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But there was at least one local MC who turned the tables and made the connection work in his favor.
According to legend, Richard Johnson took $10,000 to California in 1992 and came back a different man.
Johnson gave the money to a Bay Area rapper named J.T. the Bigga Figga, who helped him produce a CD and transform himself into Rich the Factor.
Rich came back with a California glow about him. He came back The Man.
Nowhere is Rich's fortune more on display than at 7th Heaven, the community record store on Troost that is a mecca for local music. Of the 20-foot display rack devoted to local hip-hop, Rich the Factor CDs take up about 3 feet. But that doesn't do justice to his success.
Rich the Factor, with his 20 titles, is the best-selling artist in the store by far, says Jan Fichman, 7th Heaven president. The store also sells Rich's music wholesale to other record stores, particularly on the West Coast.
"Rich kind of opened the door because he physically got out of town," Fichman says.
Tech N9ne may be Kansas City's most successful rap export and he remains popular among suburban fans, but in Kansas City, Rich is King.
Central to his success is the story his lyrics tell -- of a man who has turned the drug trade into a gold mine. Rich didn't return calls to his cell phone, but Lewis, who has known Rich since they were adolescents, says the rapper has never gone out of his way to deny the connection between his personal wealth and the rise of a crack epidemic that swept through parts of Kansas City as they were growing up.
It was only natural, Lewis says, that a young Anthony Watkins would look to Rich the Factor as a model. When Rich was making his historic trip to see the Bigga Figga, Anthony was in grade school.
"He loved to rap, loved to write," Angenette Wright says of her son. "He never really liked to go out and play hardly. He just wanted to sit home and write."
As a young boy, Watkins went by the name Big Bank. "He was so big, and he loved to have change in his pocket," Wright says.
Anthony's dreams were big, too. He told his mother he'd support her with his music. "We are not going to have nobody helping us. I'm going to help us," Wright remembers her son saying.
Anthony's mother lived in south Kansas City, but as a single parent, she dropped Anthony at his grandparents' house near 50th Street and Euclid while she worked.
"He always loved to go to grandmother's," Wright says. Grandfather Fred Jones logged more than 30 years as a chef at Crown Center. Grandmother Louise Jones earned attention more recently as the victim of a Taser zapping by Kansas City, Missouri, police. The officers said the 66-year-old woman honked her horn at their cruiser when it was stopped in front of her house. When the officers tried to ticket her, she struggled and police fired the 50,000-volt Taser before handcuffing both Fred and Louise Jones and taking them to jail. The officers later received a written reprimand from the department.
Wright knows that the place where she dropped off Anthony each day is the heart of territory claimed by several notorious street gangs who call 51st Street home. But she says a boy in a housing development near her south Kansas City home was actually a worse influence on him.