Confession of a Rap Fanatic
They turned me out in mama’s mini-van. Maroon with bucket seats and tinted glass, her Astro bounced from Boom! to Bap! I slammed unlaced Adidas kicks at lust, I gave that blast the gas face, gave it rhyme. No Kleenex mess. No rubber lubed with shame. No awkward pleas. Just earlobes hot as asphalt black and fast below the whitewalls, Walkman pumping beats by Big Daddy Kane and Roxanne Shanté. Staccato, hard as chassis, freestyle raps in contraband cassettes released my legs from shackles. Naw, for real, from pale syntax. When couplets struck a fuse inside my lungs the breaths stuck fast got loose in pounding drums.
How we conjured Kangols and chains fat as forearms from hoops and hunger was our fathers’ cross to bear. We slammed crowbar names through drywall psalms— Kool G. Rap, Doug E. Fresh, Prince Paul, Terminator X. A zombie X hollered back from rednecks’ cotton tees— You wear your X, I’ll wear mine. Malcolm groaned in his grave. We tagged boasts and dozens on notebooks and milk cartons, shaving rap’s nomenclature in our domes. I was Pale King. After the age of crack and Yo! the old school came too soon and Puff Daddy’s rococo demo’d our crates of rage. We answer now to names— born-again, crackhead, banker, teacher, father, six-feet-under— we once dubbed Sucker MCs.
Michael Dowdy grew up in Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains and teaches at Hunter College in New York City. He has published a chapbook (The Coriolis Effect) and received a Pushcart Prize nomination. His poems have appeared in Appalachian Journal, Blueline, Broad River Review, Crab Orchard Review, J Journal, Kestrel, Pembroke Magazine, and Town Creek Poetry, among other places. His study of Latino poetry (Broken Souths: Latina/o Poetic Responses to Neoliberalism and Globalization) will be published by the University of Arizona Press in November. His website is here.