It was a perfect day. Twista licked his lips as he flew down Lincoln Highway at a brisk 90 mph. It was just to clear his head, he told himself. But he knew he needed this. He needed the rush of speeding.
He turned up the volume of his stereo. Twista had been on an old-school Kanye West kick these last few days, and The College Dropout brought back myriad fond memories of his time working with him. Twista had respect for Kanye, but he felt his rap lacked something.
Twista liked to rap along with himself on Slow Jamz. It was cathartic because Kanye, for those precious minutes, submitted himself to Twista’s superior rapping speed. And Twista liked it. He reveled in it every time this song played. Rapping was a race to him, and though he was the fastest, Kanye was still winning.
“Damn baby, I can’t do it that fast, but I know somebody who can…Twista!” Kanye conceded.
He busted right into his epic verse, no different than he had 9 years ago when he first recorded it. His lips curved up into a grin as he rapped, spitting three or four lines per second.
Twista was nearing the end of his verse when it struck him. His rapping was old and outdated; he could rap so much better. Twista knew he needed to take advantage of his limber tongue to the fullest.
He pulled over to the side of the highway and rewound the tape to the start of his verse. “…Twista!” Kanye beckoned.
Twista opened his mouth to restart the ritual. His tongue had kicked into overdrive. It lashed violently about and smacked against his lips, forming phonemes faster than most human ears can process. Fifteen seconds into his verse, Twista realized something was horribly wrong: his tongue was out of control. Its power was far greater than Twista’s.
It wrestled itself behind Twista’s teeth. Twista’s tongue suddenly detached and began to writhe wildly. Twista fought, but the thing pried his lips apart and wriggled its way out. Like a bird, Twista’s tongue took wing and headed toward the skies above.
Amidst all the commotion, Twista’s cassette began to skip, as it had also been going faster than it could handle. All Twista could hear was Kanye’s confession, “Damn baby, I can’t do it that fast…” repeating over and over.
He watched silently as the shining red mass, his talent, his power, his very being, slithered through the air and up, up until it was out of sight.
Nelly stood in the first aid aisle of the CVS, holding two boxes of bandages. One was Band-Aid, and the other was the knockoff CVS brand. He held one in each hand, looking back and forth at the boxes.
He knew for sure that the Band-Aids were high quality, but they were expensive. He had four dollars in his wallet, and the Band-Aids were $3.99. The CVS brand seemed okay, but it was a risk. Sometimes offbrand bandages were too flimsy, or stretchy, or came unstuck when he sweated. He wasn’t expressing solidarity to his imprisoned brother if his bandage fell off in the street.
He thought of his brother, sitting alone in a small cell, his body thin but wiry from long prison workouts, the prison uniform loose at his waist and tight across his shoulders.
Nelly hadn’t written a letter in two weeks.
He put the CVS brand bandages back on the shelf and walked to the checkout counter. He set them down firmly, but gently.
“Just these,” Nelly said.
The girl at the counter scanned the bandages. She smacked her gum. “Four twenty-eight,” she said.
Nelly had forgotten about tax.
“Oh no,” he said quietly to himself. He began rummaging through all his pockets, searching for change. “Oh no, oh no, oh no.”
Ja Rule had just gotten home from his shift at Fashion Bug. He’d taken a part-time job to help finance studio time for his next album, but more and more it seemed like he would have switch to full time at the store. They had said he was Management Material, and it might be nice to have something stable for once, instead of having to put his hopes and dreams on the line every time he went into the studio. He’d tried so hard to get Jennifer Lopez to record “I’m Real, Part II” with him, but she’d stopped returning his calls. He wondered if she was his friend any more.
He got out his phone and started typing a text message to DMX, but then decided it wasn’t worth it. DMX had been venturing out of the sewers less and less these days. There was no way he wanted to record tonight. Besides, it was late.
He opened his fridge. Things were bleak. Eggs that had gone bad two months ago. A little bit of orange juice. Some salsa. And that was it.
Just as he was about to close the door, he saw it: nestled behind a gallon of milk was a bowl half-full of Easy Mac that he’d made the other night but had been too depressed to eat. But now he was too hungry to even be depressed.
He grabbed the bowl and went over to the microwave and heated it up for a minute. It tasted terrible, but it would get him through the night.
After finishing his Easy Mac, he grabbed his coat and headed to the studio. His stomach hurt, but he told himself it was just his exhaustion catching up to him. Besides, he thought to himself. Pain is love.
Halfway through his studio session, he threw the Easy Mac up. His stomach loved him so much right now.
OH MY GOD.
Birdman rubbed his hands together. Still had a tattoo on his head. Still wore enough jewelry to make someone blind if they weren’t wearing sunglasses around him. Still fly in any weather. No matter how awesome he was, he still wasn’t ready for this.
“DeWayne,” he said, calling the fifteen year-old Lil Wayne from out of his room where he was playing a diamond-encrusted Xbox, “we need to talk.”
It had been a hard few weeks for the father and the son. First, is was the diamond-encrusted dirty magazine that Birdman had found under Lil Wayne’s bed. Then it had been the diamond-encrusted condoms he found stashed in an empty jewel case of the first Hot Boyz album. That wasn’t safe. Diamonds were awesome, Birdman had to admit, but they were sharp and might cause a condom to tear. The boy was old enough. He was ready to learn about safe sex.
Cam’ron felt stupid. He put his hands in the pockets of his fur coat and watched the girls at the car wash. It was a hot afternoon. Cam’ron thought his fur coat would look good. But he just felt stupid.
The girls were raising money for a sports team. They were washing Range Rovers and spraying each other with the hose. Cam’ron came to help, but he seemed out of place.
Stupid, he thought to himself. The fur coat was a stupid idea.
“Hehehe,” the girls said. They sprayed the hose at each other. “Hehehe.” They were so happy and cool and wet.
The girls turned the hose on Cam’ron. “Oh no!” He shielded his face. “Don’t!”
The water hit the sleeve of his fur coat. “Don’t do it,” he whispered. “This cost— this cost—” but he didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t want to admit that he bought the coat on sale at Target.
I may never stop laughing. Ever.
Chingy makes a blanket fort in his living room. He is sweating a little, because it’s hot in his house but he is too frugal to turn on the air conditioning.
His small TV is also in the blanket fort. He is watching Fast Five.
“Fast Five is good” he types into his cell phone. He scrolls down to “Ludacris” and presses “send.”
“Did you listen to my mix tape?” he types into his cell phone. He presses “send” again.
After two hours, Fast Five is over and his cell phone is silent.
“I miss you” Chingy types into his cell phone. He looks at the words for a long, quiet moment. He presses “cancel.”