I like the messages I get from people where they're giving the book to someone as a gift. That's a very intimate situation. It's cool to be able to be allowed to participate in it, even if it is indirectly.”

The original intent of this article was to be a look into how Shea combines being a fantastic father, great husband, and wonderful writer with such apparent ease. I’ve always admired the openness, honesty, and day-to-day practicality that Shea and his lovely wife Larami display as parents of three young boys.

But a funny thing happened when finishing up this piece — Shea Serrano turned into Santa Claus for an afternoon last week.

It started like this: Not long after the release of The Rap Year Book, he started working with illustrator Arturo Torres for a run of bookmarks inspired by some of the artists covered in the book.

In case you aren’t sure, that’s OutKast, Biggie, Tupac, Jesus and Drake. Pretty important people, right?

“The idea behind those was the same idea that's been behind everything, which is basically just try to do dope shit," Serrano told me. "As in, ‘We made a book, so let's make some cool bookmarks to go with them, you know what I'm saying?’ That's all that was.”

It’s true. The bookmarks are dope shit, and I hope you readers copped a couple yourselves, but Serrano decided to up the ante on what really defines dope shit. It started with this tweet last Thursday, December 10:

That’s right — Serrano was going to take his share of the money from selling those bookmarks, contribute more money to round it up to $1,000, and then walk around Houston passing out $100 bills to random people he thought would appreciate it.

And it gets better.

People started willingly donating money to Shea so he could give more money to people. Now, THAT is some Christmas spirit.

When I asked him if he expected people to contribute money to the project once he shared what he wanted to do, he replied, “Not really. And you know what? It wasn't even a lot of people. We had $1,000 total. I told people what was going on. Then we had, I think, like five or six other people pull together another $400.”

Between his share of the funds and the donations, Serrano had $1,400 by the morning of December 11, which meant it was time to give 14 people in Houston an early Christmas present.

Serrano was pretty humble about the whole thing when I wondered what the overall reaction was from people he gave money to.

“I think the general feeling was confusion," he said. "I'm not certain. I didn't stick around. I'd just give them the money and then book it. It was a really weird situation. I think the best response was a homeless guy just sat down and started crying. “

The moral of the story: the next time you become a New York Times best-selling author, you should up your game and give out $1,500 to strangers in your town. Merry Christmas!

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