Thelonious looked around the hip-hop scene. A few backpackers assembled on the outskirts of the area. These locals stood locked and loaded with EP demos, tapes and fliers promoting after parties. They took advantage of the foot traffic from the one block proximity to Shakedown Street. Backpackers were always promoting something. Teflon did not stand with the backpackers. Other hip-hop heads gathered around a 73’ Cadillac Coup DeVille with a red leather interior. A Playboy Bunny and a disco ball hung off its rearview mirror. A Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy sticker rested on the bumper. A Louisiana license plate, but a Motor City monster. Four hundred and seventy-two cubic inches in the belly of the beast. Seven miles to the gallon. A true hooptie willing and able to cruise the Mississippi on its eight-cylinders. And with a mean grill that said, I’m a real car, what’s your name? What a beast!
Atop this gray vehicle rested a boom-box. “I Ain’t No Joke” blasted out of the radio. Layered with the sharp cuts of Erik B and the eternally smooth lyrics of Rakim, the song had everyone in the area’s head nodding.
In front of the car, on the ground, lay a dance floor made out of cardboard. A homeless man’s condo-conversion. This box once housed a General Electric refrigerator and was now a dance floor for B-boys.
And the B-boys tore it up. A circle of dancers around the cardboard took turns break dancing..
Thelonious looked for his brethren at the circle. He nodded his head to the music. No Teflon.
Next to the landmark Cadillac a handful of ladies lingered. They wore summer tanks and daisy dukes. They had tight pony-tailed hair and hoop earrings. These girls popped bubble gum, half-listening to the hollow hollas from over-zealous blingers, half-watching a tall fella a few yards away. The tall fella Thelonious came to see.
Something seemed wrong with the tall fella, Thelonious could tell.
Teflon looked uncomfortable. He shook his head at two people. It looked like these two were trying Teflon. Nobody better dare and try Teflon. Thelonious immediately skated over. Teflon continued to shake his head.
“Nah, son,” Teflon said. “I ain’t down with a battle.”
“What’s going on here?” Thelonious asked.
“These two kids want to battle,” Teflon said.
“Battle?” Thelonious asked. “Where the fuck you from?”
“Detroit,” a young black kid, with a fade, tats up and down his arms.
“L.B.C.—trick,” said the other, a tall white kid, cornrows, a scruffy moustache and goat.
“Headz don’t battle,” Thelonious said.
“What up, buster,” Long Beach said. “Ain’t got no skills.”
“Yo, like I said, we ain’t down with battlin,” said Teflon. “You want to start off a cipher—”
“Fuck that,” Detroit said, sipping on a Corona. “I just smoked a huge tree and my mind is open.”
“Stoops,” Thelonious said. He intended to end the charade. He had enough. A real MC did not need to smoke weed to have a flow. Thelonious would squash it. He put his arm around Teflon. “Come on, let’s go.”
They tried to walk away from the battlers. They tried to take the higher ground.
“New Yorkers ain’t shit.”
It didn’t matter who said it. It was said.
Thelonious and Teflon stopped in their tracks.
The boom-box turned off. “I Ain’t No Joke” ended. The dancers stopped.
Whispers swept through the area like a broom of gossip. All the b-boy’s, backpackers, and bling-blinger’s
turned their attention towards the impending battle. A gust of their synergy sparked the melee. Teflon and Thelonious turned, walked up to the battlers, and raised their arms in the air. “Wh-a-a-t,” they both roared.
Detroit rallied and stepped up to Teflon’s face. “I’m out all night, you’re home with a sitter,” he pointed at the prettiest girl he could find, “see that hottie, I did he, cause I’m a winner, a sinner, a pro not a beginner, fuck with us faggot, we’re gonna eat your ass for dinner.” Detroit stuck a finger in Teflon’s face. Teflon didn’t flinch.
A few heads acknowledged Detroit’s opening rhymes with some props.
Long Beach felt enabled enough to step up to Thelonious. “I’ll borrow your glass and plug it wit hubbas, Tolkien like a Hobbit, no borrow then I’ll rob it, I slice dicks like you and I fucked Lorena Bobbit—” The crowd reacted to that line with approval. Even Thelonious squinted, half in disdain, half in a suspicious appreciation of an MC referencing the smoking of crack out of a headie pipe, a total taboo. It didn’t take long to win a battle. The momentum gave Long Beach a sense of power and in his ignoble state he tried to finish it off. “—cause I’m the boss like Tony Danza, fuck with me and my crew, you’re loco, like, like, um, fucking with cancer, buster.”
The battler from Long Beach had stuttered. Uh, oh, better get Maaco.
Thelonious and Teflon didn’t wait a second. They jumped on the stumble.
Thelonious set it off and Teflon had his back. They went at it line for line: “punk , you must be bona fide drunk, stumblin round here fakin the funk—” “—wasting your time with Corona and limes, you need to shut up—silence of the mimes—” “—oops he means lamb, damn I mean chops, bust, we mean stoops, hip hop’s what we drops—”“—stop—” Teflon paused. He counted off two beats then continued, “plop plop, the way our shit drops, 5ive 0h six up, it’s time to call the cops.” The New Yorkers could’ve packed it up. Their rhymes, however short, were the equivalent of an uppercut from a young Mike Tyson. Like Tyson knocking out Spinks in ninety-one seconds. They could’ve walked away and every head would’ve known the victor. The battlers knew it but they signed up for the fight, they couldn’t run now. There were no flags to throw in, no referee to stop it; it didn’t work like that. They could only hope the New Yorkers would go gently on their heads. Thelonious had one more round in him. “You want to see loco,” he began, very much in the face of both the battlers. “I’m cocoa for puffs leaves trees and roots, drinkin on tuesdaze and knockin boots, a butcher slicin words in his shop, CHOP CHOP, it’s just phat from the top—” Teflon finished it, his style refrained, like Pas from De La Soul, one of his influences. “—Oh no, I see circling vultures, you stepped to the plate with some wack pop culture, talkin who’s the boss like Tony Danza, we keep it real, you lie like George Costanza , pop culture? we got more hits than Kirby Puckett, kick it with us, you’re bound to kick the bucket.” The nail in the coffin. The battler’s heads went down. Everyone else threw their hands up. A chorus of ohhhh combed the air. Yo that was dope, Holmes. That was fly, son. That was fresh, kid.