With Ansaldi stitching, Ennis quickly became the rap industry's go-to guy for custom leather. The Lox wore his coats on the jacket of their breakout LP. DMX ordered canine outfits by the case for his beasts. Mimicking the Kevlar joints they rocked in public, Ennis — along with his first cousin and conceptual collaborator, T.A.N.G.G. the Juice — made a killing with a line of novelty bulletproof vests, as well as with a series of STOP SNITCHIN' T-shirts that would later garner extraordinary popularity and controversy when America's Most Wanted, among other outlets, implied they were being worn to intimidate witnesses at murder trials.
The fashion buzz came as Ennis re-entered the hip-hop scene. With RSO's rep beyond repair, Ray — now rapping as Benzino — convinced the squad to change its name to Made Men. Ennis became Twice Thou, and in 2000 it looked like their marquee dreams had come true when the group scored a $475,000 deal with Interscope. Once again, though, the dark cloud hovered, and that year a series of unfortunate events spelled the final end for the unit after more than a decade in existence. In April, after opening for the Ruff Ryders at the Fleet Center, Ennis was stabbed three times backstage with what he believes was a security wand that someone had fashioned into a spear. Five months later, then-rising Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce was stabbed at a downtown nightclub where local rappers, including Ennis, were also partying. Ennis was never personally implicated in the crime, but the suspects — two of whom were eventually accused of assault — were known affiliates of Made Men.
"A whole bunch of things eventually convinced me to slowly leave the group," says Ennis. "One was my 13-year-old daughter, sitting there on the side of my hospital bed while I had three punctures wounds and more than 30 stitches in the middle of my back. We'd also been investigated for all kinds of street shit. . . . I started to grow up around 1996, when I started Antonio Ansaldi. But when I left the group in 2000, that was when I saw the fork in the road."
BIGGER THAN HIM At a City Life/Vida Urbana rally against underwater mortgages earlier this week, Ennis brought some of the theatrics he previously used on stage, and commanded
the bullhorn like he did so many mics in years past. No longer a gangsta, he’s still all badass.
DAMN IT FEELS GOOD TO BE AN ACTIVIST
Ennis was watching a Celtics playoff game last April when a neighbor knocked on his door. The neighbor said he had seen Ennis's Wheatland Avenue home listed for auction in the newspaper. Ennis had bought the property from his mom in 1999, but he'd fallen behind on his $2500 monthly payments, and hadn't realized how bad things had gotten until now. The neighbor, also a troubled homeowner, said that City Life could help, and Ennis attended his first meeting the following week.
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