To know our friend Sean is to know the stillness of the night, the stretched out solitude of a lake view, the triumph of making moves that strike electrically. One day, this August 2020, God needed that quiet electricity for heaven and the earth became a tad more duller. The most perplexing trait that Sean had was this quiet and calm demeanor that exploded with a beautiful passion and ferocity when he found something he had a passion for. He would slide into a room, say his hellos at a whisper tone betraying the thunder clap in his voice and gut.
I met Sean working my way through an Associates degree at College of the Desert. He was a Junior or so in High School and fell hard for that poetic muse Hip Hop. Coachella Valley Hip Hop is deceptive – the radio stations play commercial dreck but the Desert Empire is only two hours east of Los Angeles which is a hotbed for talent and for amazing shows and venues. In addition, Coachella Valley is a perfect diaspora place for kids escaping what is coined the inner-city. Therefore, there were kids from Long Beach, Los Angeles, Chicago, Bronx, Pacoima, etc.
Around 1996, about 25 friends from mainly the East side of the Coachella Valley (east of Palm Desert), banded together with our technics, rap notebooks. Key boards, scrappy mics, etc. Whatever hustle we could find whether it was Carl’s Juniors, Vons, McDonald’s, Palm Desert mall jobs, etc. we’re poured into our music collections and music equipment. Express yourself!!!! That we did even if it meant infuriating Rancho Mirage Police Department after making White Water Park a Hip Hop Block Party like Radiotron.
Lil Sean was just that – this scruffy little skater kid that was doing half-pipes with the skater click in our Hip Hop crew. He had long flowing pants, tiny as a mouse with scruff on his chin. I looked at the rest of my crew quizzically- whose this kid??? Then my man Karmic Basis sat me to the side and played some of his music into my ear drums and my ear drums were ecstatic. “He wants in the crew? What do you think?” There was no hesitation in my voice – that kid is the whole kit and kaboodle, the most no-brainer decision I had a voice in – he’s crew, “Baby AE”, around 1999.
I took on a mentoring role to Sean making sure that I had his back and give him some game as they say, to help him through his young adult years. I remember driving with him in the backseat picking my brain about music and relationships. He had fell head over heals for a Marissa Tomei look-alike at Indio Continuation School. At that point in my life, all I had were failed relationships so I tried my best to speak on that level. However, his eyes lit up and he nodded and smiled that wide grin that would make the coldest hearts melt.
Around this time, AE was doing shows weekly, and pushing music out of the trunk of their cars if we were so lucky. We had stack of cdr’s, basic technologies, pushing out our own music following Project Blowed concepts for staying independent and underground so as to keep money in your pockets and ducking the sickening ways of Hollywood industry types.
Watching Lil Sean perform was watching Transformers live – when the sleek car turns into Megatron. The sight was bewildering and the sound was pristine. Karmic Basis is our orchestra conductor providing our sound, and making sure platforms were made, shows, concerts he grappled with using his skills from organizing rave parties with Mind Infection Party Crew. When it was time to grab the Coachella Valley by the ears we did our best to Roar with that ferocious heart. Autamatik was truly that – the rapid fire assassin that shut up the doubters and made them believers.
Our paths diverged – I spent many years at University and working in the difficult Los Angeles/Hollywood food industry. A part of me wanted to live that performer lifestyle with Sean but it wasn’t my lane. For many years, I was sure that KB and Autamatik were destined for stardom but stardom is not what drives underground MCs. It is the skill, the hunt for language, vocabulary and to flex bars like Nasty Nas.
The last time Sean and I spent time together was July, 2012 in the area of Thousand Palms. There was a rap battle at the show and Lil Sean was now the ogee imparting words to the young battle rhymes. He was happy to see me coming up in my civil engineering career and starting my young family. He boasted about his beloved son and talked about the long hours he was working as a salesman. For us Hip Hop fanatics there is never any peace just relentless pursuits of the perfect beat, the perfect vibe, for completion, acceptance. I looked at my young mentee and was blown away by the man that he became with a steely look, and a clever, strong mind that knew exactly what he wanted in life and how to get it.
This is an incomplete portrait that can only be painted by the people that were in his his close circle: his beloved son, sibling, cousins, parents, co-workers and other close associates. To them, I hope that these kind words fill up the space by our giant that left the room leaving behind his works, words and principled life. Know that his flesh has transcended but his heart and soul fill up the lion’s den with his roar.