Times of Respect
Fade to the background, a mid-nineties dinner time at my house, chips, beans and whatever else had the date about to go out. Dad’s holding court as my siblings talk, school, tv, news and sport, but it’s music on which my family muses and when it comes to music my dad is mastermind sure. My siblings, all older, are squabbling about the Trainspotting film score and arguing whether Underworld are underground anymore. Like cars in rush-hour traffic, words fly back and forth. Poking food with my fork, I’m scanning the traffic reports, waiting for a safe spot in the onslaught, to step out, find my lane, set a course and for once, air my thoughts, a high-risk manoeuvre with scars from before, but I muse on music too, it’s what I live for.
Inside my skull, ideas and opinions bounce around like lottery balls eager to be drawn, chances of hitting that winning combination are slim, hopes light is light is dim, but my focus ‘aint on the final score.
The conversation moves, Dad continues to observe whilst he chews his food. My oldest brother turns to the next one down
‘Have you heard of Guru? Listen to Gang-Starr mate, that Code of the Streets tune, wicked lyrics.’
A red light in my brain goes PING. I’m in. Little does he know, but I’ve been listening to that tune in their room, sneaking in to their bedroom whilst they worked their work shifts. I know those lyrics, I know that beat, I know those infectious strings and I know that’s DJ Premier scratching in-between, I may be thirteen, but I know some things! It’s the code of the streets, it’s my time to speak.
The lottery-balls pinging around my brain get selected for the big departure, sending my mind into rapture, each thought and idea a golden grain of sand, could build castles with my hands, dominate the table with my Hip Hop knowledge, impress my siblings, maybe even my dad! Yet, as each idea excitedly makes their way, out of my brain, like kiddies riding waterslides down the neural pathways, they meet with the saliva glands and sand, turns to cement, starting to set, bottleneck sludge-fest in my throat, when the words finally get the green light to go, beyond the pink of the lips, ears of my siblings pricked, it all just, flops-out into the traffic flow, in one messy lump of spam-congealed-audio.
‘speak up boy, you’re mumbling’
‘Guru, dad, that song, Code of the Streets, he’s erm talking, about drug dealing and kids being harassed by the police.’
‘How do you know about this?!’ Dad barks
My oldest brother interjects; ‘Wait a minute, have you been going into my room listening to my records?!’
Dad ‘He got this from you?!’
And the arguing continues, I stare at my food, as dad lectures my siblings on what’s appropriate for a thirteen-year-old. Funny thing is, mastermind and all, dad don’t even know about those tunes, he doesn’t know Hip Hop, Jungle or Garage, he ‘aint got a clue.
Inside my skull the lottery balls have stopped pinging around, dropped mid-air to the ground as if someone’s pulled the plug out. I’ll make sure I take care next time I step out, I’m ok for now, remain safe inside my head, and besides, I got Guru looping round, It’s the Code of the Streets, and I fade to the background.
Paul Cree, October 2017