Santa Ana’s Mark “Gremlin” Henriquez on Making a Viral Rap Video Inspired by His Mother’s Addiction

Mark “Gremlin” Henriquez and his mom, Ruby. Photograph by John Cizmas

Mark “Gremlin” Henriquez of Santa Ana struck a chord when he wrote about his mom, Ruby Lanz’s, past drug addiction.

Ruby Lanz: I did drugs growing up but never got addicted. Fifteen years ago, I was a stressed-out single parent. I’d never tried meth before—and after a month, I was hooked. But no matter how bad I was on drugs, I didn’t realize that I was hurting my kids.

Mark Henriquez: When I was 11, I called my grandma and asked if I could move in there. Soon, my older brother, Ivan, came too. It wasn’t far—just a five-minute walk down the street in Costa Mesa. I had to distance myself from her.

Ruby: Finally, after a couple of years, I made a change. It happened right after my first NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. I listened to the stories and I thought, “If she could get sober, I can do it.” And I got sober. And then I relapsed. And then I finally got sober for good.

Mark: And my life became normal at age 15. My mom’s addiction made me more empathetic toward people. I wanted to use music to help pull people out of it.

I got into music when my brother was doing some rapping. I started putting music on iTunes at age 20. Three years ago, in one of my earlier songs, my brother and I thank her for her recovery. I titled it, “No One.” As in, “No one can replace you.” I drove to her work and let her hear it.

Ruby: It still makes me cry.

Mark: “No One” does get bought—although not to the level of my new song that’s getting all the attention. I wrote “All for You” in March and put it online in May. Six million people have viewed (the music video) on Facebook.

I wrote “All for You” because I have more perspective now. I wanted to tell the story again—better. And do a video and put her in it. That made it more powerful and real to people. This song starts at the bottom and works its way up. It has two parts: The bad of the addiction, then the good that came out of it. (In the song) I say, “Who I am is great, I create music and help who I can/The people can relate to the pain that turned me into a man.”

Ruby: His music is the way that Mark can show his feelings. Even when he was younger, he wouldn’t say a word. He has to write it.

Mark: I like to rap about things people go through. I did one about my grandfather going through stomach cancer. I videotaped him a week before his operation. I wrote it to give him a reason to stay positive. It says, “We’re homies then, till the very end of this/ There’s still moments I wouldn’t want you to ever miss/ Like when I have a kid or I’m getting married/ I don’t wanna have to tell you at the cemetery.” He watched it before the surgery, and he came through it strong. That video has 2 million views.

Ruby: All for You” affected people. We were at Target the other day, and a guy came up and told Mark, “My mom is still using, and your music gives me hope.”   

Mark: One guy told me that he hadn’t spoken to his mom in eight years but would now. People have played it for their brothers, at facilities, at NA meetings. It’s an amazing feeling. I went to a Tony Robbins seminar last year, which helped motivate me. I’d love to be the Tony Robbins of rap.

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