Approximately ten years ago, an aspiring rapper and cousin of mine, a several-years-younger-than-me guy we'll call Jonathon, went to prison. He and an acquaintance were breaking into people's homes and robbing them.*

At first, they weren't using much more than words to subdue their victims. They'd just bust in the door, gather the people in the house into a room, then threaten to bust everyone's head open if someone moved. Eventually, they graduated to using weapons. And then eventually, they got caught.

*Jonathon wasn't an overly large kid as a preteen, but he hit a growth spurt in middle school. I remember going to watch him to play football when he was in the 7th grade, back when he first started growing into his man body. His coach used to call him The Monster. That was about the time that I stopped dicking with him. At last sighting, he was > 6' and > 200lbs.

To the best of my knowledge, Jonathon didn't graduate high school. I don't believe his parents did either. I don't remember much about his mother; she was around, but never really around me (I suspect this was because she was mostly on drugs a lot of the time when I was growing up and also mostly because my parents were very good about keeping those sorts of scenarios out of my life). I do remember she was white (we lived on the south side of San Antonio, so this was a rarity). And I do remember she used to wear those Michael Jackson shoes LA Gear used to make. And I do remember one time she told me and a buddy of mine that a good place to hide marijuana is under the glass dish inside of a microwave because nobody (police, specifically) ever looks there. But that's it.

The situation was different with Jonathon's father, however — my uncle, who we'll call Felipe. Uncle Felipe was ALWAYS around. He played a key role in my upbringing; part of a network of uncles that helped indirectly raise all of the children, me and my sisters included. I idolized Uncle Felipe — I still do. In a collection of cowboys and wild men, he was always the baddest. He simply did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted to. I seem to recall one time where he tied a guy to a car's bumper with a belt around the neck just to prove a point. To a kid, nothing is more impressive. I used to draw pictures of him on my notebooks in elementary. For some reason, he was always wearing a muscle shirt with “Jam” written across it in my renderings.

But despite being such an intimidating figure — in his 20s and early 30s, he looked like he'd been carved out of heavily tattooed granite with a lightning bolt — he never intimidated me. He was (apparently) mean and (certainly) crazy-eyed and (definitely) involved in all sorts of nefarious activities and (absolutely) spent a fair amount of time incarcerated, but the only thing my brain ever registered about him was that he would murder everyone on the planet if somebody did something to anyone he felt responsible for. I hope someone feels the same way about me at some point in my life.

Between the two, Jonathon probably didn't have much of a chance, or maybe he just didn't have much of a traditionally stable role model. He was always a fun, likable kid, but he inherited his father's tenacity the same as he'd inherited his mother's blonde hair and blonde eyebrows. He toddled along behind me for several years, but by his early teenage years he'd become his own man.

I remember returning home from college for break one year to find out that he'd decided to become a rapper. He was the first in our family to pursue anything music-related, yet somehow, INEXPLICABLY, he was good. (I tried desperately these last few days to dig up a demo CD he'd given me around 2002 but was unsuccessful.) Best as I can remember, he was attempting to sound like Chicago's speedster rap group Do Or Die, not altogether surprising considering they were massively popular in Texas in the last half of the '90s. They actually signed with Houston's Rap-A-Lot label after the success of 1996's “Po' Pimp,” a track that most people still think is called “Do You Wanna Ride.”

He gained a small amount of traction between San Antonio and Houston, and he opened for several regionally successful artists in the early aughts, but never fully realized a fruitful existence in music. By nearly all recounts, he turned to crime after his rap career failed.

Nobody really talks about Jonathon very much anymore. The guy who he'd been convicted alongside got out of prison almost three years ago. Jonathon, always battling the awkwardly asinine stigma that comes from having a white mother and a white last name in an aggressively Chicano upbringing, is said to have joined the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. (If you didn't know otherwise, you'd assume Jonathon is white.) The suspicion is that he committed more crimes in prison, earning him the additional time. Uncle Felipe doesn't respond to questioning about him with much more than a heavy expression.

I looked Jonathon up online this past weekend; my sister and I had a conversation about him recently, is why I've been thinking about him so much lately. There was no picture and no health update and no anything to indicate he was ever more than a prisoner, just his inmate ID number, his birthday, his unit, his home county and a summation of his crimes.

I'm going to try to reach him. I have a million questions. They'll mostly be based around how his affiliation with the Aryan Brotherhood will affect the relationships he has with the family members on our side, but they'll also be about music too, I'm sure.

Or I don't know. I'll probably never message him. Ten years is a long time. Longer still in prison.

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