Chapter 14 – MC Skanky O, Yo!

There are few things in this world as difficult to acquire as a Distribution deal. You wouldn’t know it from reading this story.

I’ve given all of this quite a bit of consideration since my last entry, and I can assure you, had I walked into that meeting with Willy Show alone—had I somehow mustered up the gumption to present Kanish’s most fucked-up proposal for Distribution on an unfinished Ditty with a totally hyped-up promise to involve the Pharcyde—he would have outwardly questioned my sanity.

Furthermore, Manifestation techniques are insufficient to explain Willy’s offer. The whole “ask and you shall receive” principle really doesn’t fly here. Kanish wasn’t in a position to Manifest a Distribution deal of any variety.

Yet here we are.

Clearly, I was at the meeting. Yes, I have a relationship with Willy, and have proven to him time and time again that I can deliver a record that he can sell. But to offer a $50K advance? He most certainly could have thrown considerably less cash at us for the same result, and he knows it. He could have just as easily handed us $10K and told us to go make the record and it would have been enough to get the job done. I mean, Kanish outright told Willy that he was in a position to fund the project. He started off the whole pitch telling him so.

And just in case a $50K advance isn’t baffling enough, for good measure Willy throws in a $5 million trigger which converts our little 360 deal into a full-fledged eight-figure Label Distribution deal. Why on earth would Willy offer us that? Is the chorus of the Douchebag Song really that catchy? It’s not like there were other buyers in the mix.

I’m sorry, but no matter how I slice it, no matter how many angles I look at this from, I simply come to the same unavoidable conclusion: None of this would have happened were Kanish not a Billionaire.

Of course, he’s not actually a Billionaire. He’s a Billionaire’s Heir, which is wholly different from a Billionaire. A Billionaire can’t get cut off. A Billionaire’s Heir, on the other hand, can. And at the moment my Billionheir’s money spigot is in the off position. At this point, Kanish is down to his last $120,000, and I shouldn’t have to say it, but $120,000, a significant sum of money for most of us, does not a Billionaire make. Not even close.

Suppose you were paid $120,000 in cash every single day of your life starting today. It would take you just shy of twenty-three years to accumulate your first billion, and that’s assuming you’re not spending any of it. You’d also need a mattress the size of a two-meter-square room, and that’s assuming you’re stuffing it with neat stacks of $100 denominations.

Now, if you decided to invest your daily $120,000 payments, and you did so shrewdly, then the pace at which you acquired wealth would quicken considerably. With that kind of guaranteed daily income, banks would beg you to borrow money from them, and it wouldn’t be long before that daily $120K installment would be enough leverage for billions in secured loans. With billions in real assets on the books, you would be a Billionaire, despite a paltry income of only $120,000 per day. You see, wealth is judged not by what you have, but rather by what you owe.

As usual, I digress.

There’s no doubt, the kid put together a great track, and I love his improvements to the chorus. But one track doesn’t prove long-term talent. Certainly not to Willy. And since he went out of his way to invite Kanish to that meeting—a person he wouldn’t even know existed were it not for the fat-mouthed Rev—it’s pretty clear to me that he already knew Kanish was loaded. Which brings up the next question.

Why the fuck would that matter?

All I know is that the moment I got me a Billionaire’s Heir in my back pocket everything became way fucking easier. Were it not for my impromptu road trip with Kanish, I might never have come up with the Douchebag Song. And while in its current form the Song amounts to nothing more than a lottery ticket, it also came with a $50,000 guarantee.

Aardy stood before the whiteboards, absentmindedly tapping his teeth with the half-chewed cap of a dry-erase marker. He was taking his new role as manager quite seriously, and he’d turned both whiteboards into brainstorming boards full of to-do lists and ideas. He was so full of ideas, he’d barely left a space for scoring Beaver.

“So,” Aardy said as he returned the marker to its ledge. “I’ve been giving this all its due consideration, boys, and there’s lots to do. But first things first. We need a rapper.”

“We’re not even going to approach the Pharcyde?” I asked.

“We shouldn’t close the door on any possibilities, of course. But I’d like to hear some of the talent out there for myself. We should go to some clubs tonight.”

“Clubs? What clubs?”

“I don’t know. Hip-hop clubs.”

“We can’t just search for rappers on the Internet like the rest of the world? We have to go out to clubs?”

“You can’t judge stage presence on the Internet. Besides, we should really look for a freestyler. Those are the best rappers.”

“I am so vehdy excited!” Kanish interjected. “Finally! We go to the Hood!”

I’m not sure why Aardy was under the impression that freestylers made the best rappers. Writing well-thought-out rhymes is an entirely different skill set from riffing them off the top of your head. And while both are useful skill sets, in general, I prefer the former ability when it comes to making a hip-hop record. That said, Aardy was right. And as much as I wanted to avoid the Hood, it would be best if we checked out rappers in person.

“I do know one local rapper,” I said absentmindedly as I searched through my contacts. “He’s a Blasian rapper from Torrance who goes by the name of MC Skanky O. He’s big on the freestyle battles.”

A friend introduced Skanky O to me some years back, and for some reason I seem to run into him around town with some frequency. Every time I see the dude, he hits me up to be his “Produsah,” because, you know, he doesn’t know how to make beats. Other times he knows how to make beats, he just can’t afford the gear. Sometimes he has both problems.

All of that is total bullshit, of course. The whole hip-hop movement started with the idea that you shouldn’t need money to create art. Hip-hop was born from the streets of the inner city, and embodies all media disciplines, including visual art, writing, dance, and music. The only thing that you need in order to perform hip-hop is your brain and your voice. All that matters is the flow. So I’m not buying any of his excuses. Skanky’s problems had everything to do with fear.

I know Artists (although I’m not sure we should call them that) who have been so debilitated by fear that they make the same album perpetually for years. Over and over again. The paralysis comes with all sorts of rationalizations, all of them tired, none of them valid. One may as well never make a record in the first place if one is never able to finish it. A record that isn’t finished isn’t art.

Never completing a work is the very definition of playing it safe. You see, if you never put yourself out there, you never have to face harsh criticism. Unfortunately, ridicule is the fare of adulation, and for most people, that’s far too steep a price to pay. One doesn’t “want” to be an Artist. One either is or isn’t one.

Skanky was a good rapper, with good flow, and he had a solid ability to tell a compelling story in rhyme. Unfortunately, he was incapable of finishing a record. I know, because I helped him to produce a track once, and the record came out great. Or at least I thought it did, until he hit me up a year later to try again. Not only didn’t he play the track for anyone beyond close friends, he wanted me to entirely redo my production. Setting aside the fact that he wasn’t paying me, why the fuck would he come to me for another production if he didn’t like the first one? I already helped him to deliver the song the way I thought it should be. Even if I was getting paid, I ain’t making the track again just because he refuses to move forward.

All of that said, as annoying as I find Skanky on a number of levels, he’s not without his redeeming qualities. At the very least, he would know where the live hip-hop clubs were.

“Call MC Skanky O,” I said into my iPhone.

“Calling MC Skank E Yo.” Siri replied.

“This guy can help,” I said to Aardy and Kanish as I placed the phone on speaker.

Skanky picked up on the very first ring.

“Yo, wat up, wat up, my brothah?” Skanky greeted.

“DJ Mixerman in da house, yo!”

“Word up. Thanks fah callin’ me, yo! What up?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m lookin’ for the best live hip-hop clubs. My friends and I want to check out a good show.”

“Aw man, da best clubs are undahground, yo! Dey don’t exist, know what ahm sayin’? Dey move around an’ shit. But I can take you, Yo! I be battlin’ tonight! Gonna get my freestyle on, know what ahm sayin’?”

“Word. You want a ride?”

“Thatta be da bomb, yo! Hit my cell at midnight.”

“I’m just gonna pick you up at midnight, aight? Text me your address.”

“Aight. Dat works.”

“I’ll be in the beige Bentley,” I said.

“Haha! Word, yo! I’ll be waitin’ by my Rolls-Royce.”

“In a minute.”

“In a second.”

Kanish and Aardy were staring at me like I had two heads.

“What? You need me to translate all of that?” I asked.

“He freestyles!” Aardy scolded. “Why are we not using him?”

“He’s too old, too unknown, and he’s a major pain in the ass.”

“But he freestyles!”

Annapurna entered the garage with a tray of breakfast burritos, which the three of us devoured in short order. Aardy continued to strategize in front of the whiteboard. Kanish tossed Beaver darts toward the board with no regard for Aardy’s safety. And I considered the ramifications of a trip to the Hood.

“We should probably bring all of the Sikhs with us tonight,” I said.

“What do you mean by all of the Sikhs?” Aardy asked. “There’s one by my count.”

“Oh, I guess you don’t know. There’s three more Sikhs staying at the Crown Royale Hotel.”

“Really. And how many people fit in a Bentley?”

It was a good point, and I started to do the math. We had the four Sikhs, Sevaka, myself, Kanish, Aardy, and MC Skanky O, for a total of nine people. While the Bentley could comfortably hold five, and the BMW four, Kanish Kanish inexplicably wanted to bring the Stingray—which is costing him a fortune, by the way. He might as well buy it.

In the end, we decided the best course was to take three cars. Two Sikhs in the Beemer, two Sikhs in the Stingray, and the rest of us in the Bentley.

Kanish was once again acting suspiciously throughout the day. He kept leaving to run “errands” and spent quite a bit of time alone in his room. He came down to play a game of Beaver at one point, but the moment either of us pried, he feigned as if he couldn’t understand basic American and headed back to his room. The last time Kanish was so clandestine, he invented the One-Ounce Blunt. I was hopeful that he was preparing something equally as useful.

This left Aardy and me to fend for ourselves, and despite Aardy’s pleas, I was not going to dress the part of a hip-hopper. I was going as a Producer, and would wear my usual Producer clothes—unfaded jeans and a T-shirt. Kanish as well. It was Aardy who was in desperate need of some gear. Golfing attire just wouldn’t do.

As I’m sure you can imagine, a lily-white, golf-loving Canadian the likes of Aardy is about as far removed from hip-hop as one can get. Rather than dress him like a ridiculous cartoon character, which would only bring more attention to him, I gave him one of my old Pharcyde T-shirts. Kanish was kind enough to loan him a pair of jeans. Frankly, the ensemble was slightly shocking. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen Aardy in jeans, let alone a collarless shirt.

We left the house at midnight. The Bentley led the way, followed by the Sikhs in the Stingray and two other Sikhs in the BMW. The formation was anything but inconspicuous.

Driving through Torrance was a shit show as per usual. I swear that the traffic lights throughout the city are timed in such a way that everyone is forced to waste as much gas as possible. Of course, that might have something to do with all the big oil refineries operating there. It’s in Torrance’s interest to waste gas. Unfortunately, MC Skanky O lives in the dead center of the expansive city. As a result, there was really no avoiding it.

Sevaka made the final turn onto a residential street just off Western. Skanky was on the sidewalk in front of his apartment complex. He was all decked out in a freshly pressed T-shirt—featuring a large silk-screened marijuana leaf—low-riding khaki shorts, which extended to his knees; and an Adidas baseball cap with a perfectly straight brim. It looked as though it had just come off the line, and it may well have. His entire ensemble still had the tags attached.

“Yo, yo, yo, what up wit da sled, yo? Holy fuck, you wasn’t kidding, yo!”

Skanky O jumped in the front seat of the Bentley and extended a fist-bump toward Sevaka.

“What up, yo? I’m MC Skanky O. You da chaperone?”

“That’s Sevaka,” I said. “He doesn’t take kindly to fist-bumps.”

“Suh Wattevah! I’ll just call you Yo, yo!”

Skanky immediately turned his attention to Kanish.

“You must be the boss man, cuz you in da back. You da rich one. Yeah, I can smell dat shit, yo. Put it heah. Don’t leave me hangin’, yo!”

Skanky bumped fists with Kanish, and then he dropped his voice to a more serious tone.

“What up, daddy,” he said to Aardy.

Skanky launched into all sorts of nonsense about some other rapper who wanted to kill him. Apparently, he made a YouTube video in which he accused a big-time Gangstah rapper of ripping him off. As a result, Skanky had spent the past week bunkered at his buddy’s place in Idyllwild. At first his whole act is quite entertaining. After a while, it becomes a bit much, and I really can only take him in short doses. We’d barely gotten out of Torrance and we were already well past the first dose.

Skanky directed us to a seemingly abandoned building somewhere in Compton. Two behemoth black men sat in lawn chairs in front of the dimly lit structure. There were no other people. There was no activity. Just two bouncer types lounging on an inner city street in the wee hours of the morning.

“Where the fuck is everyone?” I asked.

“Prolly inside,” Skanky replied.

“What time did this event start?”

“I don’t know, yo. Ten? Eleven? Dey reserve a spot for me, yo. Dis is my place. I go last around heah.”

“You’re fucking kidding me! The whole point was for us to check out rappers!”

“Aw, naw, naw. You said you wanted to see a show, yo. Dis is it. Right heah. You only need to spy on one rapper, cuz you already wit him.”

Motherfucker! Dude just loves to waste my fucking time.

Skanky O jumped out of the Bentley, as did we.

“Twenty bucks each,” said the bouncer on the right.

Skanky looked expectantly toward me, and I to Aardy, who pulled out two crisp $100 bills and handed them to the immense man.

“That should cover everyone, plus a tip,” Aardy said.

“You can’t leave those cars there,” the bouncer on the left ordered. “It brings too much attention.”

I couldn’t imagine how parked cars, even expensive ones, could bring more attention than two gigantic human gargoyles in the middle of a sidewalk in Compton. Just the same, the Bentley, the Beemer, and the Stingray did look a bit out of place in the Hood. So, after a quick strategy session, we all agreed that two of the Sikhs and Sevaka should wait for us in the cars around the block.

“And what’s in the backpack?” the bouncer asked one of the Sikhs.

It was a good question. I’d never seen any of the Sikhs carrying a backpack, and couldn’t understand what on earth he might be carrying in one. I’d already made it quite clear that they weren’t to be carrying any firearms into the Hood, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand what he might need to bring with him inside the club. The Sikh handed over a bag, which the bouncer sifted through. I, of course, tried to catch a glimpse inside the bag, but the way the bouncer stared me down, it was almost as if he didn’t think it was any of my business.

Once cleared, we entered the ancient building and followed the muffled booms of 808 kick drums. The halls were insufficiently lit, the walls made of plaster, entire patches of which were now nothing more than exposed strapping. The three of us made our way single file through the creepy narrow hall. The farther we walked, the louder the music. We climbed down a rather steep set of stairs to yet another door where a bouncer stood sentry. He stamped each of our hands with a number—420.

“What up, Skanky,” the sentry said. “You better get in dare. You about up.”

The music jumped dramatically in volume and clarity the moment the ultra-heavy metal door swung open. The walls inside the chamber were made of crudely laid brick slathered over in many thick layers of paint, the latest coat in red. The ceiling was low, seven feet at most, and the place was filled with the haze of pungent smoke, the kind that comes from a hundred people passing around large blunts of Medicine in a small unventilated room. As one might expect at an underground hip-hop club in Compton, the crowd was entirely black. In fact, Aardy and I were the only white people in the place, Kanish and the Sikhs the only Indians, and Skanky O the only one with any obvious Asian features.

Being the only white guy in an inner city hip-hop club in and of itself isn’t a problem. It’s when you’re the only white guy in a room full of Gangstahs that you have to worry, but then, that’s true regardless of their ethnicity. Pissed-off Gangstahs will kill you regardless, which is why I brought the Sikhs—just in case we found ourselves in a room full of Gangstahs. Of course, the Sikhs, too, were getting the once-over, but that’s what happens when you run around the US in an orange turban. People view you with suspicion. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it happens.

The crowd didn’t seem overly hostile, but that didn’t stop us from getting some rather long looks. I’m sure that many in the crowd were merely curious as to how a couple of white dudes and three Indians found themselves in an underground bar with a Blasian freestyler from Torrance. But with the stage awaiting the next performer, there was no doubt that we were now the center of attention. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say we were unwelcome, we most assuredly didn’t fit in.

On the back wall of the cramped room was a makeshift bar with a modest choice of liquor—vodka, gin, and whiskey—and a keg of beer; what brands, I couldn’t say. There were no labels on the bottles, and this crowd seemed more interested in the weed. In the corner was a pint-sized stage with nothing more than a microphone, a three-legged stool to lay it on, and a black-carpeted floor monitor. In the back of the room was a sound man, cordoned off in his booth. Kanish excused himself to get us all some drinks.

“I’m up next,” MC Skanky O announced to me.

“But I though you go last,” I replied in surprise.

“And last is next, yo. You only need to see one rapper, yo! You lookin’ at him. Awright, I gotta get up dare.”

As pissed as I was that Skanky fucked us from hearing other rappers, I had more pressing issues at that particular moment. We needed to win over this crowd.

“Hold on a second. I need you to do me a favor first.”

“What you need?” Skanky asked.

“When you go up there, announce Produsah in da house for me, willya?”

“Word. Ya feeling the minority heat, yo? Not so comfy is it? But I gotcha back, yo.”

The music faded out and the hosting MC jumped up on the stage and picked up the mic to make the final introduction.

“All right, all right!” the host yelled into the mic. “Let’s heah it fah MC Skanky O!”

The crowd expressed their approval, some with enthusiasm, others with ambivalence. I got the sense that Skanky was liked but not adored. Of course, this was a competition, one that he apparently won on regular occasion. As a result, there were clearly peeps rooting against him.

“Yo, yo, yo, yo, yo! Got some big-time Produsahs in da house, yo!” Skanky yelled into the mic as he pointed directly toward Aardy and me. “Dey produced the Pharcyde and shit, and dey heah to see MC Skanky O lay down some flow, Yo! Let’s heah it!”

I was glad that Skanky mentioned the Pharcyde, as it gave us instant legitimacy with the crowd, and the announcement most certainly helped to shift the tide of any possible animus. Unfortunately, I was now being mobbed by an entire room of rappers in need of a Produsah. I swear to you, at one point I had two MCs flowing on either side of me, and in all the commotion I managed to completely miss out on MC Skanky O’s freestyle. To make matters worse, I’d lost Kanish, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if his Sikh bodyguard hadn’t beenstanding right next to me. The Sikh, who was clearly well versed in the universal language of panic, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed toward the stage.

“We have a late entry, peeps! Let’s give it up for MC McKay!”

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Kanish was now on the stage wearing an oversized white T-shirt, a straight-brimmed hat turned sideways, untied bright-white kicks, and gold clip-on teeth. So, that’s what was in the knapsack! That little fucker.

One of the unfortunate limitations of documenting this kind of story is that I must relay things to you from memory. Where I can, I try to deliver past conversations verbatim, but sometimes I merely provide you the gist of a conversation. Such is the nature of the medium. And while I’m certainly not past punching things up a bit when necessary, believe me when I tell you, I cannot do justice to the flow this kid laid on that audience. Had I not been so shocked, I might have thought to record the performance with my phone. And while it would have been nice to share it with you verbatim, his rhymes really don’t tell the whole story. It was his performance that was so stunning. Kanish was not only dynamic and engaging, he delivered a hilariously well constructed freestyle about an Indian rapper looking to take over the entire Industry. He even managed to get “ogle my Mogul” in there. Suffice to say, the kid could lay down a flow the likes of which I haven’t heard in quite some time.

Let me put it another way: Kanish, or I should say MC McKay, took home first place in a stunner. MC Skanky O came in second.

It was a bitter ride home for Skanky O. The $200 in weekly prize money was something he relied upon, and frankly, I was feeling bad about that. Once again, the Billionheir walks away with the prize. Isn’t that always the way? Were he not my very own Billionheir, I might find it an unsettling theme.

Sevaka pulled up in front of Skanky’s apartment complex. Aardy, being the swell guy that he is, pulled out $500 cash and handed it to Skanky O.

“That’s payment for your services. You’ve helped us out a great deal tonight, and I won’t take no for an answer.”

There would be no no’s from Skanky O,as he snatched up the cash and bid us farewell. He was happy. As was I. For there was no doubt about it, not for anyone at that club, certainly not for anyone in the Bentley—Kanish was a star.

He’s also compulsively secretive.

“Dude. What the hell? Why the fuck didn’t you just tell us you could rap?” I asked.

“You did not ask me,” Kanish replied.

Aardy clearly had no interest in prosecuting Kanish for his covert ways, and rather than allow me to continue, he interjected his thoughts on the matter.

“Kanish,” Aardy began. “you realize there is no question here, right? You must rap the Douchebag Song.”

“Yes, yes. I’ve known that for days,” Kanish replied with a smile.

“Then why didn’t you say something?” I whinged.

Kanish cracked a tiny smile.

“I might best answer you, my Guru, in the form of a lesson.”

“Sure,” I said resignedly.

“A spacious ground is the right place to demonstrate one’s skill in wrestling.”

It most certainly is.


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Chapter 15 – The Entitled One