“If a person has done even a couple of years in prison and possess even the most basic means to obtain literature, there is a 99 percent chance that they’ve heard about Mike Enemigo and The Cell Block,” says Damaneh Abdolah, who plans to produce a podcast and documentary on Mike’s book Conspiracy Theory. But, make no mistake about it, things were not always this way. “Getting to this point has been a very long and arduous process,” says Mike about his journey to becoming America’s #1 incarcerated author. “Everything I’ve done, I’ve done from inside my prison cell. No Internet, computer, phone, text, e-mail or other fancy, helpful devices. Just a few pennies for a budget, and a bunch of ink pens, paper, stamps, envelopes, coffee, adversity, failures, determination, dedication, resilience, creativity and hard work. Oh, and a lot of time. In fact, several years.”
See, Mike’s plan was never to write books, it was to rap. He started rapping back in 1993. Unfortunately, he got caught up in the streets, was arrested in February of 1999, and in 2002 was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole – LWOP, as it’s called – for a 1998 murder. Despite this, in 2004, after he’d been incarcerated for about 5 years, he decided he was going to do what he had to do to record his vocals, even if he had to do it over the prison phone, have his songs produced in the style of mixtapes, and distribute them independently –”maybe have my folks slang ‘em out the trunk, put ‘em in some local stores, etc. – nothin’ too fancy.” And though he hoped to make a few bucks, he didn’t expect to get rich and famous and become a huge rap star: “My primary objectives were to break my story out of prison, give my brain something to focus on other than my confinement, and at least make the money back I’d spent producing the records,” he says.
He contacted some people he knew from the streets who were in the rap game and got the ball rolling. But though progress was made, things moved extremely slow. “Being that my resources were very limited, it took a long time to get the simplest of things done.” And by the time he’d accomplish one thing, the music game would change and make what he’d just gotten done less significant. In addition to that, as the years went on, people bought music less and less, due to things like file sharing and illegal downloading, and artists had to start depending more and more on things like live performances to make money; something he obviously couldn’t do from his prison cell. With that, the hope of making any profit got smaller and smaller. However, “I didn’t want to give up because I figured I could create my own little lane, and I’d use my music to promote it, feel me? I’d give my music away by way of downloads to promote myself, then I’d make my money off of something else that couldn’t be illegally downloaded or need to be performed live: maybe I’d learn to draw really well, become a ‘famous’ prison artist and sell my artwork, start a T-shirt line, or maybe even ghostwrite rhymes – something like that.”
He continued on, but so did the problems. In addition to the rapid game changes, coming up on a recorder (something prisoners are not allowed), then recording his vocals and smuggling them out, was a near-impossible task (though he did manage to record and get the vocals to over 100 songs to the streets). And if that wasn’t enough, he began having problems with unreliable industry people and producers who didn’t put his music together the way he wanted, being that he wasn’t able to be present during his studio sessions. In the end, “It got to be too costly for me to do it myself, with my resources, or lack thereof, and I had to pull the plug because it was just to economically foolish to continue,” he explains.
So, though it was tough, Mike shut everything down; even to the point of distancing himself from most of the world. “I had to strategize and figure out what my next move was going to be.” He began to research. He began to study. He began to learn, and he began to plot…
Welcome to…The Cell Block
In 2010, while in the hole, Mike decided it was time to redirect his efforts from that of the rap game to the book game. He’d been flirting with the idea for nearly two years already, so when he was given his property in the hole, he made sure to grab the English Grammar for Dummies book he’d bought for this very reason – so he could tighten up his grammar game. “I was always creative ‘cause I’d been writin’ raps. But writin’ raps and writin’ books is a whole different game. I knew if I was gonna do this, I needed to learn to write properly, and I had to master it,” he says. “So I began studying English Grammar for Dummies, while also working on my first book, which was Surviving Prison.” (This book wouldn’t be published until 2018.)
Eventually Mike got out of the hole, where he was able to buy a typewriter and other supplies, and he began typing the books he’d written by hand, as well as figuring out how he was going to publish them, under the new publishing company he was building, The Cell Block, which he planned to run just like a record label.
“When first trying to figure out how I was going to publish my books, I had no idea what I was gonna do,” he says. “My people were taking the Directory [The BEST Resource Directory for Prisoners] to Kinkos, trying to have it printed up. I think it cost us around $17 to have one copy printed and bound with one of those plastic strips. And with the leading directory at the time priced at $18, there was no way we were going to be able to sell ours at a profit,” he explains. “But one thing I knew for sure, I wasn’t gonna quit or give up. So I kept reading everything I could find, and eventually I saw something about CreateSpace. This was a game-changer for me.”
Mike launched The Cell Block officially in 2014 with five books – The BEST Resource Directory For Prisoners, The Art & Power of Letter Writing for Prisoners, Thee Enemy of the State and Conspiracy Theory, all of which he wrote; and Loyalty & Betrayal, a book he did with Armando Ibarra – with a promise of many more to come. And, though things did not go exactly as he hoped (what else is new, right?) in 2014, he learned a lot and built upon his team. In January 2015 he dropped four more books – BASic Fundamentals of The Game, by Mac B.A.$.; Lost Angels, a book he did with Alex Valentine; and Money iz the Motive, a book he did with TCB author Ca$ciou$ Green, plus the revision of his Directory.
He continued on, and in 2016 dropped seven books: How to Hustle & Win; Sex, Money, Murder Edition, and Underworld Zilla, with TCB author King Guru; Money iz the Motive 2, MOBSTAR Money and Block Money, with TCB author Ca$ciou$ Green; The Millionaire Prisoner: Special TCB Edition, with incarcerated author Josh Kruger; and A Guide to Relapse Prevention For Prisoners, with inmate Charles Hottinger. In 2017 he dropped the newest edition of The Best Resource Directory for Prisoners, and Kitty Kat, a non-nude adult entertainment resource book he did with Freebird Publishers.
In 2018 he dropped several more books: Surviving Prison: The Secrets to Surviving the Most Treacherous and Notorious Prisons in America!; The Art & Power of Letter Writing for Prisoners, Deluxe Edition; and the revised edition of The Best Resource Directory for Prisoners. He dropped Pretty Girls Love Bad Boys: An Inmate’s Guide to Getting Girls and How to Write Urban Books for Money & Fame with TCB author King Guru. He dropped Get Out, Get Rich: How To Get Paid Legally When You Get Out of Prison! (also titled Hood Millionaire: How to Hustle & Win Legally); The CEO Manual: How to Start Your Own Business When You Get Out of Prison! (also titled CEO Manual: Start a Business, Be a Boss!); and Money Manual: Underground Cash Secrets Exposed, all with self-made hood millionaire Sav Hu$tle; and he dropped Prison Legal Guide with Freebird Publisher. He also completely revamped his website, thecellblock.net.
In 2019, the hustle didn’t stop, or even slow down. He tapped in with Wahida Clark, the Official Queen of Street Lit and worked a distribution deal for TCB books Underworld Zilla; How to Hustle & Win: Sex, Money, Murder Edition; and Money iz the Motive: Special 2-in-1 Edition. Then he dropped The Prison Manual: The Complete Guide to Surviving the American Prison System and The Ladies Who Love Prisoners, both of which he wrote; Loyalty & Betrayal: Special Deluxe Edition; OJ’s Life Behind Bars: The Real Story, a book he did with incarcerated author Vernon Nelson; Get Out, Stay Out: The Secrets To Getting Out of Prison Early, and Staying Out For Good! with Shane Bowen; and Raw Law For Prisoners: Your Rights And How To SUE When They Are Violated! with TCB author King Guru. He also dropped two e-shorts: The Mob, with author PaperBoy; and Angel with incarcerated author Tre Cunningham.
As you can see, the hard work, determination, and perseverance has paid off. When asked about his drive: “I’ve always been a hustler. Above all else, that’s what I am – a hustler. My desire’s always been to get the bag [money]. Before, I put a lot of effort and drive into negative things – thuggin’, basically. So, the things I was doin’ to get the bag was, essentially, just getting me further into debt, you feel me? I knew I had to transform my hustle if I wanted to truly be successful, and this writing thing is a major part of that. I also knew that if I put the same drive and energy into this as I did the gimy shit I was doin’, I’d win.
“So, I went from dope dealer to hope dealer. I dreamed of slangin’ birds, but now I’m achieving my dreams slangin’ words, you feel me? I’m shippin’ boxes of books like I wanted to ship bricks. And not only am I completely legit, I’m making more money now than I ever did with my grimy endeavors.
“I found my lane – my frequency. I want to be the best, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.”
Not only has Mike been making noise inside prison, the streets are taking notice, too. He’s received praise from bestselling authors like JaQuavis Coleman and Kevin Deutsch, and he and/or The Cell Block have been featured in magazines like Straight Stuntin, Kite, State V. Us, Street Money, Prison Legal News, and others, and on websites like The Huffington Post, Gorilla Convict, Thizzler, Rap Bay, Hood Illustrated, and many more. “I promise you I’m just gettin’ started,” he says.
What’s next? Well, more books, of course. “For years prisoners have written me, asking how to go about doing what I do in regards to publishing books, so I wrote a book on jailhouse publishing that I’ma drop sometime this year . The book contains everything I’ve learned over the last ten years the hard and expensive way. I have several more books in the works, including audio books, something I plan to take to the next level. I also have some things in the works with the big homie, Dutch, the OG of the street lit game. I have a bunch of projects going on right now that I’m excited about.” But something he’s especially proud of? “I launched a new blog on my website where me and other TCB writers provide raw, uncensored news, entertainment and resources on the topics of prison and street-culture. It’s connected to all social medias, as well as book platforms like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. It’s a game-changer. I’m building The Cell Block’s own digital platform so we’re not at the mercy of anyone else. This is going to increase our power and presence dramatically. Everyone needs to tap in to our website, thecellblock.net, and follow us on all social medias.”
And when asked about the possibility of getting out of prison? “Laws are changing in my favor. In addition to that, I’m not sittin’ around waitin’ on somebody to just let me out. I’m taking aggressive, proactive measures to earn my freedom. I have a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan. I’d say I’ll be out in about eight. It took me a minute to understand how all this works, but if one wants to get out bad enough, and is willing to do what it takes, it can be done. At least in California. And though I’m not certain, probably most everywhere else, too. The secret is to identify what it is you need to do, then do double that.”
And Mike’s been inspiring prisoners all over the country, as evident by the mass amounts of letters he gets, thanking him for what he’s done. “I’m in prison in Tennessee. I’m a huge fan and receive knowledge and wisdom from your teachings,” writes one prisoner. “Thank you for all you do to make life easier for us prisoners,” writes another, from California. “I have bought every book that you’ve published and I encourage you to keep serving it like you’re doing,” says prisoner Ethan McKinney. And Jorge Cabrera from Oregon says, “I have to say, I’ve been incarcerated for 20-plus years, and this is the first time I’ve invested money into something that’s profitable.” Literally, the list goes on and on.
“I’m proud of all that’s been accomplished,” says Mike. “Not only have the years of hard work paid off for me and the TCB team, I’m proving that, despite our situation, we can still achieve success if we’re willing to do what it takes.
“I’m very grateful to the prisoners who’ve been rockin’ with us. It’s because of them – their loyalty – that we’ve been able to get to where we’re at. You can be the dopest writer in the world, but if the people don’t fuck with you, you ain’t ever gonna get anywhere. Fortunately, for me, the people fuck with me. They understand I’m talkin’ their language, and for that, they embrace me.”
And when asked what kind of advice he’d share to other prisoners? “Stay positive and motivated. When you live inside a box, you must learn to think outside of one. Be creative. Confinement can cause a man to tap into the deepest parts of the mind. Take advantage of that, be dedicated and determined, and you’ll be surprised at what you can pull off. This is proof. My story is a testament that you must never give up. You’re first idea is rarely your best one, and the road to success is not a straight shot.
“Now get to work and hustle hard.”