Another excerpt from J-Zone's forthcoming book, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure. J-Zone was a well-behaved kid until he discovered rap music. 1990 was the year it all went downhill.
The Afros’ “Hoecakes” and No Face’s “Fake Hair Wearing Bitch”
With Run-DMC’s popularity declining in 1990, DJ Jam Master Jay delved into side projects like The Afros. One of the members of the group was DJ Hurricane, the Beastie Boys’ DJ. The Afros rapped about five things: afros, hoes, jail, bank robberies, and New York Knick games. Also from Hollis, Queens and under the Def Jam/RAL umbrella was No Face, a group that could only be fairly described as a hip-hop take on Blowfly. No Face also had a heavy allegiance to Ed Lover from Yo! MTV Raps and both groups were extremely short-lived one album wonders who were quickly tossed into the novelty bin.
I was one of eight lucky winners of a rap trivia contest given in Serious Hip-Hop (a Washington DC-based and equally short lived magazine), in which the prize was a copy of No Face’s Wake Your Daughter Up cassette. My pops’ girlfriend bought me The Afros’ Kickin’ Afrolistics CD for Christmas in 1990. My introduction to misogyny came with that entertaining pair of albums. Both are partially responsible for not only influencing my own rap career, but my first (and only) severe ass-kicking at the hands of a female.
LaTeesha was in the seventh grade, a grade below me. She was my homeboy’s little sister and provided the first in a long series of disastrous encounters with the opposite sex. Homegirl had a crush on me, but I could give two shits less and the unrequited shows of affection began to boil her blood. She was about 6’1”, stronger than I was, and could get extremely ghetto in an eye blink for no apparent reason. Love letters would appear in my locker one day, and then a hate letter would follow when I didn’t respond. Those erratic shows of emotion prepped me for many a relationship in adulthood, but at the time, the broad just got on my fuckin’ nerves and the funky behavior couldn’t be blamed on a menstrual cycle just yet. LaTeesha was a hair in my grits, so I threw some lines from my two favorite albums of the moment at her. No Face’s “Fake Hair Wearing Bitch” (which featured the 2 Live Crew) was a real romantic ditty (audio player below):
The Afros’ mantra of ‘fros and hoes lived vividly on “Hoecakes”, which also sent me down the good ol’ path to bitch baiting:
I ran around school delivering those slices of decorum to a lot of girls. Beneath it all, the brash misogyny was my own little decoy for the fact that I was terrified of female rejection. But LaTeesha was the wrong bitch to test them on. After she caught me throwing out the box of chocolates she slipped into my locker on clean-up day, I responded to her anger with a line of pimpishly cool Afro Hoecake wisdom. Bad decision.
“What the fuck you say about my mama, you little punk ass nigga?”
I hadn’t said anything about her mama. She just felt like fucking me up, so she grabbed me by my hair and proceeded to throw Rumble in the Jungle-style uppercuts and Blackbelt Jones roundhouse kicks. One of her kicks actually
lifted me off the floor vertically. I somehow broke free and ran to the main office screaming in a petrified, Phillip Bailey falsetto. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the bitch from going in there to continue whoopin’ my ass like a world champ. The Assistant Principal finally spared me further humiliation when she separated us. To my chagrin, the lone witnesses to this ass-whoopin’ were the two biggest big mouths in the school, Jerry and Little Mike. Even worse, that was merely round one.
“Come here you little pussy, punk ass nigga. Say something so I can fuck you up,” she taunted every time I crossed her path. A lengthy onomatopoeia solo on my forehead always followed. Smack! Ping! Pop! Boom! Pow! “You faggot.”
Batman had nothing on that bitch.
I dealt with this shit from her an average of three times per week for two straight years. I was raised to never hit a female, but something tells me that even if I fought that bitch like a man, she still would’ve simonized the floor with my face. She eventually got sick of slappin’ me around, but the damage to my rep was done; I could never act like a tough guy and be taken seriously. The Afros and No Face owe me $7.50 each to pay for the Miami Dolphins Starter cap that LaTeesha snatched off my head and tossed down a sewer drain.
Audio 2: “What Ya Lookin’ At?”
I was too busy listening to funk when Audio 2 dropped the classic “Top Billin” around 1987, but I was on board when they dropped their sophomore record (I Don’t Care - The Album) in 1990. Seeing a photo of the group circled and crossed out in The Village Voice piqued my interest even further. Apparently, Audio 2’s flagrantly homophobic rhymes put them on the popular newspaper’s shit list. The group’s rapper, Milk Dee, was everything I wasn’t, but needed to become to get past being the water boy in my crew - arrogant, brash, and obnoxious. I studied I Don’t Care - The Album from front to back, particularly the songs “Get Your Mother off the Crack” and “What Ya Lookin’ At?” The latter sounded particularly rogue, so I laid down the law with volume and recited it in the school hallways (audio player below):
I felt like a rebel for calling everyone in school a faggot for two weeks and telling every one from teachers to classmates that I didn’t care, but my subscription to the Audio 2 Guide to Living Correctly was what initiated “the talk” that parents are supposed to have with their kids.
“So your mother tells me you got in trouble for running around school calling everything a faggot,” said my pops nonchalantly, as we nibbled on Big Macs in the Galleria Mall Food Court in White Plains. “Do you even know what faggot means?”
“Yeah man, a nigga that don’t want no pussy,” I responded like a young Richard Pryor. I guess mentioning pussy caused the floodgates to open, because pops and I then partook in the same ‘your dick goes in the girl and nine months later a baby pops out’ spiel that Furious Styles and Tre enacted in Boyz-N-The Hood. My parents would’ve been happy to know that the chances of me getting anyone pregnant at that time fluctuated somewhere between 0.1 and 0.2 percent. You can’t ‘stick your thing in her’ when girls think you’re a funny-looking pain in the ass.
“I like Audio 2, those are some good beats!”
It was extremely bizarre to hear my 42-year-old father blurt that out in the middle of a dire discussion about my port of entry into manhood. “But you have to know entertainment versus what you can say and do in the real world. Capiche?”
I may have been the only kid with a parent who was actually a rap fan circa 1990, and the fact that pops dealt with issues instead of trying to shelter me from them was probably why I respected his stance. It also made the experience of enjoying the most explicit rap tape without using the lyrics as an instruction manual a much easier job. Milk Dee owes my pops $10 for the two #3 meals from McDonald’s that made the riot act easier to deliver.
Gang Starr: “Just To Get a Rep”
My school basketball team played a majority of its games against the nearby Yonkers public schools. By the 1990-91 school year, the city of Yonkers was a fresh four years out of a desegregation lawsuit that came about due to the bizarre and purposely unequal zoning of its housing and public schools. Thus, every school we balled against had a respectable core of “eighth grade” knuckleheads with goatees and gold fronts who could windmill dunk.
“Y’all niggas gonna lose this game, y’all know that right?” threatened one of the players on the Mark Twain Middle School team. He had to be at least 22 years old, because he sold the wolf ticket in a baritone on par with Barry White nursing a cold. We lost by about 80 points that day, then they chased us out of their gym.
The Emerson Middle School team did Mark Twain one better. Emerson rushed our gym looking like a thugged-out posse of Smurfs - baby blue uniforms, matching North Carolina Tarheel Starter jackets and hats, and baby blue Patrick Ewing sneakers that I don’t recall ever seeing for sale. If that wasn’t enough, their pre-game war call was downright treacherous:
Stick up kids is out to tax!
Fuck. We were about to get robbed in our own school by the visiting team. I knew the menacing phrase from Nice-N-Smooth’s song “Funky for You”, but they kept chanting it over and over and over again as they trooped into our locker room bopping harder than I’ve ever seen anyone bop, before or ever since. If bopping cured cancer, those niggas could run 5K marathons in Chernobyl every day for three straight years, come home, bop to the corner store, and still be healthy enough to join the Marines.
I finally discovered what the Emerson squad meant that weekend. Channel 5’s version of Yo! MTV Raps - a short-lived show called Pump it Up! that came on Sunday mornings at 1AM - aired the video “Just to Get a Rep” by Gang Starr. The song had a harder sound than the songs on the group’s debut album (No More Mr. Nice Guy) and the chorus featured DJ Premier cutting up the Nice-N-Smooth record with surgical precision:
S-s-s--s--s-s-s, stick up kids is out
to tax! And this is how the story goes…
“Just to Get a Rep” was the stick-up kid anthem of 1991. About seven months later, I heard the same war call that Emerson chanted when they walked into our gym and busted our asses by 40 points.
Stick up kids is out to tax!
“Yo nigga, that chain is dope. Lemme see that shit.”
It was two kids claiming to be members of the Young Guns (aka the YGz), a Mount Vernon street gang voted by The Daily News as least likely to accept an invitation to discuss world peace over tea and crumpets. The $14 fake Gucci Link gold chain I had recently purchased from the gift shop on Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon gave me the look of a baby Slick Rick; the two hooligans mistakenly thought it was real gold. My mother had warned me about visiting friends in the Vernon late at night, and I was now a sitting duck at the train station.
“Stick up kids is out to tax, nigga!” the more rugged-looking of the two shouted again.
Thankfully the chain was a few weeks old at that point, and I had forgotten to put nail polish remover on it (for extra sparkle) before I left the crib earlier that day. When they tried to snatch it, it revealed a green rust ring that it left on my shirt. The green rash caused both of them to explode with hysterical fits of laughter, call me a “broke ass nigga rockin’ a fake ass chain”, and walk away shaking their heads. That’s what I call ‘bling around the collar’, and that day, a fake piece of jewelry very well may have saved my life.
I can’t listen to “Just to Get a Rep” today without instinctively tucking my chain in or preparing to get dunked on. DJ Premier owes me either a $14 Gucci Link or a pair of powder blue Ewing sneakers.
Grand Daddy IU: “The Girl in the Mall”
Lefty, the point guard on our team, lent me IU’s Smooth Assassin CD. I hadn’t heard it yet, but he and Fat Calvin kept telling me how dope it was. They weren’t bullshitting; it was so dope that I never gave Lefty the CD back. It still sits in my collection today, with his initials written on the jewel case in Sharpie ink. My growing curiosity about sex caused me to zero in on the x-rated tales of one song in particular, “The Girl in the Mall”. I didn’t know pussy from a microwave oven, but the song lyrics grabbed me by the collar and gave me all types of ideas for the sub-zero day in hell on which I would actually lose my cherry:
IU’s graphic sexcapade was the catalyst behind me writing my very first rap. In the spring of ‘91, I penned “Bronco Billy”, an x-rated tale about fuckin’, suckin’, and other bizarre sexual acts I had never done before (some of them I still haven’t tried). I was getting Bs in English class, so it was well-written for my first rap, just not believable. What was believable was moms going ape shit when she found the manuscript sitting on my bed while she was snooping around. I was handled in Florida Evans fashion by moms, had to hear the God damn riot act again, and lost my allowance for two months. Grand Daddy IU owes me $160.
...Continued in the book!