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.