Faith takes brothers from gangsta to gospel
Lil Mike and Funny Bone await their big break in unique niche as an Indian, Christian, hip-hop act.

Ken Raymond Published: April 29, 2006
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Lil Mike and Funny Bone are, almost certainly, Oklahoma City's only on-call, full-time, American Indian, little people, Christian, hip-hop artists.

But they're anything but a novelty act.

The brothers ages 25 and 20, respectively have spent years making the rounds of churches, children's birthday parties and retirement homes while developing their skills as beat-makers and rappers in a series of independently produced recordings.

Some songs have found radio play on Christian stations, including KOKF 91 FM. Others have appeared solely on albums with titles such as "Str-8 Outta OKC and "From Da Flesh 2 Da Bone. Their latest, a crunk CD titled "Dirty South Native Style, features a song about a popular northeast Oklahoma City chicken stand.

Lil Mike and Funny Bone have won talent contests, opened for big-name Christian acts such as Nu Wine, played gigs in penitentiaries and been mobbed by screaming teens in Arkansas.

Getting to that point hasn't been easy. From homelessness to gang violence to "size-ist discrimination, the brothers have hustled and flowed their way from nothing to something even if they still have a long way to go.

Heavenly father figure Lil Mike struggled for a moment, eyes unfocused, then pointed at his brother.

"I don't know, man, he said, standing outside their booth at the Old Paris Flea Market. "Ask that dude.

The question shouldn't have been a difficult one, but asked to say and spell his last name, Lil Mike found himself confounded. He doesn't go by the name on his birth certificate. Neither does Funny Bone. And the spelling momentarily slipped his mind.

"It's Silver, Funny Bone said. "S-I-L-V-A.

In a way, it makes sense that the brothers, members of the Pawnee tribe, have turned their backs on their given names. It'd be a little confusing if they hadn't.

Lil Mike is really Jesus Silva II. That's GEE-zus, not HAY soos.

Funny Bone is Jesus Silva IV.

There is a Jesus Silva III another brother, now living in a Texas halfway house after a robbery conviction but they're not sure if there's an original Jesus.

"Our father was named Jesse, so it's not him, Lil Mike said. "We don't want to talk about him.

What they do want to talk about is their faith in God, whom Funny Bone calls "the only man that actually was a father figure.

Belief in that heavenly Father helped Lil Mike escape gang life and gave them both the courage to stand tall in the spotlight despite being only about 4 feet 9 inches tall.

"Call us short, Funny Bone said. "We don't like being called midgets or dwarves. We're short.

Turning a life around When he was about 10, Lil Mike said, he joined the North Side Piru Bloods, an Oklahoma City branch of a Los Angeles gang.

By that point, the boy had already suffered more than most kids his age. Lil Mike said he was abused, endured bouts of depression and threatened suicide. Being small and poor didn't help.

He didn't care about school, where he eventually ended up in special education classes. But he did care about the gangsters, who encouraged his violent temper by calling him Young Fighter.

One day in 1989 or 1990 he can't remember which Lil Mike witnessed a gang shooting. The image stuck with him.

When he tried to break free of the gang, he said, the others attacked him, kicking him in the back and pummeling him repeatedly. Scars on his forehead, he said, date back to that attack.

The incident drove him from the streets and into a Baptist church. Over the next few years, he heard the testimony of the Gospel Gangsters, a Christian rap group, and was awed by the Power Team, bodybuilders who praise God and break bricks.

"I was already a Christian, Lil Mike said. "But seeing them just made me rededicate myself.

Lil Mike realized he had a message to share, too. He could help other kids avoid gangs. He could show them that no matter how many obstacles you face, God can help you through them.

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