Sincerely Yours, Le Reaper

It’s one month shy of a year when I first began working on this particular project for local artist, JK The Reaper. My longtime friend and cohort THISISYATES asked for my help on a project he was going to undertake. As the project progressed, so did my involvement. My initial role as script supervisor led to a producer credit once the production and post-production phases were completed.

The overall project was a bigger success than any of us expected and has become a great visual piece for both JK and THISISYATES. The video has received over 100,000 YouTube views and earned itself a few awards:

  • Films On Tap Selection; Charlotte, NC
  • Vimeo Staff Pick
  • Atlanta Film Festival Selection; Atlanta, GA 
  • New Orleans Film Festival Selection; New Orleans, LA
  • Minneapolis Underground Film Festival Selection; Minneapolis, MN
  • Muscatine Film Festival Selection; Muscatine, IA
  • Cucalorus Film Festival Selection; Wilmington, NC
  • Gold Reel Film Festival: Winner of “Best Editing” and “Best Music Video”

The written portion of this project is a creative non-fiction piece where I attempted to intertwine an interview and album review within a “Captain’s Log.” It was an accompanying portion of the visual project, and vice versa, with the intent of submitting each to (online) print and media publications as a large multimedia piece. The written portion never took, so I decided to sit on it. Honestly, the article is too long for a blog feature in addition to the writing style being a bit bombastic, but it was a fun piece for me nonetheless.

Being that it will be one year to the date the music video was released when it is shown at the New Orleans Film Festival, I’ve decided to post it anyway. To add even more context, North Carolina’s hip-hop scene is beginning to gain quite a bit of traction nationally with artists Rapsody, Elevator Jay, King Mez, Deniro Farrar, Well$, Bankroll Bird, Rashaun Hampton, and J.Cole featured in Noisey, Vice, Pitchfork, and XXL magazine. One name Yates and myself feel is definitely missing from the conversation is, JK The Reaper.

Going forward with this blog, I will also be post other film production and DIY skate projects I have a hand in which periodically get me outside and away from writing.


 

Jabril Kenan better known as, J.K. The Reaper, raps his mind’s confusion, frustration, and euphoria through waves of ambiance while most of us struggle to wrap our head around being alive. Known by his friends and family as Jabbie, the 21 year-old is an unheralded talent in his native NC. While some can’t attune to the frequency on which the emcee operates, he is a transistor in a new wave of rap you won’t find on the radio.

Crafting conscious lyrics has contributed heavily to the artist’s musical foundation. If the truth is but a whisper, J.K.’s voice floods forth, constructing his life into movie scenes set to the soundtrack of his own sonic instrumentation.

Most recently his “Fountain of Youth” single set fire to his SoundCloud profile. Rapping “Why do I feel so different when I’m just like you bruh/ Black, stupid and angry as my life is getting painted/ I’m just trying to learn enough so I can change it, Replace it…” It’s a poignant picture and speaks volumes on his level of personal insight.

Fearless though vulnerable, the Greensboro emcee raps with soul stirring conviction; offering himself to his listeners. Artists and even layman may find difficulty not feeding into the bullshit patinas over-saturating media. Because of that, it is refreshing and inspiring to meet someone who stands apart.

Yet J.K. has managed to affirm himself at a young age amongst the presence of like minded individuals. The mellifluent members of his FANG Family: Clint Norway, 2chea The Zombie, Kane, Austin, Preme, Smvvth, BrendanJBeatz, Dre, BrendenJBeatz and Zu Mal.

Le’ Reaper was born to make music and has no problems proving the matter, anytime and anywhere. Intrepidity once led him to compete in a battle rapping competition hosted by a local radio station. Looking back on the situation with as much levity as he approached it in the past, he chuckles “I was like, ‘Yo, this guy’s really cookin’ me.’”

Releasing his My World Is Silent album in March, the twenty two track catalog offers a strong sampling though only a taste of what the emcee offers. From the slowed and throwed sound of the half-sped Hercules to the FANG family produced Visual Alignment addressing the disconnect between fallacies and realities. Two of my favorites.

Bangers like “Kill The Snakes,” “Cold Sake,” and “CUTLASS2000” are void of bullshit braggadocio and fueled by white lines and dark rhymes. “Anger inside, and I’m Ready to Die/ And my niggas is here/ I’m Biggie if he ever woulda hit that gym/ lemme sip that henn/ lemme hit that gin…”- Kill the Snakes

“Drug Symphony,” “Krystals,” and “CLOUDSHYT” all explore recreational drug use but in different context. If CLOUDSHYT is music to zone out to, Drug Symphony is an anthem fueled by variety while Krystals gives us a blown Le’ Reaper flexing like Val Venis.

Following up his stellar album release was his Almost Angelic EP released on August 19th, 2014. Tracking his SoundCloud stats, it’s clear Underseas is the fan favorite. However, tracks like Mechanical and Chloe Sevginy prove that if there is anything the Sploosh God puts above pussy, it’s music. Turning out  each track to new tricks he’s mastered, a favorite of mine is Elegy of Entrapment. Set to a drippy gong and the twinkle of solar wind chimes, the artist flexes both his breath control and strength of wordplay.

A KiDULTHOOD soud byte opens the track for “Tumblr Pussy” while on “Chloe Sevigny” named after the actress of the film, Kids,  begins and ends with a battle of the sexes conversation. With a verse defying both conventional philosophies on the male/female dichotomy concerning sexual exploration raps, “She want me to eat the pussy, told her to hand me a plate/ I just had to keep it real in a world so fake…” The lyrical lothario provides a sampling described as “The Fuel to Your Sex Drive”- Sincerely Yours, Le’ Reaper.


 

In August I had the opportunity to assist J.K. as he teamed up with visual artist Joshua Yates (THISISYATES) on the set of their EXODIA music video shoot.  As the two visionaries worked through the trifles of film production, I had the chance to interact with one the freshest voices out being captured with one of the freshest perspectives.

A location scouting and initial meeting between the FANG family, Yates and myself occurred on August 2nd, 2014. Having communicated via email and interacting with one anothers’ web content, J.K., Yates, Clint and myself had never met in person; I’ve known Yates over a decade while J.K. and Clint are FANG brothers.Yates and Clint met while helping on the set of a mutual collaborators rap opera video shoot in the summer of 2012.

The interview segments transcribed were recorded on two separate dates: August 2nd and 17th with FANG member Clint Norway. The responses are laced throughout the journal entry snippets written during the production schedule dates: August 3rd and 4th.


 

Clint Norway’s House                                                                                      DAY 1 : August 2nd, 2014

JS : How’d you come across the beat for Exodia?

J.K. : This dude I record with is an engineer, and he has….I freestyled that song. He brought some chicks through and they claimed they sang, but it was bullshit like, ‘I’m too nervous to sing.’ So I was like I really do this music shit thinking I’m about to try to flex real quick. I was about to make a song just to show these girls I really made music.

So I start rapping and they was like, ‘That shit’s hot!’ and I was like, ‘Forreal’? ‘Cause I was just going to delete it whenever they left. My engineer told told me to let him mix it and I was like ‘Daaamn, this shit do sound hot.’ And I just kept it…but he had the beat though. It was just laying around.

JS:  Do you fuck with the same producer a lot?

J.K. : Yea, I fuck with the same producer… ’cause producers, they be the bullshit. They be the bull  shit. They act like they deserve so much credit. I understand but damn. [For instance] working with new producers, they’ll be so indecisive. I’ll do a song and they’ll be like, ‘Yo, I love the song.’ I put the song out and they’re like, ‘Wait, I changed my name! I changed my name!’ and it’ll be something dumb. Like, why do you want that name, just stick with the name you have.

JY: You changed your name a few months ago right?

J.K. : Yea, ’cause of fucking Chance The Rapper. That wasn’t the only reason, but that was the main reason. I was like fuck, it’s’ over [J.K. The Rapper]. Then everybody else started using that shit because of Chance. I’m starting to hate rap.

JY: What did you go with Reaper for?

J.K. : I don’t know…it was the closest but farthest away. Not that big of a difference but a significant one. I still hate my name.

JS: How did you all [FANG] link up?

J.K. : We all went to the same high school together; Northeast High School. It’s crazy, we all had different personalities. While we were in high school we never really knew each other or fucked with each other but when we graduated and was grinding in music we was like, let’s bring this shit together. Like for example, I was the type of kid in school…I was invisible. I hated everything, wore the same shit everyday, walked the hall like this…

*Hands in his pockets, head tilted downwards with his eyes on swivel * 

I didn’t talk to nobody, didn’t have any friends, was flunking…I didn’t give a shit. But 2chea was the type…he was the popular kid with all the hoes…braiding his hair in class and shit. This nigga Clint was the pretty boy…

Clint Norway appears through the front door and approaches

jk2

Yates and Clint, formerly acquainted via social media, took a moment to catch up and discuss recent works. Having relocated to San Diego, CA Clint’s residence was only temporary and he gathered his personal belongings as we set about location scouting.

Tate St. Pizza Parlor

3:00PM

Yin and Yang would best describe the rapport between the brothers. Such a harmonious balance has allowed for tracks like “Vanilla Skies,” a palpable jam with a summer feel that’s orchestrated to the beat of their own drum. Set to the cadence of  “I don’t know bout you, but I know what I’m doin’/ Shut  the  fuck  up, Mind yo’ business keep it movin’/ I don’t know bout you, but I know what I’m doin’”

The remainder of day one found us location scouting and chatting it up about the history of Greensboro musicians and the culture of High Point, NC. Amongst other topics were the mentality of Southern artists and the culture of mass appeal music. Stopping for a pack of Blacks’ and pizza, Yates and J.K. worked on the video treatment as Clint and myself contributed to the brainstorming sessions.

CaRee Rajae’s Home

5:00PM

Nearing nightfall we dropped the FANG members off at singer CaRee Rajae’s residence. CaRee and J.K. produced the “Invisible” collaboration together on his Almost Angelic release. Our time drawing to a close, an initial shooting time was confirmed for a two day shoot that through the trifles of film production became a 24-hour shoot. Dapping up, we parted ways.


 

Family Friend’s Home                                                                          DAY 2: August 3rd, 2014

5:30PM

Day two was our return trip to Greensboro, NC and found us searching for two key elements needed for the video: a handgun and a truck. Most of day two was spent searching for a truck until a friend of J.K.’s father said we could use his after five o’clock. Ultimately it fell through but were told we would be able to use it the next day (August 5th) after 3:30pm. We’d hunt for the pistol later.

Butler Rd. Gibsonville, NC

7:00PM

Scouring the surrounding areas for a bonfire location, we passed several aglow from the roadway and decided to stop and ask a resident about the possibility of using using their open land. Knocking on the door and seeing a figure get up and move, we placed our hands up to be visible underneath the darkness of the front porch awning. Waiting no more than five minutes, we were headed back to the car when we saw lights flash on.

Turning about we were greeted by a shirtless, pant-less man aiming a small pistol from his elbow. It was a rash reaction to a knock on his door and I feel had we still been standing on his porch at that time, he may have handled the situation even more poorly. Providing an explanation with our hands still raised, it was a clear sign this was a no go as he continued to stand with his pistol drawn during the short exchange. The irony is that Yates and I had been vocal about our concerns of being shot and to avoid any such scenario decided against any guerrilla style film-making.

Undisclosed Location

9:00PM

With a quick revision to the shooting schedule, our first location found us shooting in the garage of the Goins’ family home, whom took Yates and I in for the duration of the production. J.K.’s girlfriend, Angel, was the lone onlooker as we queued up the visuals of “Kill The Snakes.”

A eulogistic rebuke of the spineless individuals he’s crossed path with, J.K. laments the death of poisoned relationships. From a scorned lover who drank away their bond to a back biting individual he brought into his inner sanctum, Le’ Reaper lays waste to all using his virtuosic gift. In the end, wielding a keen perspective the introspective rhymer sits within the eye of the storm stating, “Free clothes, kill shows, only twenty years old/ Living my dreams while you sleeping on me.”

CaRee Rajae’s Home

11:30PM

Wrapping the shoot for the evening, our hosts welcomed us in to their residence extending their hospitality and providing us with rooms and beds to stay in. I can’t speak for Yates, but it felt like the come up.

1:00AM

Putting away our gear, we met J.K. and Angel in the studio to talk rap music, videos we liked and check out some of his unreleased, more playful musings. With a long day of shooting ahead, Yates and myself headed off to get rest. The Sploosh God had other plans, heading off into the night quite possibly for some Tumblr Pussy.

From his recently released Almost Angelic EP, Tumblr Pussy expounds upon the albums central theme. Entranced with the feel of the female form, Le’ Reaper’s recent project is an ode to carnal calamity rapping “Dammit I hate her smile/ Fuck it I love her style/ Wishing she was here right now…” on Tumblr Pussy.

jk3


 

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park                                              DAY 1 CONTINUED

As we left the first location we’d picked, we had the opportunity to talk about some of his favorite artist’s like Crystal Castles, Curren$y and Juvenile.

JS: Who are some rappers that influence you or that you fuck with [their movement]?

J.K. : Travis Scott, I like his wave. I think Earl Sweatshirt is the best rapper, the best lyricist. Lyrics ain’t the biggest thing to me though. I used to be crazy into hip-hop and lyrics and meaning…I went to a lot of hip-hop shows and it was like, ‘Damn…’ It’s cool, but you don’t know the world outside of hip-hop and I went to L.A. and saw how they do it. Mosh pitting and playing crazy, hype shit. I was like ‘Damn, hip-hop is fucking boring.’ Lyrics is good, I mean you can write the most lyrical shit in the world, but if don’t nobody rock with it… you know what I’m saying?

Other than that I fuck with a bunch of young homies like my age. I don’t know if you ever heard of Black Kray, he’s from [Washington] D.C. I fuck with his music. Goth Money Records…I been listening to this dude Trap Sensei a lot. I’m a big fan of the wave. I wouldn’t call it a hipster wave, that’s kinda ass. I don’t know, I just see a new wave of rap emerging. It’s less corny, less Gucci glasses, more tie-dye t-shirts and shit like that.

JS: What about outside of hip-hop? Is there anything I should check out?

J.K. : Crystal Castles, all their albums. They only got three albums out. I just like dope, little dumb shit. For example, their first album is called I. The second album was called II. Their third album is called III and that’s just hot to me. Like FKA Twigs, she just released her first album and it’s called LP1.

I was mad as hell when I saw Death Grips broke up, but Cerebral Ballzy, Suicidal Tendencies, Iron Maiden, Trash Talk…it’s a lot of bands I fuck with. S- Rock…a couple singers, this girl Marz Leon is dope. I like what’s her name…Banks! My favorite though is Crystal Castles. Alice Glass bruh…that’s my dream girl man, but she would think I was such a piece of shit if I met her. Like, ‘Is that a fucking tie-dye bucket hat?! Fuck outta here!’

JS: What makes her, or Crystal Castles, and other artists stand out to you?

J.K. : For one, they don’t give a fuck. How they dress…I read an article on Alice Glass and she was like, ‘I don’t care about clothes. I don’t have clothes. All the clothes I have I got from my grandma when she died.’ But they were talking to her about fashion and she was like, fuck fashion, my clothes are really old and they stink. Shit like that’s sick to me though. Her live performances…she broke her leg and still did the tour with a boot on her foot, still crowd surfing, moshing and shit with a fucking broke leg. When she be arguing with people that’s fucking dope to me. Some dude tried to grab her titty and she was in the crowd like ‘Stop fucking with me! If you touch my tit again, I will fucking kill you!’

jk44


Guilford National Military Park                                                                        DAY 3: August 4th, 2014

9:00AM

Our third day of shooting began in a heavily wooded area, shooting a few short sequences over the course of an hour and a half. We were the most lively characters there and it definitely drew some attention from the groundskeeper and other visitors. Due to the sensitivity/sentimentality of the area, the shoot was all business in order to get the required shots without getting kicked out.

Abandoned Battleground Rd. Apartments   

12:00PM

The second setting found us in a dilapidated apartment complex with Yates, Le’ Reaper and myself accompanied by Kane. The FANG brothers having released a video to their track “CLOUDSHYT” this past June. CLOUDSHYT’s vibe is one of lucidity as the hazy electronic organ creates the setting for a chronic induced introspection. The track is laced with clever wordplay as the cohorts deliver a sonic smoke session. Music to chill to, and a wave all their own.

The buildings stood raw in the sunlight, charred and heavily ashed from some great blaze of fire. A place mostly forgotten by the city, though least of all by the members of its community. During this portion of production we were graced with the presence of two police officers inquiring as to whether or not we knew the lore of the neighborhood.

After our initial encounter with a pistol gripping bumpkin, I was expecting we were in for more of the same. Inquiring the nature of our business, they then questioned if we understood the nature of the neighborhood we were in. None of us were unfamiliar nor stranger to the conditions. Realizing this the officers took down our identification in the event we were jammed up and proceeded to lurk around or look for those who were.

3:30PM

Returning to J.K.’s place, we waited to secure the truck we were borrowing for the last sequence only to find out it had fallen through again. Nonetheless, with a key phone call placed earlier in the day Le’ Reaper secured a pistol for the shoot and rallied a few of his FANG brothers and Angel to meet at his place.

5:30PM

Deciding to break for a bite to eat, crunch time grew near for securing a flat bed truck and finding a bonfire location. A decision was made to rent a U-Haul and head to our next location off Huffine Farm Rd. in Gibsonville, NC while the bonfire location was to be held at their brother Zoo’s house.

7:00PM (Roughly)

Working with expedience in the failing light, several passes were made to ensure there would be extra takes. Unparalleled professionalism prevailed once again knocking out the key shots in an hours time.

After wrapping on the shoot, the plan in play was to reconvene at Zoo’s house for the final shot.

Zu Mal’s House

10:00PM

Arriving to a packed house, almost the entire FANG family was present for the final shot minus Clint and Austin. It was a warm welcome as we were treated to refreshments and spirits as guests. Lively conversation filled the air as J.K. warmed up at the sight of his family coming together again. Sparking a fire in no time with a quick run through the choreography, we wrapped the shoot in the following hour.

Throughout the evening Zu’s family welcomed us with refreshments, including some spirits they produce through their Caribbean catering company, SoBa Hospitality. The drink was DirtyH20, pronounced dirty water,  an orange tinged cocktail the viscosity of a slushee in a mason jar. It’s a stout drink, so much that you will taste the smell, but I’ve been a fiend for it ever since.

It was/is important to stay sober during production, but with with the final shot being set up, we indulged with a toast welcoming us into their family. It was a great experience  and something bigger than a music video had occurred.  A community had stepped up to support each other with an, “all ships rise” mentality.

As we wrapped the shoot and packed the gear, we thanked our gracious hosts as they imparted mutual blessings upon us before we went our separate ways.

jk55


Guilford Courthouse National Military                                                              DAY 1: CONTINUED

Noting his love for dumbed down rap due to the level of energy they create, J.K. and Clint provided insight into the struggle to please the fans while having fun making music. Case in point may be “30mexicans” featuring the character Yung Splooshy described as a “dumbass dusty ass single” found on My World Is Silent. It’s a fun track and the realization that J.K. is good enough to dick around and still create melodies is dope.

JS: What’s it like having fans? I mean, that’s something I can’t personally relate to or understand, so how was that the first time somebody came up to you and recognized you for your music?

J.K. : Man, that shit is awkward as fuck…it’s awkward because I don’t know them. I don’t want to be an asshole, but it’s like what do I talk to you about? At first I didn’t know how to handle it, I would just sit there quiet. They’d be like, ‘Yo! J.K., what’s up!’ and I’d be like, ‘Wassup.’ What do we talk about now? Now I understand as an entertainer you gotta…like, that’s what we do man. Despite what the fuck anyone calls it, we’re just entertainers. On some shit like that, I just make them comfortable and talk about whatever the fuck. I try not to talk about music because it’s always the same conversation with the music like, ‘Would you do a song with Kendrick Lamar’? ‘What’s the next mixtape you droppin’?

It’s always the same shit, so I try to talk about other things like where they got their shoes from.

One of the things that pisses me off is that people can’t really know you through your music, know what I’m sayin? People don’t realize I’m goofy as shit in real life bruh. For example, I was doing a show in Texas and some dudes was like, ‘We going to the store J.K., you want anything’? I was like, ‘Yo, get me a FUZE,’ and they was like ‘FUZE? You don’t want any liquor? I’m like, ‘Bruh, I’m high already and drunk. Get me a tea!’ I’m normal…I will throw up just like you will bruh, let me chill. I used to not be like this though…I was weird man. Social situations used to make me nervous.

JS: I mean being on stage and all now, do you think you grew out of that?

J.K. : I just went through a phase…I had lived in the same neighborhood for fourteen years and all I knew was those people. I knew that side of town, the neighborhood and that those were my friends. Then I moved to this side of town and I didn’t know nobody, I ain’t have no friends. It made go through a phase where I hated people and just didn’t care what people were talking about, I used to get picked on and it made me just hate mothafuckas.

Then I went through a phase where I was like, ‘Man, I love the world,’ and it put me in a bad position…fucking with snake ass niggas. You all positive like, ‘I love you guys,’ while mothafuckas is in your pockets. It made me find a medium. It was like alright I can be the cool dude, I can show love to everybody, but I will slap your ass.

JS: Did you write a lot back then?

J.K. : Hell yea man. As soon as I got home from school I’d play some beats…fucking write my life away. I used to write songs and not record them.

FANG family shows get live, so far as to getting kicked out of venues. With his honesty being taken abrasively, earlier in the year J.K. addressed the current clique-y trend at one of the Ill Life shows.

Stopping the show to send rounds into the passive spectators standing stiffly in the back. From wallflowers too afraid to step forward and show love to the cowards projecting their own dissatisfaction outwardly  with a message.

You niggas come here and don’t show no fucking love! Why would you come to a show and stand in the back like a dumbass when you could be up front!?”…amongst other things.

While the young emcee’s message was supported by the crowd, the likes of individuals such as these don’t handle that same type of truth well in public or private social scenarios. In a poverty stricken community, your reputation is all you have. Recognized nationwide for their music, their success is not always greeted at home on the same wave length. Rejecting the images of the Battleground Rd. apartments and refusing to become a dream deferred, the new C9 artist has forever pledged allegiance to Fuck A Name Gang.


 

 

Guilford National Military Park                                                                          DAY 1: CONTINUED

As we finished up our re-shoot, Le Reaper provided playful banter giving his unique perspective on: skateboarding and individuals from poverty stricken communities referencing pro skateboarder Antwuan Dixon. Imparting wisdom from his FANG brother, Austin Strayhorn, currently incarcerated.

J.K. : I would love to see somebody bring the hood and skateboarding together…hood niggas stop killing and all become skaters. That would be crazy. Have dudes like, ‘Bruh I’m bout to goddamn hit da pawk. Bout to hit da pawk bro on errythang. Man, I just got these new bearin’s on this bowd. Bout to get right. Fuck da club, I’m boutta’ shred.’

JS: You got a great head on your shoulders, for whatever that’s worth, but do you read or listen to…what kind of stuff do you intake?

J.K. : I used to just sit in the dark a lot. At my house, I used to just look up shit. I used to read…I didn’t just watch movies, I would study them…I studied directors. That’s when I was in the cave, before I had friends and shit. I guess when I started making friends and coming out of that I just had a different perspective…I don’t know.

When I’m out, I’m not just out, I’m paying attention to everything. Like right now I’m looking at every single one of these people and it’s just crazy, their path. These people are so normal right now, but I pay attention. That’s why it was kind of awkward when fans would come up because they would ask me shit about me and it’s like, ‘Yo, you know me, but who are you’? Like I want to ask [too]…I want to know.

I want to go to places where I have no idea how things work and learn…like I want to go to Moscow  just to see how people there move and fit in with it.

JS: Going from being nervous [social situations] to your first performance to now having stage presence, what has changed? Are there things you enjoy doing when you perform or is it…I read some artist say they don’t even remember what they did.

J.K. : Yea, exactly. Once you get to that point you killing shit because that’s how it is for me now. It’s just natural, you’re not thinking about it. You just black out…you be wildin’. What helped me learn a lot was watching the ass mothafucka’s opening up. I observe a lot so I’m like, ‘Alright, what’s wrong with this guy’s performance? He’s standing in one spot and he’s staring at the floor.’ So, when I do my performance, I’m going to stare at these people straight in their eyes and move around like a maniac. And it works out.

Once I did that *tour with Bones that’s when I learned…like I never crowd surfed before, never been in a mosh pit before, never jumped in the crowd. None of that shit ’cause North Carolina don’t do that. Once I realized it, I was like ‘Oh Shit! I’m on to something.’ It made me realize I love this shit bruh ’cause my first time crowd surfing it was by accident. I fell off stage…and I thought I was going to hit the floor. This dude was like, ‘We Got You!’ “cause I did that whole tour drunk out of my mind because I missed my friends…crowd surfed by accident.

*Legends Of The Underground Tour 2013; Liquid– Bones ft. J.K. The Rapper     **Photography by Carter Short III

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Prompt 35: You are stuck on the highway in the world’s worst traffic jam for at least two days. What happens?

It was a typical day stuck in traffic as motor vehiclists were leaving a “productive” day at work. As the flow of traffic stagnated, I decided to turn on the radio and listen to Power 98. After around roughly a half an hour the songs in rotation began to blur together. Switching the station to Streetz 103.3, I was greeted with the same cycle of songs and decided to cut through the clutter with NPR.

After around 45 minutes all of the motorcyclists on the highway had escaped to freedom, forging their way through the narrow corridors of cars. “They [Motorcyle Companies] should use this  as promotional material,” I thought to myself. “I wish I had a motorcycle…better yet, a moped.”

The segment on Here And Now had come to a close at this point and the programming that followed was All Things Considered. The topic: Traffic Patterns Across The Continental U.S. I couldn’t listen. Turning off my car I decided to roll down the windows and listen to the automotive opera occurring, which usually sounds more like a banshee invading the car cabin at speeds of 55+ miles an hour.

Fun Fact: The first season of the HBO series Banshee was shot here in Charlotte, though from my understanding the show’s title has nothing to do with its supernatural counterpart.

Having been in traffic for over an hour at this point was a strange phenomena. I considered capturing the hour long ordeal with my phone when I noticed selfie sticks and bare arms protruding from driver and passenger side windows capturing the dead sea of cars.

“Eh, nevermind.”

Though shielded from the direct rays of the sun, it provided little relief from the humidity which hung thickly as it does during southeastern summers. I decided I would check the traffic reports online, but to no surprise there was limited signal and even slower connection. Everyone had probably already turned to their phone for information/refuge.

Opening Instagram I decided to search and see if WBTV News or CBS News had an account, hoping they would provide some insight. Luckily, WBTV did and they had posted a picture with the hashtags, 277 and Crisis.

Crisis,” I thought to myself. “Let me check this out.”

Looking for more information among a stream of posts, it seemed everyone was as clueless as I. At least they were making the best of it with pictures of impromptu dance parties featuring the hashtag, 277TrafficJammin,and Crisis, and a nondescript geotag of their location on the highway.

I considered grabbing my cruiser board out of the trunk and skating home, but every scenario ended with me having to return to retrieve Niecy; Niecy is my car, a Nissan.

“I’ll just take a quick nap. If we begin to move before my alarm goes off, the horns should wake me up.”

I rolled the front and backseat windows half-way up and locked the doors. Setting an alarm for thirty minutes, I reached into the backseat for my straw hat. Reclining the chair and shielding my face with the hat, I began a ritualistic chant before sleeping. “I am lucid, the world is vivid…I am lucid, the world is vivid…I am lucid…”

…………………………………………..

*brrrrrr* *brrrrRRRR* *brrRRRRR* *BRRRRRR* Brrrr* *BRRRRRR*

I awoke in a haze during a crescendo of car horns sounding off. My mouth parched and tongue gritty, I struggled to gain my bearings. Groggy, the humidity had drained me of as much energy as I had tried to retain. Reaching for my phone to check my alarm, I realized night had fallen and I must have slept through my alarm. Looking at my watch the dial read, 9:00pm.

“I’ve been asleep for three and half hours!”

Straightening my seat in a flash, I thrust my keys towards the ignition and paused to look out the windows. It was then that I took in the horror…

To Be Continued

Prompt 34: Describe in detail the most boring thing imaginable.

Watching Wet Paint Dry…

Is an exercise in tunnel vision.

Careful application yields a solid colored coat: a sheen becomes spongy, spongy becomes sticky, sticky becomes stiff. Haste and erratic strokes lead to peeling, cracking, chalking and blistering.

Whether high gloss or satin finish, the paint masks the sun bleached walls of your dominion. The liquid binds forming solid shades upon the canvas to which it is applied. No sooner than the painter slathers rich hues of the viscous fluid do the colors begin to fade. Capturing light at a snail’s pace the film takes on a new tint, capturing the passage of time in varying tones.

Prompt 33: You are a superhero. What powers do you have, and how do you use them?

The funny thing about superpowers is they don’t come with an instruction manual. Adding to their inherent difficulty is the limited number of people with whom to help guide and mold your actions. Due to these factors, clairvoyance has put me in a rather unusual place as a “superhero.”

Where to begin…

I received my powers later in life, at the age of 23 to be exact, and thus the natural order of my life was taken for a bit of a spin. The initial visions I received were only a few hours ahead of me, but in a short span of time they grew far beyond a calendar year…or maybe it was years before they developed to such a strength…it’s too fuzzy.

With the power of my visions beyond my control it wasn’t uncharacteristic for me to be thrown a few days or a few decades ahead of the current timeline.  To this day my powers are still beyond my control. Complicating the situation further are the changing timelines I am thrust forward into based upon the actions I take in the present moment after receiving them.

As I mentioned before, I was gifted with amplified foresight later than other superheroes at a time when the plasticity of my brain was beyond its peak. For this reason, I have yet to harness my ability and save lives.

You can take solace though in knowing that a league of superheroes does exist, however, they are not cut of the same cloth as characters in comic books. Simply put, they are ordinary people with extraordinary gifts. Most, if not all, of The League‘s members were gifted their powers at birth and by the time they reached adolescence had come to master them.

Their heroics earned them great praise and widespread fame during their formative years. The downside of all their acclaim was that it gave birth to a super arrogance that went largely unchecked by their predecessors and the citizens whose lives they protected.They take rash measures in protecting the people and bolster their rationale with intimidation.

This is more than sour grapes as I’ve seen the future…several futures, and they all play out with disastrous effects…

…   …

…   …   …

A few of The League‘s members have gone rogue in the past giving up their life of heroism for a more seedy life. A group of telepaths has been roaming about amassing great wealth and living luxurious lifestyles while passing as ordinary citizens. Their ability to read the minds of the general public and learn their dreams, fears, fantasies, theories, etc. has led the telepaths to believe they know how to best govern them.

Using their wrongfully acquired wealth they’ve created notoriety for themselves. Broadcasting themselves into the homes of citizens across the globe they use their telepathic powers to transmit messages, as well as, invade their minds.

The League‘s speedster on the other hand has an affinity for practical jokes and has thus begun committing juvenile crimes against humanity for his own satisfaction.

They include: Defacing metropolitan infrastructure with graffiti while relatively unseen. Disrupting large scale farmers harvests by picking their crop while unseen. Dumping the cargo of entire shipyard cargo containers into the ocean for sport…while unseen.

In retaliation a few league members have sought to bring them to justice, but only further complicated the matter.

In order to stop the speedster, the climatonian has brought on a drought so that he will have no crops to steal and drained the inlets of large shipping ports so that cargo could be recovered. The climatonian’s actions however have led to rising and falling sea levels and disruptive weather patterns that created a Butterfly Effect across the world.

To find the telepaths, the trio of chronos keepers have been freezing time for lengthy periods and in rotating cycles hindering the natural biological functions of the citizens they protect. The excessive liberties they have taken have resulted in civilian casualties whose bodies are unable to handle repeated blood flow stoppage. Heart palpitations have become a widespread phenomena.

The…

…   …   …

…   …

…It was vision.

Merely a skew of a possible future. As you can see, I’m still unable to control my powers. I guess you can say I’m not sure what the future holds and I’m not even sure of what’s occurring at the present moment. For this reason I hide out in limbo, waiting in the shadows to see how it will all unfold.

I know they’re looking for me as well, The League and the Rogues…I’ve seen it.

But I’ve also seen that there are others out there like me. Those who have come into their powers later in life and have yet to figure out how to control them. I need to find them…we need to find each other and understand why we have these powers.

Prompt 32: What does writer’s block feel like?

Writer’s block feels like a bully that’s waiting for you around the corner.

You’re looking to avoid them at every turn, but there’s nowhere to run in your own head. You can pass the time with other activities to stop hanging around the spots you frequented, but know that if you show your face they’ll be waiting.

Writer’s block doesn’t make you feel helpless, but hopeless. Your greatest enemy is yourself and as you flee down the corridors of your mind, it begins to play tricks on you.

“I can’t think of anything to write about.”

“I have nothing to say.”

“Dammit!”

It’s like losing the key to your imagination.

It’s as though there is a character lock on your keyboard and as you punch the keys, line after line of nothing appear on the screen. Your frustration grows and you wade further into the depths of grey matter, submerging yourself in fear.

Unable to focus you can no longer sit still at your desk because you know the bully is no longer waiting for you, but seeking you out. As your anxiety grows, you begin to struggle for air and begin thrashing about in your head, killing ideas before they are born.

You’ve avoided them for so long that they’ve come to the realization that you’re powerless against them. Unable to think. Unable to focus. Unable to be yourself.

You settle into the mindset that you’ll come back to it later, but know in the back of your head the bully awaits your return. He sits in anticipation growing stronger knowing that you’ve already conceded before your next confrontation.

The bully’s attitude is toxic and begins spread into other areas of your mind.The once free flowing stream of ideas has been dammed and becomes stagnant. The confidence you once felt in exploring new ideas and trying new things is stifled by the lurking feeling that you won’t be able to write about them.

Writer’s block is a prison corridor where creativity is shackled. It is a cell of your own construction and therefore only you can possess the keys to your freedom.

Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by fear and jailed unjustly. Create the key that will set you free.

Prompt 31: Why is it true that you are right so much of the time and everyone else gets things so wrong?

Because of I have a huge ego, and the larger your ego is the more important your opinion. I’m flabbergasted at the inability of others to realize this when we get into a debate or an argument. There is absolutely no possible way that I could be wrong, EVER.

At this point, I’ll field any question from anyone about anything. I came into the realization at the young age of 7, that my capacity for truth is infinite.

It all began when I was able to stump my father about the mysteries of life. I admit I was a bit taken aback at his inability to explain to me how babies are born. After disproving the Stork Theory I suggested that they came from belly rubs to which he reply was an astonishing, “YES!”

Since then I’ve advanced my theory and continue to refute the notion of intercourse being the primary cause. I would love to explain the truth behind it all, but I digress…

Anyway, the next day my mother tried to convince me that the news reports called for rain and hounded me to take an umbrella as I left for school.

I on the other hand knew better because the outfit I picked out for the day was not suited for rainy weather. It was with this logic that I chose not to heed her “advice” and embark on another day of educating both my classmates and teachers on the fallacies of public education system.

To her dismay, it did not rain. I also corrected the teacher that day which would later happen with regularity although they would often refute the truth. She had written that it was a Tuesday, on March 5, 1995 when in fact it was a Wednesday.

It’s been difficult on my journey as a prophet, but I realize that nothing worth having is ever easy. It is with this conviction that I have been involved in numerous disputes, altercations and minor shouting matches with less competent individuals. Perhaps most often with the opposite sex, as I’ve largely refuted the popular philosophy that, “A woman is always right.”

I’ve discovered that this belief is not only a hard pill to swallow for women, but men alike. To that point, it has been difficult for people to accept the value of my friendship. Through this understanding I have sought to befriend animals more often than people as they are open to accepting all the wonders of life I have to share with them.

Prompt 28: Come up with every possible way to describe something as “red,” without using the word itself.

The firetruck is a bright and fiery shade of primary color, matching the blazing infernos its operators fight daily. When the crew on duty washes their company engine outdoors on a sunny day, the truck’s brilliant tone is warming to the eye. If you were to mix the fire engine’s unique color with a cooler hue of blue, it would produce a beautiful royal purple color. At night, the body of the  engine absorbs the soft amber glow of street lamps intensifying the sheen of the paint scheme to produce blown out areas. Speeding past STOP signs in an emergency, the vehicle’s matching color alerts drivers and pedestrians to the same message of the hexagonal road signs.

Prompt 27: Write the lyrics to a rap song. They must include a cop, a bad drug bust, and a dog.

My trap house boomin’ in the cut, a solitary room that I fashioned from a hut,

It houses all my scales, my major point of sale,

My project in the projects, and everybody know me well,

There’s an odor from the stove from the orders goin’ out,

And I bag up all my product into different sized amounts,

Then put it in my hiding place, the cushions in the couch.

In case of emergency, I have an evacuation route,

A trained German Shepherd and a pistol on my hip,

Luggage bags full of cash if I need to take a trip,

And my lookout on the corner, swear he’ll never snitch.

I’ve been doing this for years with persistence and some patience,

My clientele done grown, and I admit the doctors patients,

Prices are competitive, my ambition not complacent,

And the only bars I’ll visit are filled with needy patrons,

Pill poppin’ partygoers who can’t fill their prescription,

Who need something stronger than the whiskey that they’re sippin’,

I slip em’ all my card, a complimentary party pack,

Tell em’ hit the streets, they’ll figure out where to find me at.

My trap house boomin’ in the cut, a double wide trailer I purchased on my way up,

It houses all my scales, my major point of sale,

My project in the projects and everybody know me well,

So well in fact I got a growing list of enemies,

(C)Ops have been alerted to my unusual activities,

So their increased presence in and around my vicinity,

Has finally given way to my biggest fear and concern,

My people tryin’ to take me down because they want to see me burn,

But I knew you’d be coming, when will you ever learn?

Thinking that you’ll earn your stripes based upon my arrest,

In the form of a shiny ribbon, displayed across your chest.

There’s only one problem, you forgot your kevlar vest,

All of this gathered from the radio scanner on my desk.

You fail to realize I’m described as paranoid,

So I’ve been making monthly payments to a couple of your boys,

An unsung hero to the underpaid public servant,

Who’s daughter was it that got the degree in Public Service?

Maybe it was the Captain or maybe it was the Sergeant,

One things for sure officer, you’re lined up as my target.

Prompt 26: Describe Heaven.

It’s like nothing I ever imagined, and far from any images conjured in my mind during my formative years in Baptist churches. There were no ornate golden gates or chubby cherubs. The image of God I formerly clung to was of a stern, older gentleman whose beard billowed thick vapor about his face, drenched in long white robes flowing freely suspending gravity. His kingdom was constructed of chalky cloud formations and filled with angels who dove and swooped like swallows.  They filled the sky with the lilting of harps and lutes, as they soared about creating sonic sculptures in the likeness of man and woman, whom had shed their earthly forms. But none of this was true of the Heaven I saw.

It was more grand than anything I’ll ever witness in this lifetime. It wasn’t constructed of precious earthly minerals, and there were no clouds, or angels, or shapes. It was a void with splashes of colors illuminating the darkness, sometimes in geometric patterns and at others organic in their nature. My form was of pure energy and subsequently, I too became a part of these sparks of spatial glory. The fleeting voice I heard was carried by solar winds and was of no language created on earth, yet I understood her clearly. God was a woman, and she stripped me of the worldly woes sewn into my skin. Embracing my return with unparalleled love, we celebrated the journey she had sent me on long ago and the one in which she would be sending me on very soon.

Prompt 25: Write a survival guide for a character: Ten things to do an emergency.

1. Keep Calm and…

2. Seek professional medical attention

3. Stay in well lit, public spaces

4. Phone a family member, friend, or colleague

5. Solicit strangers for assistance/help

6. Tweet about your predicament with #WWJD?

7. Then Google it or maybe check WebMD

8. Capture the situation on video

9. Make an Instagram post, or it never happened

10. Check the Instagram “Explore” page.

Following Step 5, the list will probably only escalate the situation/emergency. To be honest, I’m not sure if my character is facing an incoming blizzard or maybe they just severed a finger. Maybe they’re out in public being stalked or are trying to extinguish a kitchen fire. For that reason the only helpful advice is Step 1.