I was in the moment. My favorite song, “Just Begun”, blared through the speakers in my cousin’s room as I stood at the mirror, doing the best east coast rap impression I could. “From the entry you know I’m some influential cuz I’m glowin like a candle/ the focus is so essential dog what you tryna get into?/I steady the flow, ready to blow like snotty tissue/they snitchin like Donnie Brasco I’m countin like Monte Cristo/The ghetto full of betrayal like Iago and Othello/ya fellow neighbor will slay you or smoke you like cigarillos/Police, want that info-
“Dang are you ready yet?!”my cousin Keena busted into the room, interrupting my flow.
I ignored her rudeness and responded, “Almost – I just gotta pin my hair up.”
“Hold up… that’s what you’re wearing tonight?” she asked with judging eyes.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I asked, backing away from the mirror a little. I had on a fitted white t-shirt that said “93 til” in big black letters, dark skinny jeans that had a bunch of faint scratches after I tried my best to destroy them, and I was still barefoot because I hadn’t chosen shoes yet.
“You look like a tomboy or something,” she said, frowning and eyeing me up and down.
“What? You said we were going to see your friend at a rap show. I’m just trying to blend in,” I explained.
“Right. We’re going to a rap show; that means it’s an underground event full of niggas, and a lot of them are fine as hell. So if you want all eyes on you, it definitely works better if you look like a girl. Plus, it’s at a club, and its ladies free all night. If you wear that, they gon think you a guy, and you’ll have to pay $15.”
I shook my head at her logic. “Fine, I’ll wear pumps and big earrings,” I said nonchalantly.
“No, you bout to take all of that off, and I’m gonna find you something to wear,” she said, pushing past me and throwing open the doors of her closet.
“Nooo!” I whined and plopped down backwards on the bed.
“Yes, Nic. And what is this you’re listening to? Uh uh, put on some French Montana or something. This is NOT bumpin… Now what should I pick out? Hmm, definitely something that makes yo booty look bigger…”
I rolled my eyes as she babbled on, but I wasn’t really mad. Keena was always like that. There was a slight chance that she would pull out a skin-tight, trashy get-up that she bought from HerShe, but looking at what she was wearing put me at ease. She had on an acid wash blue jean romper with some cute tan wedge heels, and I knew that whatever she chose for me would be somewhat similar. Besides, I wasn’t half as worried about what outfit she would pick for me as I was what would happen when we actually got to the club. Ever since we were kids, we were always together. Once we met at the 4th of July family barbecue, we had been inseparable, and we were always getting in trouble, thanks to Keena. When middle school rolled around and boys entered the picture, of course the mischief only got worse.
Once we got to high school, even though I still loved hanging with Keena, I started to dread whenever she came around, because I knew something bad would happen before the day ended. After she transferred from Northern and went to Crenshaw, she started hanging around people that made me and Keena’s mischief look like terrible two behavior. Most of them were guys. It stopped being just the two of us and turned into her and them, with me tagging along. By the time senior year rolled around, we barely saw each other outside of family gatherings. After almost getting arrested one night with Keena and her new friends, my mom told me that one day I’d get in serious trouble if I kept running up behind her. I, being anxious about prepping for college and already growing tired of Keena’s antics, took mama’s warning to heart and turned my focus to my schoolwork.
Clearly, my change of direction had done some good because I passed my first year of school with all A’s. But even though my academic life was soaring, my social life was pretty much nonexistent. I hadn’t really made any friends, and worse, I had hardly talked to Keena my whole freshman year. As soon as I graduated and was back settled at home, I called her. We had a long conversation, apologizing to each other for not keeping in touch, catching up, and promising to hang out as much as possible before I went back to school in the fall. Now, two weeks later, I was spending the weekend with her and it was like we hadn’t missed a beat. Still, I couldn’t help but be nervous about what was to come. A night at the club sounded all too innocent. But, since I was done with finals and papers, I decided I was going to look at this as a celebratory outing.
“Hmm, ok. Yeah, you wear this,” Keena turned to me, holding up a slinky black lace dress.
“Why not? This is sexy,” she defended.
“That’s a little too sexy for a rap show.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said tossing it to the side. Then she held up a black mini skirt with a diagonal zipper and a red crop top. “Ok, put this on. And don’t even start about you being fat because I wear my belly out all the time and I’m two times bigger than you.”
“No, Keena. I am not about to wear a dress or a skirt to the club so niggas can put their hands up my draws being all mannish,” I told her.
“That’s the whole point!” she exclaimed. “Come on, Nic. Stop being a lame.”
“Or I can just stay home,” I said, starting to get irritated.
“Okay, damn. No dresses, no skirts,” she said, sucking her teeth. Keena was always a good negotiator when it meant she wouldn’t be alone.
We decided on a black romper and matching sandals, and by 9:00 we had arrived at the club, via bus, and we were standing in line to get inside. The line had to be a mile long, curving all the way around the building and out to the sidewalk. There was a separate line for VIP, and I was almost tempted to just go ahead and pay, but Keena kept reassuring me that Rico, her friend who was performing that night, would come out to get us so that we wouldn’t wait. I watched her as she stuck her neck out over the line, anxiously looking for him to appear at the door. I knew one thing: whatever was happening inside had to be pretty damn live. I could hear the bass of the music as if I was right at the entrance. The crowd was yelling and cheering like a celebrity had shown up. I couldn’t tell if the show had already started or if the DJ was just playing all the right songs. Before I could make out what song was on, Keena grabbed my arm and pulled me to the door. A tall, dark skinned guy with dreads was at the door, looking at us as we approached. This was Rico, I assumed.
When we got inside, the club was just like I had remembered it: Sweaty, crowded, loud, and sometimes funky, depending on where you were standing. The DJ was playing Ying Yang Twins’ “Get Low” and most everyone had crowded around two girls who were having a twerk off. Keena grabbed my hand and pulled me through the glob of people toward the center of the floor so we could see better. The chick who was dancing had many curves and no shame; her pink skirt rose higher and higher until her ass was all the way exposed, giving air to the fact that she wasn’t wearing any panties. She was the one contributing to the funkiness, I thought. The other girl, much smaller and younger, stood by twirling the ends of her new sew-in and shaking her head while she waited her turn. I peered around at all of the guys in the circle; they were all wide-eyed with their mouths open. They all roared and clapped once the girl in the pink skirt ended her routine by bending over and isolating her cheeks when she popped. Hard to do and hard to top, I thought, but when everyone screamed as the short girl ran to the center and started off by dropping into a split and bouncing on it, I stood corrected.
“When did you say they were gonna start rapping?” I asked Keena as we watched the girl grab a guy and pull him into her routine. She stood him up straight and pushed his arms outward before bending over and popping violently against his groin. The crowd cheered as a few guys inched closer, trying to be next. I laughed.
“They said 10:00. They prolly gon start on time because white people own this place and they don’t play about closing time. Did you see where Rico went? He didn’t even show me which VIP booth was his.”
I looked around and before I could answer, all I could hear were the speakers blasting “Knuck if you buck – CRIME MOB HOE…” Suddenly the crowd transformed from still and calm to bouncy and rough. This was one of those songs that niggas were sure to get ignorant to, and if you didn’t join in, you were getting knocked down, trampled, or both. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a war zone. Dudes were jumping up and down, pushing, and the space created for the dancing girls had closed in real quick. I was getting shoved back and forth between a bunch of sweaty, hard people and it was hard to keep keep my balance. I looked around for Keena but I spotted her with her arms up, rapping the lyrics and jumping around with the others. I knew I wasn’t going to make it if I stayed where I was, so I used my arms and shoulders to navigate towards the outside, pushing my way through and getting pushed to the side two times harder as I fought forward. I finally got to some fresh air on the outside of the crowd, but as soon as I exhaled, the crowd shifted backwards as the result of massive shoving and a tall burly dude fell backwards onto me, knocking me onto the floor.
I started to rise, ready to hit whoever it was that pushed me. On my way up, I felt an arm wrap around my waist and a hand grab my arm gently helping me stand. I looked and met eyes with a brown skinned guy wearing a blue fitted cap. He was built but borderline husky, as I noticed from the way his arm felt around me. He helped me a few steps forward to a stool in front of the bar. I sat and nodded so that he could let me go.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied, rubbing my left leg – the one I fell onto.
“Good. Niggas go crazy on songs like this. I make sure I’m nowhere nearby when it happens.”
“Thanks for helping me up,” I told him.
“No problem, mama. What’s your name?”
“Nicole,” I told him.
“Nicole, I like that name. Well nice to meet you Nicole, I’m Shaun,” he introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you, too,” I said, smiling as we shook hands.
“You look nice tonight,” he said.
“Thank you. You look nice too.”
“I’ve never seen you around here before. You from here?”
“Oh nah, I’m visiting my cousin for the weekend. I’m here with her and she knows a few guys performing.”
“Oh ok. Dig that. Well can I get you a drink or something?”
“No thanks,” I answered. He seemed nice, but I knew that most of the time the nigga that offers to buy you drinks is the same nigga you can’t get rid of for the rest of the night.
“Alright then… So are you a fan of rap music?”
“Yeah I guess so. Not so much southern rap… I like the older hip hop guys better,” I said.
“Oh please, you don’t know nothing about no old hip hop,” he challenged.
“I know a little… I mean I know I like it. And I prefer it over a lot of stuff that’s out today,” I defended.
“Oh yeah? Who’s your favorite emcee?”
“Whatever yo! What you know about Talib Kweli?”
“I might know more than you,” I challenged, hiding the smile that was trying to form. This was the kind of flirting I liked. If you could even call it that.
“Yeah aight then,” he said and turned to the bar. I got confused and thought he had ended the conversation. But then he turned back around and started reciting, “I wanna write away, I wanna write here/ I wanna write brave words to fight fear/write dreams and nightmares/Might scare the folks stuck in the day with nothin to say/While I’m way ahead by light years/ so beware and keep the lights on/I wanna write the songs that right the wrongs, right on/Write in the light so you see in the dark/So deep you gotta be still like the beatin heart..”
I smirked and joined in, “My words apply the pressure to make the bleedin stop/I see the art of livin right, eatin smart/I wanna write to life, write to death/Police read you your rights from right to left/But I never write to remain silent, I fight through police line/Cops walk the beat that I write to, I teach minds/Write rhymes with the right sounds/Right now/journalists write up, I write down.”
“Ayyy party people put a hand in the sky… okay, you might know a lil something,” he said smiling at me.
I smiled back. Before I could say something else, a guy walked up to Shaun and touched him on the shoulder. “We good now, they said come on,” he said.
“Oh they ready?” Shaun asked. The guy nodded and jogged off back to wherever he came from. “Well Nicole, I gotta go but I’ll be sure to find you a little later, aight?” he asked, rising from his seat.
I nodded and he winked at me before walking off.
“WHAT’S UP, WHAT’S UP YALL READY FOR THE SHOW??!” the DJ yelled into the mic just a few seconds later. The crowd cheered. “I SAID WHAT’S UP WHAT’S UP YALL READY FOR THE SHOW?!!!!” They screamed louder and I joined in. A lot of people scattered to their tables (if they had one) and the rest of the group huddled closer to the stage.
“AIGHT WELL LETS BRING OUT THE HOST FOR TONIGHT SO HE CAN SET THIS THANG OFF. YALL GIVE IT UP FOR MY NIGGA SHAUN SAVAGE!!!!” The crowd went crazy again. All of a sudden, Shaun hopped on stage and grabbed a microphone.
“Thanks, G. Ay whaddup yall?!” he asked everyone. They responded. “So who we got going first up in here?”
“I THINK WE GOT BIG JUICE IN THE BUILDING, HE GON TEAR IT DOWN,” the DJ responded.
“Cool cool. Yall ready for Big Juice then?!” Shaun yelled.
“NAH HOLD UP,” the DJ cut in, cutting the music. “I KNOW YOU AIN’T CALLIN YOURSELF THE HOST AND YOU AIN’T BOUT TO SPIT SOMETHIN FIRST. WHAT IS THIS NIGGA DOIN?”
The crowd laughed a little.
“Nah man, it ain’t about me today,” Shaun said.
“MAN LOOK. AYE, MAKE SOME NOISE IF YOU WANT SHAUN SAVAGE TO SET IT OFF AND SPIT SOMETHIN REAL QUICK!!!” he told the crowd. They clapped and wooed, like he was a celebrity.
“Aight, aight man. You always putting me on the spot but that’s cool. Gimme a beat, G,” he said as the DJ spun an instrumental.
Shaun began rapping like he was the headliner of a big concert, and the bars were really good. I sat and bobbed my head, smiling at how talented he was. I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it out. I had a text from Keena.
[look to yo left, we at rico’s table. come on] it read.
I turned and saw Keena sitting at a round booth in the corner, waving her arm to flag me down. I nodded and walked over to her. When I got there, she scooted over to make room for me between her and Rico. There were three other guys sitting at the table too. I looked ahead at the stage, trying to ignore the fact that all of the guys’ eyes were burning into me, from all angles. I hoped it was because I was blocking their view and not because they were mentally pulling off my clothes. Keena must’ve caught on because she broke the awkwardness.
“Damn, why yall staring at my cousin like that?! Drooling and shit! Chill out, you makin her nervous.”
“Well you didn’t try to introduce us or nothin,” one of them said.
“Ugh. Yall this my cousin Nicole but we call her Nic. Nic this is Mario, Jay, and Bash. And you met Rico already,” she said to me, pointing to each guy as she said their names.
“Nice to meet yall,” I said and waved a little. “Are all of yall performing?” I asked them.
“Nah, they can’t rap. Just me and my nigga Tevin,” Rico spoke up.
“Ugh, I hope he ain’t coming over here,” Keena mumbled.
“Wait,” I said, putting two and two together. “Is this the same Tevin you just broke up with not too long ago?” I asked.
“Hell yeah, and that’s what she get because I told her she shoulda chose me,” Bash said.
“Shutup nigga,” Keena said, waving him off.
The crowd cheered as Shaun finished up his piece and began introducing the first act. That must’ve been Rico’s cue because he excused himself as soon as Big Juice walked on. And I saw immediately why they called him Big Juice. Dude had to be no less than 300 pounds; plus he carried a mic in one hand and a red squeeze-it in the other. The DJ cut on a slow beat and Juice squirted half of the bottle into his mouth before shouting his rap on the mic about pills and potions. I watched the crowd swayed with their arms up, grooving with him. I sat back and turned my attention back to Juice, when a large body blocked my view. It was Shaun.
“Whaddup, G?” he greeted the guys.
“Wassup mane, aye that shit was fly as hell what you just did up there,” Bash told him.
“Preciate it, dude,” Shaun said, dapping them all.
“Ay you coming to Tevin’s party tonight?” Mario asked.
“I don’t know, I’ma try to make it though, definitely,” Shaun told him. “And how you doing, Miss Keena?”
“I’m good Shaun.” I grinned.
“No doubt. Well I’ma catch yall later aight. I’m just speakin. Ya mans is up next right? After Juice?”
“Yup,” Mario said.
“Cool well stay up, let me get out yall way. I’ll see you later too, Nicole,” he said and smiled at me before leaving.
“You met Shaun?” Keena asked me.
“Yeah after niggas knocked me down earlier he helped me up and we talked a little bit at the bar,” I told her.
“Well, I see you over there grinning. Don’t get too excited about that one.”
“What? I’m not even grinning.”
“Yeah, whatever,” she said.
I sat back and started back watching the show with Keena. Soon after that, the duo of Rico and Tevin went on. ‘Convertible Gs’ is what they called themselves. When I asked Rico what it meant, he said, “Because in a convertible, its only room for two people. Me, and Tevin. We ain’t ever gon let another nigga join our team, it ain’t no room. And the G is because you know, we some Gs.” – A simple explanation, in more ways than one. Though most everybody rapped about the typical subjects, I enjoyed the show. When it was all said and done, the DJ invited everyone back to the floor to dance. Me and Keena danced for a few songs, but headed back to the booth for drinks because her feet started hurting. After about 30 minutes, I was already buzzed from vodka shots that Mario bought us and I was feeling pretty mellow. Suddenly, a fight broke out on the dance floor. And I would have still been oblivious to the whole thing, had Bash not jumped up from beside me and knocked a glass of water into my lap. I screamed in protest as he ran to the middle of the floor to take place in the brawl.
“Damn, watch what you’re doin!” I yelled after him.
“Oh shit,” Keena started, standing and watching the fight.
Three burly security guards rushed by and bombarded their way through the mass to get to the middle. I grabbed the only napkin on the table and began wiping my legs off with it.
“Aw SHIT!” Rico yelled.
“Is that-“ Keena started.
“Hell yeah!” Rico told her. Just then the DJ cut the music and announced for everyone to leave, or the owner was threatening to call the police. I saw the security guys escorting three guys out, Bash and Jay included. All were yelling and still trying to claw at each other.
“We gotta go,” Rico said, grabbing Keena’s arm.
She clasped my hand and pulled me out of the club, with Mario following close behind us. When we got outside, the parking lot was filled with confusion. A few police officers were already outside (from the three patrol cars that were already standing by). They were scattered through the lot, trying to direct the leaving traffic. Rico led us around the corner to the VIP lot, and made a phone call.
“We gotta find Tevin,” he said.
“For what?!” Keena asked
“So he can give us a ride! I rode up here with Bash but I ain’t fuckin with his silly ass tonight. That nigga got too many misdemeanors to be tryna throw hands in a damn club. He prolly bout to get arrested,” Rico spat back.
“Hell nah I ain’t riding with Tevin. Me and Nic can catch the bus come on, girl,” she grabbed my hand and tried to pull me off but Rico grabbed her arm and yanked her back. I never noticed until that moment but Rico was buff as hell. I got a little scared watching the the veins in his muscles pop out.
“Get yo ass back over here. You not about to take no bus. I told YA silly ass to be on time so we coulda picked yall up tonight. It’s too many crazy niggas out here for you to be out in the streets by yourself. Stop bein stupid, Keena,” he said firmly.
“He’s right, I don’t feel safe catching the bus,” I added. Even though I didn’t agree with Rico’s delivery, he still had a point.
“How many times I gotta tell you I don’t wanna be around Tevin? That nigga did me greasy, Rico. It’s already enough I gotta see him when we kickin it cuz he yo best friend and shit,” Keena whined.
“Tevin ain’t checkin for yo ass no more. Yall broke up,”
“But,” she started.
“Do you want a ride home or not?!” Rico yelled at her. She shut up.
Tevin ran past us, somehow already knowing what to say. “Yall ridin with me or what?” he asked.
“Yeah lets go,” Rico said, running behind him. Keena, Mario, and I followed. When we got in the car, Tevin sped off through the back entrance. In the car, Keena was still complaining.
“Rico,” she said.
“What?” he asked, annoyed. He was in the front with Tevin and the rest of us sat in the back.
“Tell him he can take me home cuz I don’t wanna go to his party,” she said, folding her arms.
Rico sucked his teeth. “Keena, you live all the way on the other side of town. We 10 minutes away from Tevin house, just come with us.”
“Yeah, Keena. I’m not ready to go home yet,” I added.
“Mane stop trippin. It’ll be fun Kee.” Tevin said.
“DON’T call me Kee. I’m NOT ya girl anymore,” she warned him.
“Ya cousin said she not ready to go yet, you gon ruin her fun?” he teased.
“Did I ask you shit?! Shut the fuck up and take us home. Bum ass nigga,” she shot back.
“Aight, you just watch ya mouf though,” Tevin said.
“No you watch YA mouth, slobbin all over them dirty bitches pussies! That’s why I broke up with your slimy ass. And I don’t wanna see your FACE, at ya stupid ass PARTY, so take us home!” she yelled.
“Rico you better get this bitch before I-“
“Who you callin a bitch?!! STOP THIS MOTHERFUCKING CAR, I’LL WALK! I’M SO TIRED OF YOUR SHIT….”
I shook my head as she went off on both of them: Tevin for calling her a bitch, and Rico for not defending her. I looked at him in the passenger seat, trying to yell over the other two. Mario just sat beside me laughing. As the three of them cursed each other out, I couldn’t help but notice that Tevin was speeding. He was going about 60 on the street and as long as we weren’t making any turns, he was going to keep accelerating. I knew it was unintentional and probably because of the argument, but he didn’t. I started getting scared.
“Keena, let’s just stay for a little while, damn! It’s gon be a bunch of motherfuckers up in there. You ain’t even gon see Tevin!!” Rico said.
“I don’t wanna see Tevin, I don’t wanna see anybody at Tevin’s party! I don’t wanna go over there period, Rico!!”
“We don’t wanna see your ugly ass either!” Tevin told her.
“NIGGA YOU,” she started.
“ALRIGHT!! DAMN! Fuck it man, turn around so we can take them home,” Rico said, giving up.
“THANK YOU.” Keena said. Tevin hit the brakes and proceeded to make a sharp U-turn in the middle of the street, throwing all of us to the side.
“Wait we’re going home? You mean all we did was go to the club, and now we goin home? No adventure? No stops on the way? Yall don’t wanna get high or nothin?” I pleaded.
Keena said nothing. I sat back and sucked my teeth. The one time I actually wanted to get into some shit, it was gon be a mild night. I looked out of the window and shook my head. Suddenly we heard sirens behind us. I looked out of the back window and sure enough, I was met by the blinding blue light of the police car rolling up behind us. Damn. Spoke too soon.
Tevin rolled the car to a stop and let his window down. The officer walked up and peered into the car. He was a white man, probably in his early 30s. Tevin handed him his license and registration when he asked. The officer stared at Tevin, and Tevin shot him a fake smile. Rather than walking back to his car to run the plates, he remained standing by the window and said something into his radio. When he turned his side to us, I felt a silent panic ran through everyone in the car except me. At first I didn’t understand why, but then I stopped to take a look at what everyone was doing. Rico and Tevin sat frozen in their seats while Mario and Keena stared at what looked like the armrest. I followed the direction of their gaze and my eyes froze. Sticking out of Tevin’s right pants pocket was a black glock 30S. I glanced to my right and saw that under Rico’s shirt, there was a print of another gun that he had tucked into his own jeans.
[TO BE CONTINUED]