By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Rent $950 (market)
Square feet 800
Occupants Rack-Lo (hip-hop artist; CEO of Spit Factory); Shileena Perez (telephone representative, 1199 Health Care and Hospital Corporation; hip-hop artist); Doris Billips (medical assistant); Christian (kindergartner)
Rack-Lo, you're a member of the Lo-Lifes, the club that you and your friends started in the late '80s. You got famous by stealing and wearing anything Ralph Lauren Polo. Then one day the theft mob became a music group. Is your zest for Ralph Lauren in the home too?
[Rack-Lo] I got some sheets.
You were living in East New York for eight years?
Near Linden Boulevard, about four blocks from Spring Creek. The neighborhood was decent, but the violence was there, the urban life, you know. They sold the building, so we had to get out. It was crucial. We walked around East New York and didn't see anything we really liked. Canarsie's, like, residential. We just moved here last week. We looked for two months. We got it through a broker.
You grew up in Brownsville in Brooklyn.
Yeah. At age 14, I was homeless. My mom told me I had to go. I couldn't deal with the rules, you know. I lived on the streets for two weeks, slept in the park a few nights. Moving around, it was real awkward, feeling strange, not knowing where I was going to rest my head, get my next meal from. The experience made me stronger and I learned a lot. Then I went to my Aunt Rebecca's in Marcus Garvey Village, the housing project in Brownsville. My grandparents lived there. A lot of wars were going on, urban wars with the housing project across the street. Lot of gunplay, fights. You couldn't trust anybody. I dropped out of junior high. I was trying to get into the GED program, 15 going on 16. I developed a real tight relationship with the director of the program. Then her granddaughter stopped by the program one day. I had no idea it was going to turn out this way. [Shileena] My grandmother used to say, Oh, he's so handsome, so smart. I thought, Let me go check out this guy. Once we saw each other, it was love at first sight. [Rack-Lo] We never parted from there. That was '89. We got married. I'm 27 now. My sister Doris lives with us. [Shileena] I grew up in Flatbush.
So this is your hip-hop home.
[Rack-Lo] We do hip-hop whatever we do. We live it. When you come up the stairs here, you see the Lo-Life history: the photographs, the album covers, Rack Lauren, Thou Shalt Not Steal, Spit in Ya' Face. In this room is my company, the Spit Factory.
It's got an Early American style chair, a computer, FedEx envelopes.
It's a start.
Your hip-hop living room has lovely beige couches.
[Shileena] Here's the hip-hop bathroom, pink tile, the hip-hop kitchen. . . .
Curtains with apples and pears, pink pottery canister set.
This is George's. . . .
George! [whispers] I'm not going to call him Rack-Lo. His family calls him Junior.
I expected the hip-hop home to be a little rougher. Do you have a song about your new apartment?
[Rack-Lo, singing] We moved from East New York two weeks ago/We're in a new apartment/We hardly get any rest/If you look at our new apartment/It's the best/A Polo treasure chest/I got one section for music/One section for sleeping/Every time we do this/We come out even/Now I'm breathin'/There's Polo in the kitchen/Polo in the living room/Polo in the bedroom/Give me some room to breathe.