Rapper Jonathon Marcou Lives Out of His Car. No, Literally
Standing outside his champagne-colored Saturn wearing a USC sweatshirt, Jonathon Marcou looks like just another good-looking frat boy. His khakis are pressed and cuffed, he wears Vans boat shoes with no socks and his long lashes almost brush the lens of his fashionable tortoise shell glasses.
But the 31-year-old rapper never graduated high school, and for the last three years, he's been living in his car. He somehow managed to make a mixtape during that time, featuring hooks and melodies which wouldn't be out of place on Power 106.
"Welcome to my humble abode," he says, opening a door. That new car scent still lingers, and it looks freshly vacuumed. In the front seat is a loaf of bread, which he buys because it's cheap and fills him up when he can't afford to eat dinner. In the backseat is a box of toys he hopes to hand deliver to his two daughters in Florida. The trunk serves as his closet, his clothes neatly folded.
Marcou grew up on the outskirts of Tampa, the son of a single mother. Kicked out of high school, he got into cocaine, pills and mescaline. At 20, though, he did well working a telemarketing job. He began rapping with a group and by the time he was 25 had given up his day job and signed a management deal. "I always thought it might be a front for something else, but we were getting shows and making money," he says, sitting at a table outside Tanner's Coffee Co. in Culver City.
Rebecca Haithcoat The trunk of Marcou's car
Then, right after his 27th birthday, the studio was robbed. His relationship with the mother of his children was breaking up and a friend living in Long Beach suggested he give California a shot. In the summer of 2009, with $85 dollars in his pocket, he hopped on a Greyhound.
He crashed with friends and found a job at Rent-A-Center. He quickly realized, however, that getting to recording studios in L.A. required a car. In February 2010 he bought one. He'd lost his job, and with the car payment, food, and the money he was sending home to his girls, he didn't have enough left over to rent a room. He figured living out of his car was a temporary solution.
"That first year was hard," he says. Not knowing L.A., he often found himself sleeping in parking lots of the wrong areas. He slept in the backseat until he woke one night to a group of people approaching his car. Now he stays in the driver's seat.
By trial and error, he learned the tricks. "If you ever have to sleep in your car for a few nights, find a Denny's parking lot. Cops come and go, which keeps people from messing with you, but the cops themselves also don't mess with you because they aren't sure if you work there or are a customer," he says. He likes to park in the vicinity of a grocery store, a laundromat and a Bally Total Fitness, where he has a $10-a-month membership that allows him to work out and take a shower every morning and night. He knows where the best restrooms are, and never goes anywhere in the morning without taking a "bird bath" - splashing his face and washing his hands. "You want to avoid someone saying, 'Dude, did you sleep in your car?'"