Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: B » Bronx Biannual: The Literary Journal of Urbane Urban Literature » Excerpt of “Rhyme Scheme” by Donnell Alexander, from Bronx Biannual

Bronx Biannual: The Literary Journal of Urbane Urban Literature

Edited by:

A literary journal’s debut featuring writing from: Donnell Alexander, Federico Anderson, Dana Crum, Michael A. Gonzales, KRS-One, Michael C. Ladd, Ferentz Lafargue, Reginald Lewis, Adam Mansbach, Caille Millner, muMs, and Greg Tate.

$14.95 $11.21

Excerpt of “Rhyme Scheme” by Donnell Alexander, from Bronx Biannual

The heat had closed in on Orpheus, so he jumped a bus to Los Angeles. At an after-hours spot called Inspiration, a few blocks from Union Station, he met an older bearded gentleman called Darius. The stranger smoked him out, then promised to link him with a West Hollywood connect in the biz.

After me and Darius entered Union Station, a commuter my age walked up on us. I followed D’s lead and pulled off my shades. That had to happen, for safety’s sake, in this dark place full of people crossing each other at crazy angles.

“O! You in L.A. now?”

“Now this is an out-of-town record,” I said.

And in his thick baritone Darius said, “You’re more famous than you let on.” He punched my arm, creeped sideways, and raised a finger. “I’ma hit the toilet before we get on. Wait for me by the Red Line escalator.” He pointed to an area beyond the bright middle room’s rows of benches. Even at a distance, the space appeared new and separate.

My fan, a Mexican kid with bedroom DJ written all over him, glommed on after Darius digressed. He told me his name. I couldn’t hear it. Folks were murmuring nonstop, in one hundred echoes. No piece of conversation sounded louder than the beating of my heart.

“They had an e-mail alert about you from DubCNN.com.”

“Word?” I sucked my top teeth just a bit and kept moving toward the Red Line sign. “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, son. What if I told you I was an African prince in need of fare back to the Motherland? Would you buy that?”

“I heard that Lyricist Lounge comeback shit, yo. You are an African prince, pimpin’! Prince of poetry fo’ sho. Got that newsflash. DJ Win Hguyen, she wilds out. ‘A Win Hguyen Proposition’? That was crazy! Yo, my favorite is on that other collabo, the one you did wit—”

“Orpheus.” Darius had no problem interrupting. From the speed of his quick errand, getting to the front of a piss trough was not an issue either.

“Yeah man.”

“Oh, snap!” went the bedroom DJ. “He done called you by your government name. He your daddy? I thought your pops was Japanese, yo! I thought—”

“He’s not Japanese, he’s my L.A. tour guide.”

“Yeah,” Darius said. “We on a budget, though. Let me get some coins for these broke-down machines. They only taking exact change. A buck twenty-five. Let’s keep it movin’.”

I fished out some quarters, then raised my chin over the kid in a way that might have looked like a dis to the casual traveler. But it wasn’t like that. Homey was attracting eyes. Security was everywhere, and I was on the motherfuckin’ run. We’d walked into a part of the building that cut from classic mega-whistle stop to ultramodern transportation portal. I avoided the natural light streaming down tight through a corner atrium, easing down a long hall under twin rows of small bulbs encased in fat black batons of plastic.

The DJ stood smallish a step above me on the escalator. For a time, the intermittent riffs of suitcase wheelies on tile died away.

“Check the O-Fresno site, son. Win does that, betcha didn’t know. Anyway, all the info you need will be right there. If not now, an hour from now. Don’t fuck with any other news—hip-hop or otherwise. And don’t make no news. Don’t tell a friend.”

Alone on a lower level of moving stairs, I heard some kind of encouragement—distant and getting fainter—float down. “‘O-School snap/Bustin’ old-school rap/Still takin’ out suckas with that cold boom-bap.’ Keep bangin’, potna!”

That nigga was gonna get me busted.

I held up a peace sign, subtly, then encountered the platform. At the top of the escalator, Darius stepped on and began his descent.