Shea Serrano, two-time New York Times best-selling-author of The Rap Yearbook and Basketball and Other Things, stops by to tell his coming-of-age story about Master P’s “Ice Cream Man”, a drug dealer named Aurelio, and three-point shooting his way into a girl’s heart (…or not.)
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If you want to hear the songs mentioned and used in this episode, check out Shea Serrano’s Nostalgia Mixtape playlist on Spotify and Apple Music. Read on below for an annotated transcript of the Shea Serrano Episode of The Nostalgia Mixtape.
Sama’an Ashrawi: Way worse finals for you. Let’s say you’re there in the locker room before Game 7. If music had the power to change the outcome of history what song would you play to get the Spurs charged up and win game 7?
Shea Serrano: I’m going to stay on theme. I’m going to stay with the No Limit crew and I’m going to go with C-Murder, “Fuck them other — because I’m down for my —.” You play that song, you’re blowing them out. If Popp would have played that, we would have won in 2013; I’m almost certain. Somebody needs to introduce Popp to C-Murder.
Sama’an: What’s up, world? My name is Sama’an Ashrawi and you’re listening to The Nostalgia Mixtape, a podcast where we tell the stories of memories that are connected to music. And on today’s episode we have two-time New York Times best-selling author, Shea Serrano. I feel like you have to introduce people that way when they’ve become a New York Times best-selling author; when you’re in line at the DMV, or when you’re at the doctor, they have to refer to you that way. It’s like being knighted, but without a sword– know what I’m saying?
Anyway, I was 20 years old and I was in college at The University of Texas at Austin, working for The University’s TV station. I had befriended Paul Wall’s publicist, Nancy Byron, pretty quickly, and she invited me to an event for the release of Paul’s album, Heart of a Champion. So I drove from Austin to Houston, which was pretty normal for me to do, even on a school night. I would drive all across Texas. It was an exciting time, I had finally found something I was passionate about. Though I didn’t know yet at the time that this was gonna be part of my career, I just thought it was gonna be a fun thing that I did.
Young Sama’an and young Shea Serrano many moons ago.
So I showed up to the event and Nancy introduced me to Shea, who at the time was writing for the Houston Press, which was kind of like Houston’s cool alt-weekly publication. We hit it off, cracked some jokes, and Shea gave me a shoutout in the article he wrote about the event, and, I thought it was the coolest thing ever, I never never gotten shouted out in an article before. It was especially impactful to me because I wasn’t an exceptionally cool kid in high school, and I hadn’t ever really found something then that I felt like I belonged to. What Shea did for me while I was in college was help me feel like I belonged somewhere, which was being a member of the press, covering these events. We would see each other at stuff all the time, mainly around Houston, and every once in a while Shea would give me a shoutout in one of his articles and it would make me feel so cool.
I tweeted a lot at the time, which is ironic because now Shea tweets way more than me, and Shea used to tease me for it, but, I felt like that was a good thing, it kind of gave me a bit of a thicker skin so to speak. Anyway, Shea has since then been there for me, giving me advice at different steps of my career, especially at times when I’ve been at major, major low points, Shea has been someone who’s opened his door to me and that’s really really meant a lot.
But you know what? I think we should let Shea introduce himself.
Shea: What’s up. I’m Shea. I’m a writer and some good news is we just built a house. It’s beautiful. And I’m excited to live in it.
Sama’an: That’s really cool. I’m gonna go look at it. [laughs]
Shea: [laughs] You can come look at it. I’m not gonna let you inside, but you can look at it from the outside.
Sama’an: I’ll just walk by.
Shea: Alright [laughs]
Sama’an: And what song do you wanna talk about today?
Shea: Mr. Ice Cream Man by Master P.
Shea: “Mr. Ice Cream Man” came out in 1996. So that means I was 15 years old when it came out. “Mr. Ice Cream Man” is not one of my favorite rap songs. It’s an OK– like, it’s a good song. It’s a pretty good song, especially for that era of rap, but it’s more important than it is good. By that point Master P had already been out there for a while. He had put out, I wanna say, four albums before the album “Mr. Ice Cream Man” is on, it’s called Ice Cream Man, came out; this was his fifth album in ‘95 or ‘96 or something like that. But point is he had already put out tapes. He had those ones, he had one or two with his group that he was in called TRU before then that he was putting out at the same time. He had at least five albums, maybe six, under his belt by then, but he was still doing the like I’m-only-famous-in-the-city type thing, and then this song came out and it was the one that really got him outside of the city and made him like regionally famous. And then after that is when “Make Em Say Ugh” came and that was ‘97, ‘98, and that’s when he became nationally famous. But this was the song that put him on that track.
Sama’an: So he wasn’t the mogul Master P yet.
Shea: Not yet. He was he was angling toward it and that was a song that really sent him on the way. So it was more important than it was good. And I think the same thing can be said for Master P as a rapper as well. He was never really a great rapper, but he’s a very important rapper. He’s like one of the southern rap demigods basically; that’s his role in it. But that song came out in ‘96. I was 15 years old at the time; and that means I was going into 10th grade; and that means I was just a worthless little kid. I didn’t know anything and do anything. I was just sort of running in the streets. That’s what I was doing. When I say “running in the streets” I don’t mean like I was doing bad shit, I just mean like I was hanging out with my friends, riding bicycles to the park, this sort of thing.
Sama’an: What were your hobbies, what kind of stuff were you into? Just basketball?
Shea: At 15? Yeah I was playing basketball all the time, I was playing video games all the time. And really that was it. I mean there was not a lot else to do when you’re 15 in San Antonio. We’re on the south side so you know there are different parks or whatever you can move around to. This place called Miller’s Pond that we would go to all the time that was a bike ride away. Yeah I was just sort of existing in this area. Again it wasn’t that great. There was like a fair amount of crime there. But my parents were super protective and like they did a good job of shielding me from all of this stuff. I didn’t know half of the things that were going on, or that the family was going through, until I got older. I thought when we were moving, we were going to a better house or a different house, but like you grow up and find out, “Oh! We were getting foreclosed on in all these places!” Crazy shit like that! And there was like all of this actual, serious crime going on around us. I didn’t know until I moved away from it, and then they were telling me, and I realized oh that’s why my friends didn’t go to college, that’s why this guy’s in jail or prison or whatever. But it was I was oblivious to all of it; all I was trying to do was play NBA Jam and shoot a couple threes.
Sama’an: If we could go back and bike through that neighborhood together, what did your neighborhood look like? And what did Indian Creek look like?
Shea: My neighborhood was like a hilly area. But I believe it was a hilled area because it was built on an old dump. You know how when they put the trash and it eventually goes up? They built a neighborhood on that. It was adjacent to Lackland Air Force Base. If you go there now there’s there’s an air force base and there’s like all of these new homes that have been built there for the base. But at the time it was just like woods and we lived on the end of the block and it was like its own little ecosystem. There was a bordering Highway 410 on one side and then you had this one road called Medina Road. And then the other one was Old Pearsall that basically made a big rectangle. And my parents were like, “Just stay in here, don’t go outside of these roads, and you can do whatever you want,” sort of thing. And so that’s really what it was. The houses were, you know, small houses, two bedroom houses, maybe forty or fifty thousand dollars. Mostly everybody there was was on some sort of government assistance. I read some stats recently about the area, it actually was like 51 percent of the people there were on government assistance, be like welfare or Section 8 housing or whatever. Forty nine percent of the kids or 50 percent of the kids don’t graduate from high school. It was like a shitty place, but you didn’t realize it at the time because again…
Sama’an: It was your world…
Shea: Yeah. Everybody who was there was living the same life. So it didn’t feel like you were more poor or less poor than anybody else. Until you get out of it and you go like, “Oh shit, that’s not how you’re supposed to be alive in the world.”
Shea: That’s crazy.
Shea Serrano’s neighborhood on the south side of San Antonio.
Sama’an: So when you’d bike to Indian Creek, would things change?
Shea: Yeah it was way worse.
Sama’an: So how did it change as you biked?
Shea: It felt… it just felt more dangerous to me was what it was. There was definitely more gang activity in the area, that was like a very hot gangland type situation. There was an neighborhood called Indian Creek and Sky Harbor and they were right next to each other and it was like they were having a competition to see what could be the worst of the neighborhoods. So if you go there you’ll see a lot more like gang activity, like, just guys walking around and you look at them go like, “Oh, you guys are definitely a bad thing.” So there was that sort of stuff going on. There was more violent crime in that area and then the houses were just like 20 percent shittier and that’s really what it was. And the high school that I went to, like you lived in our neighborhood, you lived in one of those two neighborhoods, or you lived in like, for us it was the “nice” neighborhood on the other side called…. What the hell is it called? I don’t remember what it’s called but it was like the “nice” neighborhood where the parents were like “Oh you’re definitely middle class” type situation. But in our little rectangle it was Valley High and then Indian Creek and Sky Harbor. And you just tried to not be over there at nighttime. I did anyway. It might have been totally normal! Like maybe if you’re not a coward you could go over there just fine. For me I was like, “No thank you. I’m not interested.”
Sama’an: Yeah. When I first moved to Los Angeles a friend of mine who was born and raised there was like, “Yeah, you might not want to wear your Astros cap because the blue and orange is like the color of a certain set of the Crips.” And I was like — specifically like with the Astros cap that’s what they wear — And I was like, “That’s good advice — I don’t think anyone is gonna to confuse me for someone but that was good advice. That was when I first learned about how serious that was.”
Shea: [laughs] Mhm.
Sama’an: When you were 15, did you appreciate Master P at any kind of extra level because he was also from the south or did you not think about it like that?
Shea: I didn’t think about any of that stuff. The only rap music I was listening to was stuff that they played on the radio. We didn’t get MTV until like my junior year of high school — we didn’t get cable until senior year — and then I started listening to whatever they were playing on there. But I was not I was not the kid who was like trying to find new music or whatever. The first time I ever heard UGK was because one of my buddies brought a cassette tape over and we listened to it and I was like, “This is awful, I don’t wanna listen to this.”
Shea: “Why are they so mad?” I wanna listen to “Whoomp There It Is,” let’s play that instead.
Sama’an: Were you just old enough that Space Jam was corny to you? Or were you about Space Jam?
Shea: I was about Space Jam. It was super cool.
Shea: I was like, “Oh shit, I wanna do that. I wanna play basketball with cartoons.” That was more my vibe than Master P. Basketball cartoons.
Sama’an: Do you also enjoy the Master P song “Playas from the South?”
Shea: Is that is that yours?
Sama’an: That’s my one.
Sama’an: Do you remember on “Burbons and Lacs” when Master P was like “Just hit Interstate 10 to Texas?” It’s one of the few times that anyone’s ever rhymed “Texas” with “Lexus” and I didn’t think it was totally corny.
Sama’an: [laughs] Or just like phoning it in.
Shea: Yeah because he was trying when he wrote “Texas” with “Lexus” like that was a hard rap for him to come up with.
Sama’an: That was really tough for Master P [laughs]
Shea: [laughs] He wasn’t super sophisticated but he was very visceral.
Sama’an: Yeah. When I talk with my friends about rap music, in specific, I have some friends who won’t listen to for example like rap music in another language or rap music even from England just because to them it’s like too different. And my take on it always is: to me the way someone says something is generally more important than what they’re saying. And if I feel it that’s all that matters.
Shea: Yeah, that’s all you look for.
Sama’an: With Master P like you always felt like he was spilling his heart out. And that’s something I always appreciated about him.
Sama’an: Did you ever end up getting more into, like, as he built his empire were you like a No Limit, 504 Boyz person?
Shea: I liked the 504 Boyz for a little bit. For like the “Wobble Wobble” era.
Sama’an: Do you remember that song “Tight Whips?”
Sama’an: [sings the hook to “Tight Whips”]
Shea: Oh yeah yeah yeah that was around then. But no I was not a big No Limit guy.
Sama’an: Tell me what you looked like, what was your uniform? What did Shea at 15 wear that made him feel like “This is me.”
Shea: [deep breath] Well, I’m picturing 10th grade… I think at the time JNCOs were popular. I might have been wearing JNCOs. “jinnco?” “jeenco?” I never knew how to say it.
Sama’an: Me either.
Shea: I’m gonna go “jinnco.” So I was probably wearing those, those big ol’ baggy pants and a shirt that probably had a zipper on it. Zippers were super popular at the time. Just zip it up. One of those two things. Yeah. I was I really thought I was stylish at the time with a big old pants and zipper shirt… and probably like a choker necklace. I definitely have my hair dyed. I thought I was cool as shit.
Sama’an: Did you do Jean shorts?
Shea: Yeah! JNCO.
Sama’an: Those were specifically jean shorts? Or were you wearing full length pants?
Shea: I had the JNCO pants, I had the JNCO shorts. What was crazy is they were never like official JNCO because they were too expensive at the time. At the time they were like 50 dollars for a pair of pants which was absurd to me, absurd to my parents who had to buy ‘em.
Sama’an: Still absurd to me.
Shea: Right? So we would get ‘em from the flea market. There was a flea market near our neighborhood and it was like you could tell they were just sort of making ‘em somewhere. Like, they were making ‘em at home and then bringing ‘em to sell them there. But that’s what I was wearing.
Sama’an: It’s kind of brilliant. It’s like when you’re in those kind of situations, figuring out a way to get what you need without– you know what I mean? Like you have to have a certain level of ingenuity.
Shea:What’s crazy though is everybody was doing it. Most everybody was doing it because we were again off from that sort of same circumstances. But there were a few kids who weren’t, a few kids who were a little more well-off. I say well-off that means their parents were making forty thousand dollars a year instead of 32. But they would have like the real ones and they would always make fun of you because you could tell when they’re the knockoff version. None of the knockoff kids would make fun of the other knockoff kids. But the real kids would always make fun of the knockoff ones. It was like a fucking fighting offense. Like, I got a sweater one time that was from there, it was a Girbaud sweater, and it was the only Girbaud sweater I had, but it was like very clearly a flea market Girbaud sweater, and I was wearing it and a kid accused me of having bought from the flea market — which I 100 percent did. my mom bought it, we were at the flea market — and I was like, “I’ll fuckin kill you if you ever say that!” I got really upset and embarrassed about the situation, but, you know…
Sama’an: JNCO Wars.
Shea: JNCO, Girbaud. Those are the two. Girbaud was really popular at the time as well. Also expensive. I think after that like is when Tommy Hilfiger started getting popular and then a rumor started spreading through the school at the time that Tommy Hilfiger hated Mexicans and it was like less popular to wear it, but also more popular because you were like, “I don’t even care, I’m above that. Whatever. I’m so rich it doesn’t matter.” But yeah I remember getting made fun of for getting clothes from the flea market and being very upset about it. Like ready to fight.
Sama’an: I remember when Nelly came out with “Air Force Ones” I had to go get a pair of Air Force Ones. And I was in New Orleans with my family and someone was selling knockoff Air Force Ones. And they were cheaper. And to me I didn’t know that there was a real vs fake thing. They just looked enough like Air Force Ones. I was like, “Hey mom n dad, can I get these?” And they got ‘em for me and I showed up to school — they were like this ugly yellow color, too, don’t know why I picked that color — and I just got like torn apart.
Shea: Yeah kids are rough, man. I remember one time I asked my grandma to get me some adidas with the stripes [makes stripes sound]. Those ones had gotten popular. Everybody’s wearing them. “Grandma, can give me these shoes?” And she came home one day and she’s like, “I got you those shoes. Here you go.” And I opened the box and they had four stripes on em. And I was like, “These are not…..” She got ‘em from Payless, she didn’t even go to the flea market. But I was like trying to wear them and put my pant leg all over the Fourth stripe.
Shea: That’s just the kinda shit you were doing at the time, man.
Sama’an: Like, “These are bonus Adidas, they got one extra, that means they’re cooler ‘cause they got one extra.”
Sama’an: What were like some of the games that you and your friends would play after school around that age? What was like fun to get into?
Shea: The school where I went is called Southwest High School, and, this will sound weird weird, but, like, within walking distance behind it was this thing called Rachel’s Country Zoo. It was like a holdover from when this area was still unsettled and there was like an old hardware store or some shit like that. And this woman named Rachel just started her own zoo; totally just illegal, you could tell. But she just had some cages and you could walk through there. It was free, was the thing, is why we would go there. But we would walk to Rachel’s Country Zoo. And it was all like just regular animals in cages, like chickens. Here’s a dog in a cage.
Shea: But she had a buffalo! I don’t know where she fucking got a buffalo. But she had a buffalo and it was gigantic. I’ve never seen buffalo in real life, but it was this gigantic buffalo in a cage that was maybe two feet bigger than the buffalo. So this poor guy was just stuck standing there all day, and you could like come up to it, and that’s how you know it was illegal because you could get to touch a Buffalo which is very dangerous turns out. But you could get close enough to see his one sad eye and he’s just looking at you like, “Just open the door, so I can run away.”
But we would go to Rachel’s Country Zoo and that was a place where a lot of fights happened so you would sort of hang out there and wait to see somebody fight. There was there was like a True Value hardware store across from the old hardware store that had a pool table in the back so people would go there. And then there was a taco place called Tink-A-Taco that everybody would go to and you would hang out. But you would go with a group of five people and only one person had money for food. So you just watched that one person eat a taco. And that’s the sort of shit we were doing. And then they had the basketball courts on the other side and we would go play basketball.
But that’s really that’s really it. We weren’t– I was never a part of a group that was like doing bad shit. It was always like we’re just gonna hang out and try and get into 5 percent trouble so we can talk about it later, but no real trouble.
Sama’an: You gotta have stories to tell.
Shea: Yeah. Buffalo stories.
Shea: Fuckin, that Buffalo he lived a long time too. And then finally they shut the zoo down. I guess somebody told on Rachel. They shut it all down, there’s no more zoo. I don’t know what happened to the buffalo. There was a rumor that they shut it down because he got out and killed somebody but I don’t think that that’s true. I don’t feel like that was definitely true.
Sama’an: What was the buffalo’s name? Did he have a name?
Shea: Not to my knowledge. I’m sure he had one. His name was “Lonely,” “Lonely Buffalo.”
Sama’an: “Lonely, the Buffalo.”
Shea: He was so sad lookin, just standing there…
Sama’an: Poor guy.
Shea: And we went all the time.
Sama’an: What video games were you playing? Or arcade games.
Shea: This was again late, I mean, ‘96 or so, so I was probably playing Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, definitely. I might have at that time had a Sega CD or something goofy like that. So Dragon’s Lair or Sewer Shark or some shit. That was it. I was never a big video game kid. Those are the main ones. Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam were the ones that I was most interested in. Those are the ones I have now.
Sama’an: Who was your team on NBA Jam?
Shea: The Spurs….
Sama’an: I mean, I should say, who were your two?
Shea: You could get David Robinson and Sean Elliott if I’m not mistaken.
Sama’an: That’s such a solid… you could shoot threes all day and then you can swat people.
Shea: Yeah. And then if you did cheat like the defensive cheat code and there was no goaltending, nobody was scoring on you. It was fantastic.
Sama’an: Wow, that’s amazing.
Shea: When you mentioned “let’s talk about a song that reminds you of a specific story,” this is a very first song I thought of, even though again it’s not that great. For me, I wouldn’t rank it super, super high and I wouldn’t rank Master P super, super high, but every time I hear that song (“Mr. Ice Cream Man”) I think of this one specific story.
When I was 15 and I was at this girl’s house that I was trying to like get her take her shirt off. That was my whole plan. I wanted to make out. But we were hanging out outside in the front yard like this sort of thing. And the area where she lived was worse than even where I lived; I lived in a bad part of San Antonio at the time, it was this neighborhood called Valley High, and she lived in this place called Indian Creek which was way worse. It was just horrible. One of the worst neighborhoods. But I was there hanging out, and I only ever went over to go visit her during the day because at nighttime like you don’t want to be… It was like an I Am Legend situation, like you get out before the sun goes down, otherwise you’re gonna probably die. So we were hanging out and she lived on a cul-de-sac and I was like shooting baskets, you know, trying to impress her with my basketball skills which never ever–there’s never been a girl was like, “He’s so good at basketball, I need to make out with him right now.” That’s never happened with maybe the exception of NBA players but not on my level. I’ve never three-point-shot my way into a girl’s heart. But I was trying!
I was givin’ it my all and we were hanging out. And the guy that lived next to them was this kid named Aurelio, who, he went to our school, sort of went there, when he wanted to, occasionally, but mostly he didn’t. And he was a very like scary dude. He was super doing his whole gang thing. And he was just a guy like I knew who he was I had seen him a bunch of times we were in school together, and he kind of knew who I was, maybe. He knew I was afraid of him so that was enough for him to like not…. murder me.
Sama’an: He knew that you were afraid of him?
Shea: Yeah. Like it was that sort of relationship.
Shea: And so I was outside hanging out with this girl. He was in his house. And I can hear… he’s playing this song, “Mr. Ice Cream Man,” and he’s playing on a loop over and over and over again. And I guess he had it on tape because it would play, and then there would be like a few seconds of silence and for him to rewind it and then it would play again. And the house is a beat up old house. The window closest to us had been busted out so he’s got plywood over it and he’s got the radio turned up so loud that it’s like vibrating like that’s part of what’s going on. So I’m outside the house is rockin, it feels like it’s swaying, that vibrating plywood is definitely happening, and over and over again “Mr Ice Cream Man, Mr. Ice Cream Man,” and after a while you know the girl and I had been outside for a bit, and he came outside to do whatever. And I remember him, he had very strong eyebrows. I was like, “You got good eyebrows, dude.”
Sama’an: Was he tall? was he like intimidating?
Shea: Nah, no Mexicans are tall. He was maybe 5’9,” 5’10.” But he had a shaved head at the time; When you’re Mexican and you’re growing up when you become an older Mexican man is when you shave your hair off and then you grow a mustache and the chin hair. That’s the look that you do.
Sama’an: Got it.
Shea: He had that shit at like 15
Shea: He was not playing around. That’s what I remember about him, like, “Oh yeah you… you’re the real thing.
Sama’an: Wow. What an icon.
Shea: When I saw him I was like I was trying to impress her, so I’m gonna talk to the scary guy. I’m like, “Oh what’s up Aurelio!” or whatever, and he didn’t say “Hello” back to me. He just sort of looked at me or whatever.
Sama’an: Like [mimicking Shea trying to impress the girl] “Me n Aurelio are cool.” [laughs]
Shea: And I was like that’s our relationship right there. And so I was trying to like make small talk with him, you know. “You wanna shoot around with me?” And he didn’t want to shoot around with me. And I asked him about Master P, like, “Oh you like Master P?” Sort of thing. And he didn’t like become my friend right then but he was a little more interested. And he’s like, “Oh you know ‘bout Master P?” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah that’s ‘Mr. Ice Cream Man,’ that’s my favorite Master P song!” or whatever. It was the only one I knew at the time. Master P has had several good songs, he’s had “Mr. Ice Cream Man,” he’s had “I Miss My Homies,” You know this one? That’s like the funeral song.
Sama’an: It’s like a really sad song.
Shea: It’s very sad. It’s a very touching– like if you hear it at a funeral for one of your friends, it’s a wrap, you’re gonna just… you’re gonna cry for the whole time. And “Make ‘Em Say Ugh,” those are like his three main ones.
Sama’an: For you.
Shea: For me. Probably for everybody I would guess. But “Mr. Ice Cream Man” was the only song I knew by name. So I’m like, “Oh yeah I know everything about Master P, Mr. Ice Cream Man,” and he asked me right then like, “Do you know what the song is about?” Which I thought was a weird question to like ask a person. That was the first thing he ever asked me, and I never thought– I never sat down and like tried to figure out what “Mr. Ice Cream Man” is about. It’s not about ice cream, obviously. The video though is he’s literally playing an ice cream man.
Sama’an: He was trying to trick you.
Shea: He’s driving around the neighborhood. He’s dressed in all white. He like hits a button on his car and his car turns all white, and then he’s driving it around and opens the trunk like a freezer and he’s handing cups of ice cream to people. But so the guy [Aurelio] asked me what it’s about. And in my head I’d like… Oh it’s not about ice cream. You figure out real quick, “Oh yeah, he’s talking about drugs.” Obviously he’s talking about drugs. That’s what Master P does. That was like the whole beginning of his career was the drugs and the drug game. So I was like, “Oh yeah it’s about drugs.”
Shea: [Aurelio] didn’t say anything back to me, but he reached his pocket — He was he was wearing Dickie’s I think or basketball shorts with pockets in them. One of those two is only two things he ever wore — and he pulled out a little bag like he’s just holding it up just like this in between his thumb and forefinger. And it was cocaine! It was like a little baggie of cocaine. And I was like, I don’t know what to do at this point because I’m still there holding a basketball trying to impress this girl. And all of a sudden this guy is just holding drugs at me, and I don’t know am I supposed to like… Do I ask him, “Is that cocaine?” or do I pretend like I know. Like do you say, “Oh! Cocaine, cool.”
Shea: Do I flick the bag? I don’t know what to do in that situation. So I didn’t do anything, I was just looking at him. And then he put it back in his pocket and he went back in the house. And that is the first thing I thought of when you said, “Let’s talk about a song that reminds you of a story.” I’ll never forget him holding that bag of drugs in Indian Creek in that cul-de-sac, holding it up just looking at me and me automatically knowing I have no idea how to handle this situation. I have no idea what to do about any of this! It was a weird spot to be in when you’re 15 years old.
Sama’an: Yeah. And also completely not what you would have ever expected when you were trying to impress a girl.
Shea: No! I didn’t go to her house anticipating a man holding in drugs in my face. I’d never ever seen cocaine before.
Sama’an: That was your first time?
Shea: It was the first time. I’ve only ever seen it like twice in my whole life. That was one time and another time in a parking lot at a club. Some girl was doing it in her car and I was like I did the same thing then I was like, “Oh! Cocaine!”
Sama’an: “She must like Master P”
Shea: [laughs] and then that was it. I was not expecting Aurelio to do that.
Sama’an: This is the only time– I’ve seen cocaine twice as well. But the funniest time was when I was in L.A. at a club bathroom and I was taking a piss. And the lock on the stall was broken, and, mid-stream, this dude busts the door open. I don’t think he knew I was in there. And so he’s like, “Oh! Woah, my bad!” It’s an Indian dude with a British accent and I’m really bad at doing British accents, but he was like, “Bruv! Would you mind if I did a bump in here?” And I was like, “I’m peeing right now.”
Shea: “I got my dick out, bro!”
Sama’an: [laughs] Like, “Please get out of my stall.” And he was like… he made me feel weird for not being okay with it. He was like, “Oh, well, can I borrow one of your keys to take a bump?” And I was like, “No, man, get the fuck outta my stall!” So that’s the second time I ever saw cocaine.
Shea: Borrow one of your keys?
Sama’an: Like I had my keys in my back pocket.
Shea: He was gonna put the drugs on the key?
Shea: You should have let him do it off your dick.
Sama’an: “The only way you’re staying in this stall…”
Shea: “Sprinkle it on here…”
Shea:That’s a story. I would lie, for the rest of your life I would tell that version of the story.
Sama’an: So for you, “Ice Cream Man” was a fun song but for Aurelio it was his life.
Shea: It was like a lifestyle for him. I don’t know if he was dealing drugs or if he did cocaine or a combination of the two, but that’s what he felt like showing me when I asked him about that song. I super was not ready. I never asked him about another song ever again.
Shea: It was the end of our relationship.
Sama’an: What happened with you and the girl?
Shea: That didn’t work out.
Shea: She wasn’t super impressed.
Shea: She probably made out with Aurelio. If I was in her spot and I had to pick between those two people, I would have chosen him. He was more handsome anyway.
Shea: Yeah, he was gonna kill him! He was gonna kill him, some crazy shit like that.
Sama’an: That’s like some comic book like hero and villain shit. Did you have “Ice Cream Man” on cassette as well? Did you ever get that?
Shea: No I never– If they played it on the radio you would hear it. I never just wanted to hear that song. I just recognized it, so I was gonna talk to Aurelio about it. He was cool as shit, man.
Sama’an: If you were going to get it on cassette, where would you have gotten it at that time?
Shea: I would have gotten it from the flea market or like if you got it from the flea market it was gonna be somebody recorded off the radio.
Shea: Or there was a mall. Ingram Park Mall. That was like the height of fashion and sophistication for our side of town. If you got Ingram Park Mall, like, that was it. But in Houston terms it’s Greenspoint Mall. They had one or two music stores in there. I don’t know if you remember they would have the thing where they had headphones on the wall and you could listen to a song. Push a button. I would try to steal it from there. That’s where I would’ve gotten it otherwise.
Sama’an: I’m just old enough to remember trying to make custom mixtapes for the girls I liked in middle school by like ripping stuff from the radio off my stereo.
Shea: Yeah what was really a game changer for me was when my cousin showed me that — there were two ways to make like take stuff off the radio you could buy the blank tapes which were like four or five bucks or you could get a tape and they had the little ports in the top that if there was music on there already it was open and it wouldn’t let you record on them. But if you took paper and wet it and mushed it down in there then you could record over the thing. It was like… We don’t have to buy these tapes anymore so now we can make mixtapes. Because my parents were not going to pay for a blank tape, they didn’t understand. I’m like, “Dad, can you buy me this? I’m gonna make a–” He’s like “There’s no music on here I’m not paying five dollars for this.” And then oh wait, you can mush the paper down in there and you can make the tape. If somebody is listening to this right now who never had to deal with cassette tapes, they have no idea about anything I just said. It doesn’t mean anything.
Sama’an: It’s literally just gibberish.
Shea: Yeah. That’s crazy.
Sama’an: But I remember. That’s really dope.
Shea: For me when I got to that age to maybe like 18 is when I left San Antonio— 17 or 18 I left San Antonio and then I started like finding shit on my own. And … when I came to Huntsville which is like an hour north of Houston, if you turn the radio on you could hear [97.9] The Boxx and San Antonio at the time didn’t have a radio station that played a lot of rap. They played like a version of rap, but not a lot of rap, and The Boxx was like at 8 in the morning they were playing Juvenile and it just blew my mind.
Sama’an: Like that’s how people wanted to start their day.
Shea: Yeah. And so it was around then, 18, 19 years old, when I started to like, “OK let me try to find some cool music to listen to.” And to me I don’t know if it was an actual thing or if I was just making it that way but it seemed like, okay, you’re picking from one of these things: you’re either going to listen to UGK or you’re going to listen to No Limit or you’re going to listen to the Hot Boys. It was one of those three things that you were picking from. And at the time the Hot Boys were the most popular ones. They were just taking off. This was again ‘99, 2000 or so. So Master P was still pretty popular but not as popular. UGK was sort of not in the picture at the time. They were they were there for when you want to study the history of how we got to where we were. But of the moment it was Hot Boys so I was like, “Cool, I’m in.” Like I wanted to listen to B.G. and Lil’ Wayne and Turk and these guys.
Sama’an: Were the Hot Boys kinda like the soundtrack to your college years?
Shea: Mhm. Early college first two years of college or something. If I close my eyes and I picture going to the club in college, that’s what’s playing. It was beautiful. It was perfect club music.
Sama’an: I can totally picture that. So who would you go to the club with when you were in college? What was your club crew?
Shea: It was the guys that we all stayed in the dorm together. It was like 10 or 12 of us that were just movin’ together. To me it seemed like we all sort of grew up the same way. And it was a mix of like I don’t know if there were 10 of us I would say six of them are Black guys, there’s one white guy, and like two or three Mexicans and then that was our group that we will go. But you didn’t go to the club and like all hang out all 10 of you, you got the club and everybody just sort of spread out, and, “Good luck, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Like that was the situation.
Sama’an: What were the clubs in Huntsville like?
Shea: Terrible. They were really, really bad. Because Hunstville’s a little tiny town. And it’s a college town. So they were fun mostly, but there was one little club across the street from the school. It couldn’t have been bigger than a house like a two bedroom house, it was called Quarters, and it was really super shitty. And you’d go to that one because they played a lot of rap music and then there was another club called The Jolly Fox which was like that’s where the white people went. So they still played more rap music but also a bunch of other stuff. And then there was one that everybody just called it “The Tin Can.” I can’t remember what the actual name of it was but it was like a fucking old storage facility that that’s where the black people had their parties. And if you went there like that’s what you were listening to. So it was like you know prison style we’re all broken up by race. But the clubs were not they were super not good. When I came to Houston and I went to like a very fancy, just-opened-up-nice-club, it was like holy shit this is way different than what’s going on out there. [In Hunstville] you just walk into an empty room with no chairs and one guy selling sodas out of a fuckin’ ice chest, and there you go, there’s your club.
Sama’an: I remember the first time I went to Carrington’s in Houston. There were like–
Shea: What you doin’ at Carrington’s?
Sama’an: I just thought it was so cool that there were pool tables everywhere. Was there stuff like that in Huntsville?
Shea: Yeah. At Quarters they had pool tables. At Jolly Fox they had pool tables. At Tin Can, no. There was literally nothing in there.
Sama’an: It was a tin can.
Shea: It was. That’s what it looks like that’s why they call it Tin Can. It looked if you cut a can in half and you sort of laid it on the side it was like, you know, a half-circle.
Sama’an: Just like a cross-section.
Sama’an: Were you pool shark?
Shea: I was pretty good. That was the one thing I got good at. Hand-eye-coordination, I’m cool with. Stuff that’s like football…
Sama’an: Not as much.
Shea: Not good.
Shea: You hit me, I’m gonna quit. With pool, you can’t hit me, it’s just like angles and math and shit– I’ll figure this out.
Sama’an: When I was in middle school I played football and I was a receiver and I remember… well in middle school it’s mainly– you do like two passing plays a game, but I remember like for whatever reason I was actually doing alright at being a receiver. And my coach pulled me aside at practice one day… I was on the B-team–
Shea: Good ol’ B-team, baby!
Sama’an: I was a B-team receiver and my coach was like, “You know, Sama’an, you’ve been developing your skills. What do you think about like trying out one game starting at receiver for A-team?” And I just like… Even though I had been in practice and done all the drills and stuff, it was my first time thinking about like people actually hitting me after I caught the ball. And I totally chickened out. I was like, “I’m good! I’m just gonna ride it out [on B-team.]”
Shea: I played one football game in middle school and they had me a receiver as well. It was like that’s where you put the small skinny kid who can’t do anything else. And we were in the huddle and they called a pass play, it was like a screen or some shit like this. Just, “I’m gonna hike the ball and you look at me and I’m a throw it to you and you run.” And they call the play and then I was like, “I have no idea what you just said right now.” Whatever the play was called, like “Screen Right,” or something. I said, “I don’t know what that means.” The quarterback was a bigger kid and he just was like, “I’m gonna throw you the ball.” And I said, “Doooon’t don’t do that! Definitely do not do that.” And he said, “I’m gonna throw you the ball just catch it and run.” And I’m like, “I’m not gonna catch it.” And you know, “One, two, three– SET” They take off. We run out to the thing and I’m lined up in perfect stance and they hike the ball, and I look at him, and sure enough he turns to me and he throws a ball and it’s flying at me and I just knock it down. I didn’t even try to catch it! I just knocked it down, I said, “I’m not gonna catch it. Don’t throw it to me because I’ll never catch it because I’m not about to get tackled. I’m out here to wear my uniform. And that’s it. That’s all I’m here for.”
Sama’an: [laughs] Great. That’s great. That was also the time when getting like frosted tips like getting your hair highlighted was popular.
Shea: I had that too, yeah.
Sama’an: I decided I was gonna to do that, and when I did it, it turned out orange. So all my coaches called me Eminem, and like Slim Shady for the rest of the year.
Sama’an: I just got shamed off the football team basically.
Shea: Basketball was always way more my speed.
Shea: Football I was like [makes disapproving sound.]
Sama’an:In middle school when I was on the basketball team, the way we used to troll the visiting teams when they would come in was… We only had one scoreboard, so the two quarters that they were shooting away from the scoreboard when there was like a minute left in the game… Let’s say maybe there’s like 45 seconds left. We would get the whole bleachers to start counting down from 10.
Shea: Yeeeaaahhhh. I think every middle school does that. You just start going, “FIVE, FOUR…” and the guy with the ball always panics and just chucks it up there.
Shea: Every every school does that I’m pretty sure.
Sama’an: That’s pretty great, I love how that’s universal.
Sama’an: Hey dude, thank you for being on the podcast.
Shea: Yeah. No sweat. That was a good “hey dude,” sweetest “hey dude” I’ve ever had tossed to me.
Sama’an: Thank you for telling us about young you.
Shea: Yeah. No sweat.
Sama’an: It means a lot. I appreciate it. Shout out to Master P.
Shea: Shoutout to Master P, Mr. Ice Cream Man, and Aurelio.
Shea: Not that girl though.
Sama’an: But Aurelio if you’re out there let us know.
Shea: That’d be crazy if he was listening to this. I wonder if he would remember that.
Sama’an: He definitely remembers the song for sure.
Shea: He remembers the song. I wonder how many people he showed drugs to.
Sama’an: While that song was playing. He probably thought he was in the music video.
Shea: He might have. He was really cool.
Sama’an: Wow. I’m so happy we got to meet teenage Shea. And I’m also so happy that Shea identified with the movie Space Jam the same way I did and continue to do. I also really, really related to the way Shea was into some of this music maybe you wouldn’t expect a young teenager to be into. At that same age, in my early teens, I felt like I was definitely into a lot of music that I couldn’t get my friends into. Something else I really really related to was the way that the neighborhood Shea grew up in kind of seemed like his own kingdom that he and his friends would bike around in. I had much the same experience, all my best friends growing up, we all lived in the same neighborhood, and we when got our bikes it was over. It was a wrap. We used to bike around that neighborhood like we owned it, like we ran it. And there were definitely designated fight areas, designated debauchery areas. Yeah, there was a lot to relate to in Shea’s story. I’m so thankful to him for opening up and talking about that time in his life. What a hilarious image of this drug dealer flashing some coke at him and Shea being like, “I dunno, do I flick the bag?” What do you do with a bag of coke? Goodness gracious. Shea, thank you so much for coming on The Nostalgia Mixtape and talking to us about Master P. If you were liking the music in this episode, don’t forget to head on over to thenostalgiamixtape.com, check out the playlist, Shea’s own personal nostalgia mixtape, and let us know on social media or on the website in the forums if there are some new songs you discovered that you really like or if you were into some of those same songs that Shea was into. Maybe you even have a story about one of ‘em. Head on over to thenostalgiamixtape.com. Please share this with your friends and family, tag us, tag Shea, and if you’re feeling extra charitable, throw us a few bucks! It always helps, it helps us keep the lights on.
Yeah! I’m your host, Sama’an Ashrawi, this podcast is produced by Jason Crow. Let’s do it again!