Ex-Con Raps for McDonald's

Former Miami stickup kid Tamien Bain served more than a decade in prison for attempting to rob a local McDonald's. Once he got out, he did the only logical thing: created a jingle that nearly won a marketing contest for that same fast-food chain. It doesn't get much more American than this.

Bain was your typical 14-year-old street punk when he and a couple of friends were busted in 1994 for trying to hold up a McDonald's at gunpoint. Bain spent four years in juvenile detention before joining the adult prison population. "I grew up in the prison," he says. "I went in as a kid, and I came out as a man."

Part of that transformation, he says, was music. Bain began rapping in jail and was soon winning inter-prison freestyle contests. He concentrated on honing his talent, encouraged by men we can't help but picture as Morgan Freeman. "A lot of OGs in the prison pushed me towards music."

As a rapper, he adopted a new moniker: Bain the Locksmith. "When you're locked up in a cage every day, all day," he explains, "the key represents hope."

And when he emerged as a 26-year-old, Bain immediately went to work touring juvenile detention centers, trying to be that key to kids on a path to doom. "My father used to take me with him robbing houses; that was my role model," he says. "I want to give these kids somebody to look up to."

At this point, Bain might have considered himself redeemed. But he felt like one thread was still ragged: "I was looking for a way to try to give back to McDonald's," he says. "To do something positive with them."

Somewhere, an OG was nodding his head with pride.

It seemed like destiny when Bain heard about McDonald's Big Mac Chant contest. Trying to fill out a commercial of customers rapping at a drive-thru, McDonald's asked contestants to send in tapes of, quite simply, a chant about Big Macs. The submissions would be voted on at a MySpace page. "The only rule, they said," Bain explains, "was that you had to use the line 'Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.'"

This was something Bain could handle. Along with the video, he disclosed the source of his slightly more-complex-than-normal relationship to McDonald's. Mickey D's, no marketing slouch, likely saw the free-publicity potential of an odd news story such as this one. So it accepted his submission.

Bain's chant, buoyed by the news buzz, was among five finalists. But last week he was edged out for the national commercial placement by a man from, of all places, Boynton Beach, leading Riptide to believe South Floridians might have a bit too much time on their hands.

Considering Bain's worldwide news coverage, the results seem a bit fishy. "A lot of people around me said I got black-balled because of my past," he says, "but it doesn't matter."

He feels he achieved an important goal: He can finally stop experiencing guilt pangs every time he sees Ronald McDonald on television. "It's personal gratification," he says. "I was able to give back to McDonald's because of the publicity it received for the contest. I made up for the mistake I made when I was 14."

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Gus Garcia-Roberts