By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
What would you do if you were laid off from your job at the Ford plant? If you're Tina Winfield, you put your severance pay into your kid brother's rap career, of course.
The Bellefontaine Neighbors resident worked on the assembly line at Ford's Hazelwood plant until a year and a half ago, not long before the plant was shut down. Now, Winfield's hell-bent on fashioning a rap career for her nineteen-year-old brother, Neal Richardson.
Winfield, a strikingly beautiful 31-year-old single mother, is supervising the renovation of an old shoe store on West Florissant Avenue, a few blocks west of Goodfellow Boulevard. When it's finished, the building will be known as Boardwalk Studios Richardson's musical playground. (Winfield has also splurged on a company car, a silver Mercury Sable.)
Richardson goes by the name Manopoly, perhaps the greatest nom de rap ever conceived. It comes from his desire to monopolize the local rap game, and because he is, in his own words, "the man." He also kicks ass at the board game, apparently. "I could probably beat you," he says. (Doubtful.)
Meeting with Yo! inside the old shoe store, Richardson's clad in three clothing items that say "Manopoly" his T-shirt, his customized Cardinals cap and his faux chain. He also wears a giant "M" belt-buckle.
We were lucky to get even ten minutes with him, considering that, in addition to being an aspiring rap star, Richardson's also a Ranken Technical College sophomore studying controlled-systems technology, an Outback Steakhouse server and a vendor at Cardinals games who hawks peanuts and cotton candy. "I'm an actor, too," he imparts. Besides that, Winfield reports that her little brother's up all night on the computer, working on his MySpace page, www.myspace.com/manopolyent.
His music? Somewhat serviceable lyrics over crunkish beats. The guy doesn't have much to say but he is only nineteen, after all, and he's certainly better dressed than Yo! was at that age. The best thing about Manopoly, besides his name and his press kit (a venerable arts-and-crafts project that includes senior pictures from high school) is his unadulterated confidence. He puts his odds of signing with a major label at no less than 100 percent, and predicts that it will happen within the next three months.
If not, he's always got his education to fall back on. That and his plethora of other careers.