By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Kadillak still had her car keys, which she'd given him to run errands after she came back to return the cash and patch things up. He hopped into the car and drove to the other side of the building to look for her. He also tried to contact her via telephone. As the sun began to set, he gave up and caught a ride to another local studio where he was scheduled to record. Instead of taking the keys with him, he left them under the driver's-side floor mat.
According to the Tustin police report, the ex-girlfriend told the cops that Kadillak had "taken" her car. Though it was clear Kadillak hadn't stolen it, just parked it a few hundred feet away (officers soon found and impounded the vehicle), the allegation was all the police needed to put out a warrant for a guy who'd been a thorn in the side of local law enforcement—especially the Santa Ana Police Department—for years. Despite having one foot in the rap game, his long history of drug dealing and gang banging since he was a teenager made him a perpetual target for police who kept constant watch on him and various members of his family, who over the years earned a notorious reputation for the same lifestyle; Kadillak has been in and out of detention centers since he was 9 years old.
With flurry of blue and red lights flashing around him that October afternoon on the corner of Aliso Parkway and Morning Ridge, all the rapper could do was surrender and watch his life swirl away. He'd just pulled up to his girlfriend's apartment complex in the suburban neighborhood when one sheriff's squad car rolled up next to him, followed by four more. To make matters even worse, his girlfriend's ex-husband—another local rapper—waited in the bushes nearby to point him out to police. Evidently, the ex-husband, who had a personal beef with Kadillak, found out about the warrant and volunteered to help the police.
Surrounded, Kadillak stopped the car. For a split second, he contemplated running or hitting the gas. Instead, he popped the door handle, stepped out of the car and surrendered without incident. Lowering his head into the back of the black-and-white Crown Victoria, he realized he could very well face the next two decades in prison over a car he merely parked down the street. "I just felt like, 'Damn, it's over, I'm done,'" he recalls. "'Over this?'"
* * *
Ask him when his rap career started, and Kadillak typically uses one day as a marker: May 13, 2006. Walking out the gates of Wasco State Prison near San Bernardino and into the desert heat, he was ready to start over, both in life and in hip-hop. It had been six years and four months since he'd touched a mic in the outside world. In 2000, he'd been sentenced to eight years for assault with a deadly weapon and causing grave bodily injury after joining in a brawl between a friend and a Mexican gangster; the cholo was left beaten and bloody outside a 7-Eleven in Santa Ana.
Kadillak had almost been convicted of raping a former girlfriend in a church parking lot in Garden Grove on the same night as the altercation. The rape allegation proved false—a story concocted by the girlfriend after a nasty fight between the two, also over the fact he'd been seeing other women. Aside from a lack of physical evidence, Kadillak had an alibi: a fortuitous run-in around 11:30 p.m. with Tustin cops, who happened to drive by his car and noticed him smoking blunts and blasting his new mixtape for his cousins outside of their apartment. It was around the time the crime was supposed to have taken place.
Though he'd beaten the rape case, the charges for assault and bodily injury and subsequent drug sales and transportation charges were a violation of his parole, and according to Judge Andrew Banks in Westminster, that had earned him a second strike on his record. The judge voided a previous deal Kadillak made to serve only an eight-month sentence, and instead ordered a total of eight years and four months in jail, though the rapper wound up serving only six years and four months. To this day, even though he was never convicted of rape, there are people in his neighborhood who view Kadillak as a sexual offender. In his mind, being on the outside meant setting the record straight both with his story and with his rhymes. But when your rap sheet looks more like a scroll and you come from a family notorious for gang banging and selling drugs, rumors that get spread about you tend to stick.
He'd grown up in a small, yellow, four-bedroom house in Santa Ana, near the corner of Fairview and Willits streets, a poor neighborhood where crack cocaine and prostitution plagued their way through the rough maze of stucco suburban housing in the 1980s. Kadillak lived with his mother, four sisters and grandmother, and a handful of aunts and uncles also lived in the same housing tract. His father, Paul Hollins, was a cocaine dealer who'd never married Kadillak's mother, Tracy Matthews, but still came around to help raise him, buy him things or take him for rides in a flashy, dark-blue, '77 Ford Granada. Paul was a ladies' man, a sharp-dressed hustler; he was the first on the block with a cell phone (back when they were new and enormous) and owned a small fleet of Suzuki motorcycles. His son was the spitting image of him in looks and, later, actions. Despite promises of weekend vacations and day trips, Kadillak was left standing on the curb beside the sunburned tufts of his front lawn or waiting by the window until the sun went down.