For some the life of Mr. Mean Mug is what movies and gangsta rap is made of: drugs, guns, a broken home, music, jail and then redemption. But for the man born Shane Gregory it is much deeper than that. What he has lived through over the past 29 years is not something he would have chosen. It is, however, what he was dealt, and he has emerged a stronger, wiser man because of it. Now with a new lease on life he lives everyday to its fullest with an emphasis on how he can use the time he has been given to make a difference in the life of those around him. With his debut novel TATTOO TEARS creating a steady buzz in the streets and now in bookstores worldwide, he is using the pen and his words to get people to stop and listen to the words of what some would consider an unlikely messenger. In February 2010, he along with Houston, TX author Jermnine Demouchette began working with Shadow Play Entertainment to embark on a national book tour called the literary Texas Takeover. Their first stop was Jackson, MS---a state with one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country.
In this exclusive interview with Cyrus A. Webb of Conversations Magazine and Conversations LIVE! Radio, Gregory opens up like never before and it is worthwhile to pay attention to what he has to say.
Mr. Mean Mug, I appreciate your taking out the time to talk with us about your journey. Before we begin I have to say that some might look at you or hear your name and not find you to be that approachable. Yeah, people talk about the serious look on my face, but it's not for what they might thing. I think alot. If they see me like that I'm thinking tough, thinking hard. Always thinking ahead to my next move in life.;
Since you were released from prison you haven't been pursuing music. You told me, though, that you wanted to still incorporate music in your mission today. Explain. I teamed up with a recording artist that will help me mix music and the message of my book by including a cd inside the cover. That way I can let them read and hear some of the soundtrack of the lessons I have learned in life.
Thanks for taking out the time to talk with me. Take us back to the beginning. I appreciate your letting me tell my story. I was born Shane Gregory in Ohio. My family was really big into church, and about the time I was 3 or 4 we moved to Texas to follow our church. It was after that move that things started to happen in my family. My dad got involved with drugs. There were days he wasn't around and that us kids were home alone with Mom. I learned quickly that to live and survive we would have to do it without him.
Do you think that what happened with your dad contributed to the life you turned to? Definitely. As the years went by I got in the streets. I didn't know how to sell dope or anything like, that because I didn't grow up like that. Instead I started jacking cars and dope houses. Even then I was a go-getter and knew how to get what I needed. It's funny because now instead of snatching pockets I am mugging minds through the truth I am sharing.
You have done some bad things, Mean, but what you did in the streets didn't make you a bad person. Realistically we know that some look at you and will say that no good could ever come from you. How would you respond to that? People who look like me can have intelligence. Those of us that were in the streets and come from the streets are a different breed, but that doesn't mean we can't have what others do. Some will automatically judge me and others who look like me. That kind of prejudice is hurting alot of people, and it's all over the place---even in the church. Those in the church can be guilty of blocking some people's way to God and happiness, and that's wrong.
You seemed to escape paying for the wrong-doing for a while. What happened to change that? My lifestyle of crime started to catch up with me before my 18th birthday. I was 17 when I was locked up the first time. I made a deal with someone in the streets to get bailed out. He wanted to help me elevate my game, but I wasn't stupid. I knew he would be benefiting from my hustle, too. This would not be my only run-in with the law. I was acting foolish. At that point I started to think I was my own God in that I was the one that was going to make things happen in my life.
Just 8 days after my 22nd birthday I was involved in a situation that forever changed my life. I had made plans with a partner of mine to busy some weed from these individuals and then come back and jack them for the money. Things got out of hand. One of the people in the dope house called the police, and before I knew it the incident escalated into a situation where I was jumping a police officer, was accidentally shot and eventually sentenced to 15 years. I went from believing that I was the author and finisher of my life to realizing that when God has something for you to do that it is going to happen. I know that God is keeping me here for a reason.
Would you say this time your time in jail made a real difference in your life? In many ways, yes. While I was locked up my good friend and business partner was killed. We had been like brothers since I was four years old. Looking back at it I know that if I hadn't been locked up that I would have been there with him and shared in his fate. It's for that reason that I keep his name alive in everything that I do. As long as I'm here, he's not going anywhere. Another ironic thing that happened to me while locked up was that the person who called the police during the incident ended up being my cellmate for a whle. We had a chance to talk things out and even became friends.
Mean Mug, music was such an important part of your life, but how did books come into the picture? A few years into my sentence, around the age of 25 or so, I started getting books sent to me from my people on the outside. I was reading books like True To The Game by Teri Woods, The Coldest Winter Ever by Sista Soula and Death Around The Corner by C-Murder. I didn't have music, but I saw these books as a sign as to what could be the next best thing. I started writing, with Tattoo Tears being the first work that I have published with much more already written to follow-up later. My voice as a rapper was silenced in jail, but I refused to be quiet. My words on the page became my new voice.
Obviously you were released from prison early. What is your priority now that you have another chance? Yeah, I was released on November 14, 2008 after 6 years locked up on this last case. I'm a new man now, and I have a new beginning with my career as a writer, motivational speaker and more. This is just beginning.
Tell us about your debut novel. Tattoo Tears is about an individual trying to find his purpose in life. Though they go through different trials and tribulations, at the end of the day they realize that all they have to do is get a personal relationship with God and open up their hearts and minds to what their purpose might be. The book is urban fiction, and at the end of the day I know those who open up their minds and read it will benefit from what I am saying.
You and I met through a mutual friend. Why don't you tell our readers the story.Yeah, it's really crazy how things work out. When I was getting ready for a book release party, I reached out to rapper Jacki-O out of Miami, FL. She had released her book GROWN & GANGSTA, and I thought it would be great to share the moment with someone like her because I felt as though our personal stories in life connected us. She then told me about you and what you do for authors and in promoting reading, and the rest as they say is history.
It definitely is a blessing to have learned your story, and now you are taking your experiences into the churches and even schools. What do you hope young people especially get from what you have experienced?Myself and fellow Texas author Jermnine Demouchette, who wrote the book about his brother called JAMES DEMOUCHETTE VS. THE STATE OF TEXAS, recently visited your home state of Mississippi. It was really something to talk with those young people at schools in Jackson and let them know that the street life they see is not something they should want for themselves. I really appreciate all of the love they showed us there as Jermnine and I kicked off the literary Texas Takeover tour. I especially want to thank the teachers and administrators at Peeples Middle School and Morrison Academic Center for letting us be a part of their lives.
One last thing, Mean Mug. You were asked at the schools about your tattoos. Talk to us a little about them.Like I told the students and the teachers, my tattoos are like my testimony. They tell you my life and my thoughts, and I am always reminded of what I have been through because of them.
Thank you, again, for sharing your story with us. Any final words?I just want everyone to know that it is important to make the most out of every day you are given. Don't take anything for granted. And never judge a book by its cover, because you might miss out on something you could really benefit from.
(For interview requests and/or appearances, contact Cyrus Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601.896.5616.) More information can be found about Mr. Mean Mug by visiting www.myspace.com/mrmeanmug817 or follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mrmeanmug.