A HUSTLER’S AMBITION: The Kevin Ates Interview

Most families in the Melanated community aren’t too familiar with the details surrounding business ownership.
With centuries of servitude under our belt, followed by several more years of institutionalized servitude, establishing the basic principles for generational wealth hasn’t been high on our list of priorities; Surviving has.
It’s unfortunate that even in 2017, to see a thriving black business In our community is rare. So, it was Melanated Father’s of America’s pleasure to interview Sacramento, CA business owner Kevin Ates. During our Interview we discussed business ownership, having children young, not having a consistent relationship with his father and much more!!!




Okay, tell us a little bit about where you’re from?


I’m from South Sacramento. The Meadowview area to be exact, born and raised


I’m well aware of that neighborhood. I know it’s one of the tougher neighborhoods in Sacramento for a young man to grow up in. Having a father around to help guide you in the right direction can be beneficial in that environment. Did you have a close relationship with your father?


It wasn’t a relationship with my father. He’s from Sacramento, he stayed no more than 5 miles away from me. As a youngster, I didn’t really know him. So, it’s not too much to talk about.


So, growing up as a young dude that didn’t have your father around. What do you think you missed out on if anything? Were there times when you wished that maybe you had a little more guidance?


That’s exactly right. I definitely needed guidance. I got a twin brother and three older brothers, two of them are on my dad’s side. Everything we learned, everything we are doing right now is first generational. Nobody ever taught us this. So, that’s what we were missing someone to guide us. Teach you how to carry on when things get tough, but nothing was taught to us, we had to learn it all on our own.


Ok, so with that being the case, were there any other male figures that you looked up too? Was it an entertainer? An athlete?


I would say, my brother. My brother was 5 years older than me. Back then, we thought that was a lot. When we look back at it, he was just as dumb as us. (Laughs) Other than my brothers, I never really had any big homies or nothing like that. I was observant and paid attention to what the dudes in the streets from my neighborhood were doing. They kind of molded me at a young age.


Sounds like your environment played a large part in your upbringing. So just to wrap everything up with the situation with your father. Do you have a relationship with him today?

We cool. I’m not going to say he never came around, it just wasn’t enough to be effective. When I was growing up my dad was a fireman, he even became a Muslim. Right now, he lives in Jordan(country in the middle east).

He has been in Jordan for almost two or three years now. He is a teacher; his drug of choice is education. When we were young maybe like 11 or 12 years old he moved to Carolina to basically sale incents and oils. I guess he was trying to live off the land. When he made the decision to do that, it just so happen to be a tender time for us.

That’s when we would learn a lot of things that we would take with us for the next few years. We didn’t get any of that information from him. I got a lot of uncles, my mom comes from a family of like nine kids. On my dad’s side, it was like 7 kids. I got 8 uncles and I have never been to any of their houses.


That had to be difficult knowing there were men in your family around, but no one stepped up. Okay now, let’s talk about your family. Do you have kids?

Yep. I have four. I have three that are mine and one Step-Daughter.


Okay being that you and your father wasn’t that close when you were growing up. How do you change that with your kids?


You know, I have to do everything my dad didn’t do. Not just with my kids, but with my nephews, my nieces and really all the kids that know me. Like I said, I don’t have any memories or stories to tell about male figures that have been in my life. What I take from that is, I have to be remembered. I want the kids in my family to have some stories about me.


That’s a good point. When we’re not here anymore, all that’s left are the memories. How has the relationship been with your kids?


I had my first son when I was 17 years old. Me being young and stupid brought about a lot of complications. As far as raising him, we grew up together. I and my first son have a crazy relationship, we are more like brothers than father and son.

I taught him a lot as a father, but he also taught me just as much as a son. As far as my step-daughter. Her dad is someone that I went to school with, someone that I grew up with. We were never tight or hung out, but we knew each other all our lives.

I have been involved with her mom since high school and for a long time it wasn’t like I didn’t want to be her dad, or she didn’t want to let me be her dad. I wanted her real dad to be there for her. So, that’s kind of what I pushed. I took care of her, but I wanted her dad to be her dad.

They say for females; your dad is the first one to break your heart. After so many times of him doing that it just made us closer so by the time she was 16 or 17 years old it got to a point where it really became unspoken on what it was. You know, I raised her since she was about 3 years old. I have a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old as well, with them it’s totally different.


What do you mean?


Raising them is a totally unique experience. They are 10 years apart from my older kids, it’s a big difference. I had my younger kids in my thirties so they a little wiser. It’s not like they are smarter than the older ones, they just get it a little faster.

It seems like the new kids come out with common sense, you don’t have to beat it into him. With my older kids, I was young, I was doing a lot of different things. My older son and daughter saw everything I was doing in the streets, they saw it raw. My younger kids see me owning a business, so it’s a totally different thing.


Hopefully, watching you run a business can be an inspiration for the older kids. Don’t you think?


My daughter sees it, she’s proud of me. With my son, I won’t say he’s not proud of me, he’s just corrupted by my previous lifestyle. My daughter goes to Benedict College in South Carolina. Both of them were kind of corrupted by how they were raised.

They thought we were rich and I never had a job (laughs). I am not just trying to be a better father to my kids but a better man in general. I want to be a memorable person because I don’t have any positive memories of men in my life.

I think it’s natural to want to that love from your father. If my father passed away today I don’t think I would shed too many tears because I don’t really know the man but when he comes around though, even as a grown man, I still get kind of excited. Like damn, once you let the moment sink in, It’s like: This pops.


Ok, I see what you’re saying, regardless of how old we get a father’s love is still important. So, let’s move on to business. Tell us a little bit about Tree Boy Clothing?


Tree Boy Clothing is my way out…. hopefully(laughs) I’ve been doing it for about 2 years and I put a lot into. The name of the company really describes me, Tree Boy. When I was young everybody wanted to be a D-boy, everybody sold dope, nowadays everybody wants to be a Tree Boy, even the D-boys.

For a long time, the tree boys had to hide what we were doing, before the shit was cool. It was slightly dangerous. Now it’s more of an in your face type of thing. It just represents a lot of different things to me. I put it out there as a representation of the city, it’s called the “City of Trees”. Also, we call Weed Trees too. It’s the opposite of a D-boy, so the name tree boy has a lot of personal meanings to me.


So, why was it so important for you to start your own business, opposed to working for someone else?


I don’t even know how to work for somebody else(laughs). I haven’t had a job in a long time. All the jobs I had were as a teenager, like maybe 16 or 17 years old. I would get a summer job for the state, or places like the Board of Equalization.

We would work for like 2 or 3 months. Now that I think about it, that’s probably what corrupted me, doing them boring-ass Muthafuckin jobs(laughs). Having a business in my early teens or early twenties didn’t even cross my mind.

I was focused on being a street nigga. I just wanted to have some money and a nice car. I wanted what I saw in the streets. I didn’t know how I was going to get it. I wasn’t too worried about it until I got custody of my son and I started to think a little differently, as far as longevity is concerned. I never wanted to work for nobody.


What about SMG(Sac Music Group), what’s going on with that??


SMG(Sac Music Group). That’s the company I started around 2010, before Tree Boy Clothing but I’ve actually been doing music for years, before SMG(Sac Music Group) I had a company called straight-up music. That was one of the first companies I started.

My son and daughter were around, and I had a studio in my house. I would have a bunch of artists around. So, around that time my son and my daughter were like maybe 5 or 6 years old by to the time they turned 10 or 11 years old, that’s all they saw.

After a while, my son got into the music he started rapping, just him and a friend. I set the studio up in my garage and after a while, they came up with a few songs that I liked. So I decided to get a little more serious with them.

We linked up with a few friends from my neighborhood that were already doing their thing. We came up with the name SMG(Sac Music Group). It started off with my neighborhood and was supposed to expand out to other parts of the city but slowly people started to fall off.

I broke it down to a few core individuals, but if anything it was really for my son. My son was really good at any sport he chose, but after a while, the streets got a hold on him. So, with the music, I was still just trying to remain close to him.


Ok, so it sounds like you were trying to create an avenue for your son, so he wouldn’t have to live the street life, that’s commendable. Last question, if you can give advice to a teenage kid from our community that may have a child on the way or just making the wrong decisions. What advice would you offer??


It’s hard to even think about a young dude at that age wanting to start a family. Normally when a child is conceived at that age, it’s not planned. Even if you plan at that age, you’re still not ready. If I could go back and talk to my seventeen-year-old self, I don’t think I would change anything.

These experiences made me who I am.  I would have told myself to be more patient. If I could talk to a young dude to help prevent him from making some mistakes I would tell him this: Young sex is dangerous, not just as far as you catching a disease because some of that stuff you can’t get rid of. It’s dangerous because in most cases you are just trying to have fun with that person, you’re not thinking about the future.

You have to be careful who you are fornicating with(laughs). So, young sex is dangerous and young love is stupid. My son has a baby. I talked to him about that kind of stuff. How I see it is when it comes to being young, what were the magic words that would have worked for you?

Think about it. In reality, young people just don’t listen, that’s why you have to just slowly guide them through and hopefully one day they will listen. Hopefully, they’ll take their own route. In my opinion, from the ages of 14 to about 23 years old will be some of the funniest but also some of the dumbest years of your life.

If you can make it past that point without making too many bad mistakes as far as getting felonies or having a whole bunch of kids, you should be alright. Once you get a little older you begin to think a little wiser. A lot of the stuff we call stupid that the kids do, if we had access to the internet back in the day we would have been doing the same stuff.




You’re completely right about that!! Kevin, thank you for sharing your story with Melanated Fathers of America!!! Your words are sure to inspire the next generation!!!


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