But money and fame make them targets for violent crime.
"We need some kind of protection," insisted Bay legend Spice 1, who was shot in the chest during a Dec. 3, 2007, attempt to break into his Escalade while he slept inside. The bullet pierced his lung, leaving him in critical condition, though he's now out of danger and recovering.
"Entertainers should get a break, but we can't even wear [bulletproof] vests," added Spice, who has had six gun charges, including four in California that predate the three-strikes law. "Marv ain't trying to jack nobody. He's trying to protect himself."
In any case, despite the risks, Mess has no intention of abandoning his hood. Beyond the usual rapper's neighborhood pride, he has taken on an active role in attempting to turn negatives into positives. Aside from using his label to employ youths whose criminal records and/or poor education make getting jobs nearly impossible, he's put out two volumes of Fillmore Nation (Scalen/SMC, 2006) to help young rappers launch their careers. He intends to donate a portion of the profits to two Fillmore community centers.
"When I got my position in the music industry, I didn't turn my back on the kids," Mess said. "I'm out here with these kids, these criminals, and they look at me as hope because I was the same way. When they look at me, they can say, 'If Messy Marv can do it, I can do it.'<0x2009>"
All told, I think San Francisco or at least the Fillmore is better off with Mess on the street than in a cell.