Lyrical gratitude

COSTA MESA — Some people want to break into the music industry to be rich and famous — and be able to stand on the inside of the velvet rope.

Ethen Jimenez has other reasons.

The 17-year-old Estancia High School senior, who is building a rap career, believes in the transformative power of music and that he has something to say.

But he dreams less about what he would buy if he makes it and more about who he would help.

"If I can become successful, I would want to give back a lot to my mom and the [Save Our Youth, or SOY,] program," he said.

Ethen has been working for the last year with SOY, a nonprofit dedicated to helping students overcome issues and making positive decisions in Costa Mesa's largely lower-income Westside.

SOY's music and arts program coordinator, Eduardo Iniestra, has been working with Ethen. He said he has something special.

Ethen, unlike a lot of hip-hop artists out there, brings positivity to a genre not usually associated with it, he said.

"Ethen is one of those once-in-a-great-while artists, and it's very exciting for me," Iniestra said.

Iniestra, a deejay, said Ethen has shown determination and perseverance by working with SOY, which is focused on giving students an opportunity to make something better out of their situations.

The music and arts program was created to give teenagers in the community an avenue to express themselves and let out their emotions, he said.

It also teaches them about independence and how to work with other people. The program builds character and helps instill self-confidence, he said.

Iniestra and Ethen have been meeting weekly to improve his "flowetry," a rap term for "flowing poetry," and work on "Vol. 1." — his unconventionally named second demo album.

With plans to perform soon, Ethen credits SOY with helping him achieve what he has so far.

"I would definitely say if it wasn't for [Iniestra], SOY and the music program they are doing, I wouldn't be on the road I am today," he said.

Another aspect of the program is to give students who are interested in music an outlet, but also to point teens like Ethen toward pursuing that passion in college, Iniestra said.

Not naïve to the realities of making it in the music business, Ethen said he plans to attend Orange Coast College before transferring to a four-year university to pursue a music degree. That way he'll have something to fall back on.

"[SOY] just brought me from a standstill to giving me a running push to where I should be heading in my life," he said.

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