By late last September, Carlos Coy was the biggest thing to happen on the local rap scene since the death of DJ Screw. He was a uniquely Houston character, a Tejano raised in the black ghetto of South Park, a hustling Hispanic whose vivid raps about dead-end street life, smuggling weed from the Valley, and an uplifted raza blended gritty black funk with borderlands Spanglish slang.
Coy was a hero to shaven-headed brown kids in baggy print shirts and jeans, those sons of yard men, road builders, roofers and dishwashers, the youths caught between two cultures but not particularly valued by either. Coy became a conduit for their rage and despair, but also for their aspirations and dreams.
He had taken his family with him on the heady ascent to stardom. His brother had been a chemical plant worker, his sister a hairdresser. They and his father found glamorous new jobs helping run Coy's Dope House Records label. The bunkerlike Sixth Ward headquarters, surrounded by a high iron fence and bearing his likeness in the form of huge murals, is the building that once housed his family's modest grocery brokerage.
Coy's was a heartwarming story, one of a troubled kid from a loving but broken home who had quit selling crack and started selling a fresh form of dope: music. The new millionaire had an eighth-grade education. This ghetto Horatio Alger, whose clever rhymes, zealous work ethic and business sense vaulted him from hawking homemade tapes at five bucks a pop out of his backpack in the bathroom at low-rider shows to a national distribution deal with Universal Records.
He managed a multiethnic stable of rappers and a support staff, some of them virtually unemployable street kids. His record company had seven vans and a limousine. He bought cell phones by the crate. Coy had the adulation of hundreds of thousands of kids from Houston to Los Angeles, Brownsville to San Francisco, and he was pursued by thousands of women.
Like a God-fearing televangelist, this rapper regaled audiences and the media with the moving account of his transformation away from the drugs and violence that had ripped apart too many friends. Coy swears he was in his home, desperate for an escape from worsening troubles. He says he knelt and prayed to the Lord for a way out. When he got up, the television set showed an advertisement for budding young rap artists to send audition tapes to a talent agency. He took it as the ultimate omen that rap was his calling.
That experience was years ago. But on a night last September, the television again flickered its images inside the now fashionable Coy home. A nine-year-old girl, staying over with his own young daughter, looked up from the TV and noticed a hulking form fill the void in the darkened bedroom doorway.
She pretended to be asleep as the man silently entered the room, although she soon felt a hand groping under her panties. Carlos Coy was on his knees once again. There was no divine inspiration summoned forth this time -- only the worst inner demons of a sexual predator.
SCHOOL, what a fool I was / Skippin' education for the fun to run from the fuzz / '85, '86, crack cocaine was the crucifix. -- South Park Mexican, "Reminisce"
Carlos Coy raps about the rough urban haunts of his youth, although the Coy family actually began in the bedrock farming and ranching community of Falfurrias in the Rio Grande Valley. His mother dropped out of high school to marry father Arturo Coy, an ex-marine.
After several generations in that hamlet between Corpus Christi and Laredo, the clan relocated in the late 1960s to Houston, where Carlos was born. Three years later, the Coy marriage unraveled.
Carlos's sister, Sylvia Coy, now the general manager of Coy's local indie rap label Dope House Records, says Carlos took the divorce much harder than the older siblings, herself and Arthur Jr.
Sylvia says she was too busy to fall apart over the breakup. "I'm kind of Carlos's mother-sister," she says. "Because we come from a broken house, my mom always worked, but we were never on welfare We lost all of our cars -- my mom went and bought an old car -- basically she always worked to save the house, and I took care of Carlos."
Or at least she tried to control the hyperactive baby brother. "Carlos was this wild little kid, you know? I was supposed to be taking care of him," Sylvia admits, "but I was a teenager myself. And he was always out there in trouble."