One Joint With Stona Mane of the Compton Cowboys
African-American cowboys have been a real part of U.S. history since the Civil War, but you’d be hard-pressed to find accurate representation in television and film. It’s why you might be surprised to hear of a group called the Compton Cowboys who ride bareback through the same streets known for producing the godfather of gangsta rap, Eazy- E of the N.W.A., and for being home to both the Crips and the Bloods.
Richland Farms, a sub-rural Compton neighborhood, has also been home to black cowboys since the mid-20th century — and being on horseback has changed how its citizens interface with the cops.
Founded in 2017, the Compton Cowboys are essentially members a post-grad program extending from the Compton Jr. Posse, a year-round after-school program that has helped keep Compton’s kids off the streets and out of gangs, by providing structure and teaching responsibility centered on the horses. The CJP was founded by Mayisha Akbar almost three decades ago.
One of the Compton Cowboys is Kenny Atkins, who, as a rapper, goes by the moniker Stona Mane.
Alyssa Shapiro: The first time you smoked weed—do you remember?
Stona Mane: I remember it like it was yesterday! It was in Ladera, at the house I grew up in, 10th grade. My homie Khalid had some weed. I was kind of scared. I was really into D.A.R.E., so at that time weed to me was a drug drug, like you can’t do that! But Khalid was one of my best homies at the time. I trusted him. I remember taking my first hit, I didn’t even inhale, just took a puff and blew it straight out. I don’t think I got high.
AS: Who were your role models growing up? Who do you first remember admiring or wanting to be like?
SM: In middle school and high school it was Weezy. I rocked with his music. Now it’s Gucci Mane, he inspired me to start rapping… Chief Keef, Future. Uzi is one of my new favorites. I remember seeing an interview when he first came on the scene talking about ‘I just make music that makes you feel good,’ and that’s what I want to do. Who cares about lyrics if it makes you feel good when you hear it? If it’s a dope song, you can say ‘yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah’ the whole time if it puts you in a good mindset, why hate on it?
AS: What got you into riding horses, how did you get your horse?
SM: I bought my horse, Ebony, at 16, from a dude named Jason, from Riverside. He was probably selling her because he needed money. He was on drugs. It’s crazy, now he’s dead.
AS: How did he die?
SM: His dad killed him.
SM: It was on some Marvin Gaye shit. You can’t rock with guns on drugs, especially if you get in an argument—you don’t even care until you come down. His dad’s in jail, and he’s dead. So that’s who I bought Ebony from. For $2300. I asked him for the saddle, but he was like, ‘a true cowboy never gives up his saddle.’
AS: Gnarly. How did you first bond with Ebony?
SM: It was quick. When you’re young, you see a horse, you’re like, I want a horse! I was so stoked that I got my own horse, in the hood, rolling. I make a point of riding her everyday. Especially on the streets, cuz it’s dope. I’m a movie star. Everybody is just looking at you in amazement. She’s a Tennessee Walker—she has a smooth gait, they’re known for how they walk, it’s called soaring. They look like they’re soaring because they’re throwing their front legs so far. You see how they rear up, just tossing up? It’s that motion, just smooth, super player.
AS: What’s the most important thing Ebony has taught you?
SM: Patience. When I first got her, she was testing me. She would lock her neck up to where I couldn’t bring her head down. She’d lock up and run off with me. She did it a couple times and I didn’t know how to get her out of it. I kept working with her. She almost killed me a couple times. And we in the street! Cars everywhere. But patience is what I didn’t have. I wouldn’t say I’m spoiled, but if I want something, I want it. If you’re in my way to get it, then I’m gonna either get you out my way or Imma go over you. But I have patience now. But I’ll get it if I want it.
Now, Ebony is like an extension of myself. Me and her communicate telepathically. She’s like my car. That’s our bond. I make sure her life is great. It’s a win/win pretty much. Can I go grab some more weed?
AS: I have some. This came from someone on the tour bus with Fetty Wap. It’s super strong though, they’re rolled in keef. I’m warning you.
SM: Bring it on. He’s an east coast n****. They don’t smoke the type of weed we smoke. [Lights the joint, coughs, laughs.] Oh yeah.
AS: How was growing up in Compton?
SM: Violence and drugs everywhere but I just stuck to the weed, the horses and alcohol. I was drinking then. I started to take Xans, but I’d take a quarter, cuz I'd always be drinking and I know you’re not supposed to mix that shit. But that’s when god took the studio away. Someone spilled lean on the laptop. Can’t record without the laptop.
As soon as we stopped, everybody went to jail. Including me. I got a DUI. I was in a depression… Lost my car, my license, my girl, lowkey. Could have lost my career. I hydroplaned and hit the wall on the freeway. I was losing everything.
AS: How did you right yourself?
SM: I woke up one morning tired of fighting. I realized all the things I was losing. Imagine going high, high, high. When you smoke you just go higher. And then something hits you and you fall off your kush cloud, you’re falling, but you’re so high it’ll take you a long time to hit the ground. That’s what was happening to me. I had an alcohol demon. Anybody that really fucked with me, the alcohol was telling me, don’t trust ‘em. I’m reading the Gucci Mane autobiography, and he was going through the same thing, lowkey. And that’s why god sat him down, so he could get his mind right.
AS: Did Ebony help? How does being on a horse affect the way people interact with you?
SM: That’s why I like riding with no shirt and some sweats. When a cop sees me they know I don’t have anything, I can’t conceal nothing in my skin. Automatically they already know, ‘ok, he’s not a threat.’ I don’t wear a red bandana, I don’t wear a blue bandana. I wear Adidas!
AS: Did you ever think about joining a gang?
SM: I never tried to join but I’ve always had friends that been gangbangers. I’m the video game nerd, soccer player. I never had to get put on or nothing. They was my friends. I don’t diss Crip or Blood. I got friends in both.
AS: How do you see your future playing out?
SM: I want to combine Crip and Blood, bring them together. Like n***** stop fighting! It’s pointless. That’s why I like weed. Weed can bring that shit together. But it’s up to the bosses that control those gangs. They got to get everybody in their gang in line. And meet up, smoke up, and that’s what fucking politicians and shit do! Well maybe with a cigar. But what’s the difference between weed and a cigar? It’s just a stigma put on weed.