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Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Army

New Army

“Hello, welcome to “New Army”, can I help you find anything today?”

This sucks. I know human beings have a need and responsibility to work, and sustain his/her own life—but this shit bites ass!

I’ve always thought of myself as a superstar. I love the feeling of going places and having people recognize me for my creative endeavors.

At restaurants… I enjoy it.

At venues… It’s awesome.

While I’m working at a low paying job, serving the public, while dressed in an argyle sweater… Not so much!

Here’s why:

Whenever people see someone on stage, especially in Hip Hop- they have one of two thoughts.

1. “He/She will NEVER make it. Why is he/she wasting his/her time

doing this bullshit!? Booooo, nigga boooo!”


2. “This muhfucka is AWESOME. He/she is a star in the making. I’m

officially a fan.”

If the latter is the case, the fan automatically places ‘said’ artist on an invisible platform. There is an unspoken level of admiration, and a covenant is instantly created. The star-fan relationship is forged.

Now, with this relationship comes an undertaking of roles. The fan agrees to support the star (via downloads, buying CDs, attending shows, following on Twitter..) and the star agrees to deliver quality entertainment whenever the opportunity arises. The artist also agrees to conduct his/herself as a star at EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY of the rest of his life. Weird? Yes. Hear me out..

The tricky part of the covenant is that the fan suffers no repercussions for breaking the covenant. He/she can stop buying the star’s music, skip the star’s shows, stop following the star on Twitter- and the star has to continue to create an entertaining product. Conversely, if the artist fails to deliver quality shit, there is no turning back. He/she has fallen off, hence the covenant is broken. Also if the star stops acting like a star- the same fate awaits.

READER: “What do you mean ‘stop acting like a star’?

ME: “Very good question…”

Here are some examples of ways a “star” can stop acting like a “star”..

  1. Go to prison
  2. Get caught up in a scandal (sexual misconduct, infidelity, drug use/abuse)
  3. Living a lifestyle that is contradictory to your public image (the ‘ladies man’ is really gay, the ‘thug’ is really a punk, the ‘kingpin’ is really a librarian, the ‘girl next door’ really likes to smoke weed while she sucks cock..)
  4. Go Broke
  5. Be seen doing some ‘non’star-like shit (like working at a damn retail job for 8.00 an hour!!!!)

Any one of these offenses breaks the star/fan covenant. By working at ‘New Army’, I was guilty of #5…

You gotta understand, when people invest in your music, they invest in your story. They live vicariously through you. I am a Jay Z fan. I know his story and lyrics so well that when HE is on Oprah, I am on Oprah. When Spike Lee has a new film, I have a new film. When Lebron had that bad game in the Playoffs against the Celtics, I felt the pressure..

Now, I’m not saying that people look at me on the level of Jay or Spike or Lebron- but they identify with me. They have invested in my story. They see me on stage, and have a sense of pride. There is a level of admiration..

Back to the beginning…

So I was at “New Army” working, right..

“Hello, welcome to “New Army”, can I help you find anything today?”

The customer stared at me.

“I know you from somewhere,” he said- squinting his eyes, trying to squeeze out a memory.

I laughed and quipped, “I hope I ain’t steal your girl or nothing.”

He let out an awkward laugh, then his mind clicked into gear.

“You be rappin’, right?” he said excitedly.

“Yeah…” I reluctantly admitted.

“Snub!! Holy shit, nigga I saw you at the show with KRS ONE—you rocked that shit! You performed “Lyricism Lives”, right—‘I’M OBAMA, YOU’RE JESSE JACKSON’!!” he seemed like he’d been waiting to recite that lyric forever.

He was loud. A loudness that would’ve been right at home at a concert venue, but it was absolutely inappropriate for a clothing store at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

I looked around uncomfortably. I noticed my manager (a white lady who I barely knew) looking in our direction. As I glanced back at my “admirer”, I saw his excitement transform into a realization that I- Snub Zero, the man who he had JUST seen on stage sharing a microphone with a Hip Hop Legend- was working at “New Army”…

I had broken the covenant.

His face flashed a look of concern.

“So… you still performing… or… are you just…” he was desperately searching for words that he could use to extract an explanation from me.

“Oh, yeah… I’m still doin my thang… I got a new mixtape droppin’ next month.. know what I’m sayin’… and I got a show comin up at the…” I was rambling. I had never seen this dude in my life, but I was sweating bullets trying to explain myself to him. I was using lofty Hip Hop lingo to compensate for the fact that I was bullshitting. There was nothing I could say to cover up the fact that his favorite underground rapper was working for 8 bucks a fucking hour.

I understood. If I saw Jean Grae working at Wal Mart, or Pharoah Monch taking my money at a toll booth- I’d be shocked, appalled and a bit worried.

As I tried to save face by running down an exaggerated list of the “big things” I had on deck- the cherry on top was delivered.

“Jerrell, make sure you finish folding those fleeces, and when you are done- grab the dust mop and tidy up the floor over by the fitting room,” my manager interrupted. She was obviously hating. I was visibly fuming.

After a brief moment of the most uncomfortable silence imaginable, my soon to be ‘ex’ fan spoke up.

“Well, I’ll let you do your thing. Stay up, homie. Keep spitting that heat.”

I dapped him up and stood frozen as I watched him leave. Then, holding back tears, I grabbed the dust mop.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Episode 8: Ben Toler

Y’all want something to drink?” Mr. Toler asked rhetorically.

“No thanks,” Charmayne nervously replied. Ben Toler was an intimidating man. He wasn’t tall by any standards, but he was solid- physically and mentally. He was about 245 lbs of about half muscle and half fat. He had those blackened lips that only a lifetime weed smoker could have. His eyes were the same color as the Hennessey he kept in his glass. He literally looked like somebody’s uncle, who just happened to get filthy fucking rich.

Charmayne followed Matt’s advice. She hired a manager. Her manager proudly sat by her side. His calmness and bravado kept her calm.

“So you’re her manager?” Toler asked him.


“What’s your name?”

“They call me Tae,” he gallantly stated. “Devontae Jefferson, Tae Light Management.” (Charmayne hated the name of his company, by the way)

I guess you figured out that Charmayne forgave Tae for the “Stolen Car Incident”. She figured it was divine intervention, because if she wouldn’t have gotten house arrest, she wouldn’t have worked at Friedman’s. If she wouldn’t have worked at Friedman’s, she wouldn’t have met Matt. If she wouldn’t have met Matt… Well, you get the point. She chalked it up as fate. Besides, she needed Tae. She couldn’t stroll up into Toler’s office solo, and she damn sure wasn’t gonna hire some stranger to go with her. Truthfully, it felt kind of good to have Tae back around. They just made a solemn promise to never talk about that night at Shadow’s studio.

“So what do y’all got for me?” Toler was scrolling through his pager while he talked.

“Well, she’s an extraordinary female MC who has the vocabulary of a scholar and the look of a model. She’s extremely versatile, and has an impeccable work ethic.” Tae was back on his grind. Charmayne was impressed.

“Well, I take it he’s talking about you.” Toler briefly looked up from his pager and made eye contact with Charmayne.

“Yeah,” Charmayne giggled a little and had no idea why.

“What’s your name, sweetie?” Toler asked in a condescending manner.

“My name is Bliss, and I’d prefer to be called Bliss instead of ‘sweetie’.”

Toler was back to staring at his pager. He chuckled, “Okay, pumpkin- put your CD on, let’s see what you got.”

He got under her skin. Deep under her skin. She just closed her eyes and started spitting. She really didn’t know what was coming out of her mouth, but judging from the reaction on Ben Toler’s face- she knew it was dope.

She got an adrenaline rush, as she pictured herself shopping in New York City. In her daydream, she was wearing a scarf- with big sunglasses and fluffy boots- and carrying a small animal in a stylish purse. Her mind flicked through visions of her going back to her mother’s house in a big, expensive car. She smiled as she pictured her mother yelling, “Girl, where’d you get this damn car??” –to which Charmayne would reply by throwing a wad of money in her face. Her mother was just as much a naysayer as she was a motivator. As a matter of fact, her “naysay” was the main reason Charmayne wanted a record deal- just so she could say, “I told you so”.

Her daydream rambled on, as she pictured Bo. Bo was Ms. Alexander’s new boyfriend. They began dating while Charmayne was on House Arrest. He moved in with them after the second date- a fact that sketched Charmayne out royally. She hated the way he tried to be the “man of the house”.

“No phone calls after 11 o’clock,” he told her.

That, coupled with the fact that she had to stay IN THE DAMN HOUSE, basically murdered the little social life Charmayne had.

“No visitors. Especially not boys.”

He was a stickler for this rule. Any boy who walked past their house was prone to being yelled at.

“Boy, why the fuck you lookin’ at my daughter like that?” Charmayne heard him shout- as she gazed out the window one afternoon.


Ms. Alexander loved Bo’s protective nature. She had always wanted to have a man in the house to ward off any intruders, or men attempting to deflower her daughter. She got turned on when she’d hear him scolding Charmayne.

“This ain’t even his daughter, and he cares about her more than her punk ass daddy EVER did,” she’d brag to her friends at the beauty shop.

If only she knew that while she was at the beauty shop, Bo was secretly watching Charmayne get dressed.

Charmayne’s mind recalled the time she walked into the laundry room, and saw Bo sniffing her panties. He didn’t see her, but she caught an unobstructed view of him, with her dirty panties pressed up against his face with one hand- while his other hand was in his pants. She was mortified. She had no idea what he was doing, but she knew that it wasn’t right.

Then there was the time he tried to instill the “Conserve Water” rule.

“No showers longer than two minutes,” he demanded. Sure enough, at the 1 minute 59 second mark, he was barging into the bathroom door- pseudo yelling at Charmayne, forcing her to scramble for her towel. (He took the lock off the bathroom door during his “home improvement” phase).

Of course, Charmayne stood up for herself. She told her mother (on numerous occasions) that Bo ‘freaked her out’. On each of those occasions, Ms. Alexander drowned her out.

“You always trying to make other people miserable- just ‘cus you miserable. That man ain’t did nothing but CARE for you and try to make shit right for you. You just like your damn daddy. Ungrateful, and disrespectful,”

Charmayne’s daddy was frequently the measuring stick for any inept behavior.

To combat Bo’s creepiness, and to try to prove her mother wrong, Charmayne devised an unorthodox scheme. She actually began to dress as provocatively as she could when she was not at work at Friedman’s. She began practicing her raps- in her room- in her panties and a tee shirt. She’d turn the music a little louder than normal, hoping that Bo would come in to her room to yell at her. In her scheme, he’d either come in to her room and attempt to touch her (at which time, she’d have solidified proof that he was a CHESTER)- or her mother would be so uncomfortable with her "man" being in the house with her habitually half nude daughter, that she’d tell him he had to leave.

In her teenaged mind, it seemed like a good plan….

This entire flashback occurred while Charmayne was spitting her verse. She’d gotten so good that she could spit her raps without even thinking about her raps. It had become an “out of body experience” for her. Matt had also taught her to channel her emotions by thinking of people (or places, or events) who made her blood boil. Her mother and Bo were those two people for her.

It’s weird. After years of wishing for a record deal, and dreaming of a record deal, and wondering what it would be like to have a record deal- the actual process of getting a record deal was uneventful. After she rapped, Toler’s punk ass put his pager down and asked her to spit another verse. Then he popped in the CD, called his lawyer, and two days later -BAM! Charmayne was officially offered a contract with BT Records, the biggest rap label in the world.

She was so excited, that she barely listened when Tae talked to her about the terms of the contract.

“How much money do we get?” she blurted.

Tae calmed her down a bit and told her about her responsibilities and obligations.

“Are they gonna move me into an apartment?” Getting away from her Mother was a the top of her ‘to do’ list.

Tae shook his head- and took a deep breath…

They signed the contract.

A couple weeks after that, she received a check for $80,000, of which she had to pay Tae $16,000 for manager’s fee. The contract said the check was for “advance payment on recording costs, promotional support, and any other recoupable monies tendered by the artist.” In Charmayne’s eyes, all that meant was “I got $64,000!” All of the things she’d dreamed about were happening so fast, she didn’t have time to realize they were happening. In one week, the week of March 19,1998- Charmayne Alexander died of natural causes. Bliss was born.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Storm (excerpt from "..Of Fame and Famine")

The Storm

Outside, the rain and thunder provide percussion for my melancholy melody….

An orchestral festival of self blame, paranoia and depression-

I’m guessin’ that the downpour will eventually lesson

But my confession

Is that I believe the dark clouds are a blessing.

I used to find the lightning frightening.

I used to run under my mother’s covers when it thundered.

My youthful innocence made me afraid of the storm,

Afraid of being drenched at Mother Nature’s expense…


Every time storm clouds gathered,

I’d rather run and hide inside than look the Hurricane in its eye.

But I’m a grown man now,

I can’t run to Mom-

And the sky around my life is anything but calm..

But these days instead of running, I choose a different route-

I face the storm head on- get soaked, dry off, and come right back out.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice, yet I keep moving

I don’t even block my ears when I hear the thunder BOOOOMING.

After 30 some odd years and 300 some odd days

I’ve finally found a way to survive the storm – unscaved

So, I’m proud of myself—I’m no longer running

I just wish I was smart enough to see the storms coming…

Alberta Clipper from the North,

High Pressure from the East,

Before I die and ‘rest in peace’

My only goal is to rest. In peace..

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bliss (episode 7: Cracker)

Every so often you hear someone rap, or sing, or play the guitar- and it moves you. Not just in an “Oh, this person is talented” sort of way. It’s more like a “Holy shit! This person is going to single handedly change the world” sort of way. The latter was the case when Cracker, (excuse me, Matt) heard Charmayne spit at the meeting they arranged. Matt was convinced that Charmayne was the next Hip Hop superstar, she just needed a “sound” to complement her vivid wordplay. He was even more convinced that he had just the “sound” she needed.

Over the next couple of weeks, Charmayne came to his studio, where they would write, record, and perfect song after song- rhyme after rhyme. Matt would tell her about the industry, and she’d listen like a young samurai would listen to a sen-sa. One story that she paid extra attention to was the story of how MC Shadow jerked Matt for $12,000 worth of payments for studio time- and how Matt no longer does business with him because of his shady ways.

“I hope he never sells another record. Then, I hope he becomes a bum in the street, dies of frostbite and rots in hell,” Matt jokingly quipped.

“Me too,” Charmayne whispered to herself- only she wasn’t joking.

Matt basically took Charmayne under his wing. He treated her like a little sister. He wrote a letter to her probation officer and convinced him that she was expressing herself creatively, thus staying out of trouble. This allowed her to go to the studio anytime. She was also allowed to go to Matt’s house to spend time with his wife and his children. Going to that house in North Olmstead made Charmayne extremely happy. It wasn’t the most extravagant, opulent, “rich people” house in the world- but it was nice. Really nice. It had a backyard. It had a well kept lawn. It was everything that Garden Valley wasn’t. Matt’s wife Shana was a sweet young woman. She reminded Charmayne of that lady from the movie “Speed”. She and Matt’s relationship was great. They laughed together. They drank beers and played video games together. They never seemed to argue. It all seemed perfect to Charmayne. Even when their son Cody shitted on himself, it didn’t smell all that bad. They ate dinner at the same time EVERY night. Together, for God’s sake! It was a far cry from life in the Alexander household. Charmayne and her mother had barely said two sentences to one another since the stolen car debacle, and their relationship really went down the tubes once Ms. Alexander started dating Bo (long story, we’ll talk about Bo a little bit later).

On this particular night, as they sat on Matt,s patio- they had the conversation that changed Charmayne’s life forever.

“Where do we go from here,” Matt asked out of nowhere.

“Um, I’m not sure what you mean..” she replied.

“I mean, we have the music now. You have music now. You have evolved into an excellent writer. You have a performer’s personality. You definitely have the look. What’s the next step?” he sipped a Heineken as he talked.

Charmayne was a bit confused. Why was the sensai asking the student what to do? Was this some sort of twisted test? She answered the only way she knew how.

“I guess we try to get a record deal.”

“Wrong,” Matt sat forward. We don’t try to do shit. You go demand your record deal.”

“What about you,” Charmayne was beginning to get defensive.

Matt chuckled as he finished off his beer. “No, no. I’ve done my part. No more industry for me. I wanted to prepare you. I wanted to make you into the artist that I knew you could be. The record deal stuff is not for me. I have a wife, and a son. Plus, all I have to show from my last stint in the “industry” is an ulcer.”

“So you just gon leave me out in the cold like that?” Charmayne felt her voice shifting into Garden Valley mode.

“You know what you’re doing. Plus, I got a contact for you.” He pulled a business card from his shirt pocket. “It’s the direct number to Benjamin Toler. He’s expecting your call.”

“Benjamin Toler is the biggest mogul in the industry,” Charmayne’s thought leaked from her lips.


She jumped up and hugged Matt so hard she almost flipped him over the banister he was sitting on. For the first time in a decade plus, she felt a “fatherly” love in a man’s embrace. Ironically, that love came from a white man who wasn’t even old enough to be her father.

As Matt drove her back downtown, Charmayne frequently patted her pocket to make sure the business card was still there (as if some mysterious fairy was gonna steal it from her). As they pulled up to Tower City, it seemed like they were saying good bye forever. They both knew that there was a great chance that the Toler connect would reap a deal. With Matt’s “no-industry” attitude, and Charmayne’s “pro-industry” dreams- this would probably be the last time they kicked it for a while.

“Figure out what you want out of this. Get it. Never compromise your integrity for it.” Final words of wisdom from sen-sa.

“I already know what I want.”

“Really?” he was smiling, knowing that there is no possible way this young lady had it all figured out this early in life.

“I want to be beautiful. I want my fans and family to love me. I want to be considered intelligent. I want security. I want overall success,” profound words spoken from a profound mind.

“That’s all, huh?” Matt and Charmayne laughed. After the laughter, Matt reflected for a moment, then stated: “That’s bliss.”

“What’s bliss,” Charmayne absently responded.

“Bliss is a state of total happiness.”

“I know what bliss is, retard. You said ‘that’s bliss’. What did you mean?” Charmayne was intrigued.

“You said you wanted beauty, love, intelligence, security, and success. I was just saying that if you took the first letter of each of those words, it spells ‘bliss’.”

“You smoke too much weed,” Charmayne joked as she hugged him and got out of the car, onto Ontario Street.

Before Matt pulled away, he rolled down the window and stated bluntly: “Take somebody with you, so they won’t try to bully you. You’re a girl, they naturally gon’ think you don’t know shit. Don’t go by yourself.”

With that, he was gone.

Charmayne was left with a golden business card, a hot demo, and a friendship that she hoped would last a lifetime. Matt was the single most influential person she’d ever known. She couldn’t help smiling as he drove away.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bliss (episode 6: Charmayne in the house!!)

Grand Theft Auto. Two to Four years in prison, and most likely a hearty helping of probation. Felony. Fuckin’ Tae! Who steals a car to go to a business meeting? Granted, Tae was probably the best friend Charmayne had ever known- but random spurts of idiotism such as this made her realize that he had no business in her life, in any capacity. Something deep down inside her made her think that the judge would throw the book at her. After all, she flat out refused to tell authorities who was driving the car. She was prepared to go to the joint. As she stood before The Honorable Judge “Such-n-such”, she saw her future fading away. She saw visions of herself in cornrows, wearing an orange jump suit, and slapping a table- yelling “Dominoe, nigga” in a prison rec-room. Her heart felt like a brick.

The Honorable Judge “Such-n-such” gave her a passionate speech about life. He told her about how he too grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, and had a single mother raising him. He shared antedotes about how he got into all types of trouble because he eventually fell in with the wrong crowd. Charmayne barely listened. All she could think about was her upcoming trip to Marysville. As the speech rambled on, she just wanted it to be over. “Stop prolonging the agony,” she thought. “Just gimme my time and I’ll be on my way..” Then she heard the two most beautiful words she had ever heard in her life: House Arrest.

What a relief.

Charmayne spent the next 8 months in the house, and not in the “Hip Hop” sense. She was literally in the house. She spent most of the time writing in her journal, or writing raps. Either way she was writing a whole lot.

As bored as she was, deep down she saw it as a blessing. The idle time allowed her to refine her rap skills and expand her subject matter. She was writing about any and everything that crossed her mind. She wrote about men, sex, love, hate, shoes, war, peace, politics, she even wrote a song about her mood when she’s on her period…..

Charmayne could feel herself getting doper with every rhyme that she spit. Metaphors, similes, and double entendres all became weapons of choice as she became a bona fide lyrical assassin. She read The Source, Rap Pages, XXL, and Blaze. She watched BET, MTV, VH1, and The Box. Her entire life was centered around becoming as well versed (no pun intended) in the area of Hip Hop as she possibly could.

Reader: “Wait a second, a few pages back she was ready to quit rapping- after Shadow dissed her. How come she is all gung-ho about it now?”

Writer: “That’s the wonderful thing about Hip Hop. You could love it and hate it at the same exact time. You could vow to quit, but when you catch that bug (trust me), there is nothing you can do about it. You can stop writing raps. You can stop recording raps. You can stop performing raps. But it is virtually impossible for a true MC to stop having raps circulate through his/her mind. In the midst of this “circulation”, it will drive the MC absolutely insane to not jot those rhymes down, or at least spit them out in some form or fashion.

I say all that to say Charmayne had “the bug”. After 2 months of being a model citizen in the judicial system’s House Arrest Program, she convinced her probation officer to allow her to get a job. “Thank God,” was Ms. Alexander’s response. Charmayne echoed that sentiment. They were flat out getting on each other’s nerves. Long gone was that night of bonding, that brief glimpse into what mother/daughter relations were meant to be like. Ms. Alexander had since grown weary of Charmayne’s fascination with the “buffoonery” and “animalistic misogyny” that comes with the lifestyle she embraced. After the stolen car incident, there was nothing anybody could say to convince Ms. Alexander that Hip Hop had any redeeming societal value.

“You’d never been to jail before. Hell, You’d never been to detention. After one night of rapping, you have on an ankle bracelet like a damn zoo animal. Absolutely pitiful,” she often fussed.

She had a valid point.

Thankfully, Charmayne never told her what happened with Shadow. Can you imagine? Ms. Alexander would probably be somewhere steam rolling CD’s like those crazy ass church people on the news. (Shouts out to Calvin Butts, C. Delores Tucker, and Al Sharpton)

So where was I? Oh, Charmayne got a job. She was officially a server at Friedman’s, a mid-range bar and grill type restaurant downtown. She had never waited tables before, but she caught on quick. All she had to do was smile, be friendly, and not drop anybody’s food. The hourly compensation was anything but flattering, but her tip money was enough to keep a couple of dollars in her pocket and her mother off her back. Plus, the customers at Friedman’s were interesting. They always gave her something to write about. Like the older white couple who came in every Friday night, like clockwork. They obviously had money (judging from the size of her wedding ring, and the wide variety of credit cards they used to pay their tab). The weird thing about them was that they never talked to each other. It was absolutely amazing to Charmayne how they had zero interaction with one another, but they made a conscious effort to get dressed up and go out to eat together- every Friday night.

Another weird customer was this white guy. He came in one night, right before close. He looked to be about 25 or 26- young, but still much older than Charmayne. He spent the entire time he was there staring at her. While he ordered- staring. While he ate- staring. He looked as if he had something to say to her. He finally got up the balls to do so when she brought him his check.

“I know you.”

“Uhh,” Charmayne was trying to counter-act the weirdness, “I’m here working a lot. Maybe I served you before.”

“No, it’s not from here. It’s…,” he was really thinking hard. “YO!! You rap don’t you?” he was so excited that he damn near scared the shit out of the people at the next table.

At first Charmayne was a bit embarrassed, then she had a rush of pride, then all of that turned into confusion when it hit her… “How in the hell does he know that I rap? I’ve only been to the studio one time, and even then I didn’t get to record..”

She suddenly realized who he was.

“Im Matt Claxton, remember? People call me Cracker.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bliss (episode 5: The AfterShock)

Charmayne laid in her bed, half asleep and half shell shocked from last night’s fiasco. Her body wouldn’t move. She couldn’t help thinking that her dreams, and for all intents and purposes- her life, were over. Done.

“Somebody get me a Burger King name tag and a block of welfare cheese, because I’m never gonna amount to shit”, she thought.

Downstairs her mother sipped her Sanka and skimmed through the newspaper, searching for the lottery results. She was surprisingly wide awake, seeing as to how she stayed up waiting for Charmayne to get home, then sat up and listened through the bedroom wall as Charmayne cried herself to sleep. Between her thirteenth sip of Joe, and page 5B of the “Metro” section, Ms. Alexander got the urge to go upstairs and ask Charmayne what had happened. This urge came half out of parental instinct, and half out of genuine interest. She secretly prayed that the sobbing she heard were from tears of joy. Why hadn’t she gone into Charmayne’s room and asked what was wrong right when she heard her? Again, Ms. Alexander was left to question her own parenting skills. She began to wonder whether or not she was truly qualified to mold the mind of a teenage girl. As she contemplated going up to Charmayne’s room, there was a knock on the front door.

“Who is it?” Ms. Alexander often used a fake “proper” accent to answer doorbells and telephones. She called it her “white folk” voice.

“Cleveland Police, ma’am,” a stern voice responded.

When you’re Black, in Cleveland and the Police knock on your door at 8:00 in the morning- no matter what you have or haven’t done- your first thought is “what the fuck?”. I don’t mean “what the fuck?”- in the form of a question. I mean “WHAT THE FUCK?”- affirmative.

“What the fuck?” she uttered as she unlatched the two dead bolts, one chain lock and the doorknob lock. “What can I do for you, officer?”

“Yeah, does this young lady live here?” he asked. His breathing was heavy. He was a big white dude. He sort of looked like the father from that show Roseanne. He reached into his pocket and pulled out Charmayne’s ID.

“What the fuck?” now it was in the form of a question, with inflection on the word “fuck”, so Ms. Alexander’s voice went up a few octaves as to express her extreme confusion. “Yes she does sir, why?” she stammered.

“Can you tell her I need to have a word with her,” Roseanne’s husband was now turning red in the face.

Now, keep in mind- Ms. Gwendolyn Alexander is a very intelligent woman. She’s well versed on the “Black” struggle. So when a 'cracker ass white man' comes knocking at her door at 8:00 in the damn morning, asking for her daughter, her mind instantly rewinds to a time when a white man, just like this 'redneck asshole' who stood before her- would rape and batter young Black women for no reason. Angela Davis began to speak through her.

“What for? Huh? What could you possibly have to discuss with my seventeen year old daughter? My seventeen year old straight “A” student, daughter- mind you?” ,

Defiance swelled in her chest....

“Well, her 'A' is going 'straight' to prison- unless she has a really good alibi ,” Capt. Redneck responded sarcastically.

Shock deflated her chest.....

“Charmayne, get your ass down here. NOW!” Ms. Alexander was screaming at the top of her lungs. Between this cop, and this bad ass girl- somebody was gonna get dealt with.

Charmayne slowly came down the stairs. She was wearing the same clothes that she had on when she'd left home the night before, except now they weren’t as elegant. Now, instead of looking like a hot young woman who was ready for social and monetary success, she looked like a really young girl who had been up all night crying.

“What?” she said rhetorically, not even noticing Whitey McWhiteman at the door.

Ms. Alexander opened the door wide, deliberately revealing the officer.

“Explain.” Ms. Alexander stated, as her arms folded into pre-ass whooping position.

“Explain what?” Charmayne was genuinely confused.

“Charmayne, may I see your ID?” the officer already seemed impatient.

“I’m in my house, what do you need to see my ID for?” (a very valid question).

“Just show the man your ID,” Ms. Alexander was shaking uncontrollably.

Charmayne smacked her lips and mumbled under her breath as she went in her pocket. “Stupid ass pig waking me up..” Checking her other pocket. “..its ‘cuz I’m Black I bet..” Frantically checking her back pockets. Nothing.

“It’s not there because we found it,” the officer stated bluntly.

“Oh, thanks,” Charmayne had a moment of sincere gratitude. All this time, she’d thought that this officer was coming to harass her. He was returning her ID. How nice…

“We found it in the passenger seat of a stolen car last night.”

Her heart stopped.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The End of the "N"

I've been using the word NIGGA ever since I heard "NIGGA" being used on the curb where cats serve and sip liquor
As I started to get bigger, it seeped into my vocab... I began writing raps, it would creep in my notepad
No big deal, I use the word every day- as an adjective, noun, verb- basically every way
I could, because I'm 'hood and that's just the way we speak- so of course I'm gonna use it when I slay these beats
But lately
Current events motivate me
To not glorify the very word used to degrade me
The very same word I use with such negligence
Is also used to imply my lack of intelligence
So, confused and perplexed- still using it, yes
But in my daily conversation I'm using it less
Now the next faze is starting the next craze,
And un-doing a habit I've had for decades
So here's to the "N" word, in all of it's glory
We had a fairy tale romance, but it's the end of the story
So let me get it out of my system... NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA...
Okay, I'm done- a new day has begun.