About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sweat popped off me and my heart danced as I scratched out beats until my fingers burned. I hunched my back so I was closer to my mixing board and bopped my head to the beat, waiting for my cue to start my solo, as my brother, Derrick Richardson, worked the crowd, spitting unrehearsed rhymes off the top of his head.
The audience was on fire, and so were we. When I started my solo, my body took over, and I started vibing with the music. I no longer felt the pain in my fingers, and my face was so close to the vinyl that I could almost kiss it as I focused on making that record sing a new song. It was like I was outside myself, watching as I did these crazy combinations that had the crowd on their feet yelling my stage name, Jazzy J, and grooving to my beats. Their streaming down his winner was announced, I They had been good, as had a few of the nineteen acts besides us, and even though I knew we were the best, I was still anxious about actually hearing our name called. When a solo performer was named the second–place winner, I didn't know whether to be happy or nervous. I crossed the fingers of my right hand behind my back and bounced in place, probably looking like I had to pee, as I silently encouraged the MC to call our names, and Derrick squeezed my other hand to calm me down.
"We want to thank all our acts for performing tonight," the MC said, "and now without further ado, the winner of the first annual All–District Rap Invitational is Jazzy J and Kid D."
The roar of the crowd was so loud that I could hardly hear who had won. It wasn't until Derrick lifted me up and spun me around that I realized it was us.
"We did it," he shouted.
"We did it?" I repeated, making sure I hadn't heard him wrong.
He nodded as he put me down, smiling so hard I thought his face was gonna split in two. We walked over to the announcer and accepted our trophy and a check for a thousand dollars; then we waved to the crowd, which continued to cheer for us.
I spotted my friends Kyle Adams and Loretta Dennis in the front row, and they looked just as excited as I felt. I pointed to the trophy and grinned. Like my brother, my friends knew just how much I wanted to win this contest. It had always been my dream to land a record deal, and now I was one step closer.
Life just couldn't get any better. "Nice show," a man said as I pushed through the crowd to head offstage to meet my friends. It seemed like everybody and their mama had decided to come onstage to congratulate us, and it looked like it would take me a good twenty minutes to make my way to Kyle and Loretta.
"Thanks," I said, showing off my perfect white teeth once again. I looked at the trophy to make sure it was still there and that I wasn't dreaming; then I glanced back at the guy as I pushed a lock of my curly hair out of my face. It was so hot in the Springfield Auditorium in Queens that my sandy–colored hair had become frizzy and had worked its way out of its ponytail. The man was big and dark, and he kind of reminded me of Big Rick from Flavor of Love, except he had a huge purple wide–brimmed hat that matched his purple shirt, which he wore with a white three–piece suit and a white tie. The fumes from his cigar mixed with the funk of the auditorium had me about to choke. I sniffed politely, but it didn't help.
When he blew another puff of smoke my way, I got annoyed.
"Don't you see the no–smoking signs in here?" I said, pointing to one above his head. "If you want to kill yourself, fine, but I'm too young to die."
He grinned at me and blew smoke in my direction, which really made me mad. I rolled my eyes and smacked my lips before turning to walk off.
"Do you play at parties and clubs?" he asked.
"Sure," I said, turning to look at him again. I caught a glimpse of Loretta over the guy's shoulder. She was saying something, but she was too far away for me to hear her. I shrugged and looked at the guy again. "My brother and I have performed all over Queens."
He nodded and stuck his cigar in his mouth again before he flicked a business card from his wallet. "Why don't you give my assistant a call? I might have some work for you."
"Have your assistant call me," I said.
He gave this deep laugh, and his whole frame shook. "You're a spunky little thing. I like that," he said, and grinned. "Call my assistant," he insisted. "Okay," I said, taking the card. I got numbers all the time from people who said they wanted me to play at their parties, but most of them never ended up following through. "Nice meeting you," I said, not bothering to look at him as I headed over to my friends.
"We won," I said, giving both Kyle and Loretta a hug.
"Congratulations," Kyle said, giving me a pound and slinging his arm around my shoulder. "That show was hot."
I turned to Loretta, but she was looking past me. I turned to see what she was staring at, but no one was there. "Hey," I said, tapping her on the shoulder. "You're not gon' congratulate me?"
"Do you know who that was?" she asked, continuing to look past me.
"Who?" I asked.
Loretta finally focused on me and smiled like she had just seen her future baby daddy. "That was Dexter Chamberlain," she said, smoothing her hair.
"Who's that?" I asked, wrinkling my nose. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember where I had heard it.
"That dude from DC Records," Kyle said, and shrugged.
DC Records had been around for years, and the company had a huge stable of chart–topping gangsta rappers.
"You mean DC Chamberlain?" I asked as my eyes got wide. "I didn't know his first name was Dexter."
Loretta nodded. "What did he want?" "He told me he might have some work for me." "He probably wants to sign you," Loretta said, getting excited. "I think I heard somewhere he wants to move away from gangsta rap." She jumped up and down and pulled on my shoulder. "You'd be perfect. When you get a deal, can I be on the cover of your first CD?"
Loretta was desperate to break into the modeling game, but somehow none of her gigs ever came through.
"Sure," I said, and laughed as Derrick walked up. I filled him in on my encounter with DC Chamberlain, and he looked almost as unimpressed as Kyle.
"Do you really think he's interested in signing us?" I asked, trying not to show my excitement.
Kyle frowned. "If he is, you better run in the other direction. I know you've heard about that man's reputation."