Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Sonic Vandals: A Hip Hop Story
Copyright 2012 by Art Rosch
It’s one thirty in the morning. A sound starts in the distance, barely audible. The sound is almost subliminal, but it grows. It grows at first gradually, but quickly acquires momentum as it approaches.
Boom! Boom! Ka boomboom! Kaboomboom! Louder and louder it comes, like an approaching stampede, like an apocalypse. BOOM BOOM KABOOM! It crescendos and throws me from sleep like an earthquake. BOOM BOOOM BOOOOOM!
Then it fades away at the same speed at which it arrived and passed. Boom boom. Kaboom boom. Kaboom.
It’s a Boomkar. It’s a vehicle whose purpose is to transport sonic vandals all night, waking those who are asleep. It is a variant of tribal drum language. It may signal other Boomkars, some from hostile tribes, to converge upon a battleground. They are Cadillac, Pontiac, Toyota, Honda, Dodge, Ford and other vehicles whose back seats and trunks have been converted into loudspeakers. These procedures transform hip hop bass lines into lethal sound weapons. They are expressions of power.
Battle is joined at a mall parking lot. Vehicles arranged in ranks like Roman legions crank up their amplifiers.
The balcony of my apartment has a perfect view of the Northway Mall parking lot. I witness a BoomBattle first-hand. It's dreadful. The karnage is indescribable.
It begins with the appearance of the chieftains from opposing tribes. A Humvee and an Escalade roll ominously forward until they are nose to nose. Their commanders emerge from the vehicles to relay hand signals to their deeji at the control consoles. All Boomkar warriors are deaf. They have no choice but to communicate with hand signals.
The leader of the Escalade Krew is the infamous Doctor Doghouse. Stepping out of the black Humvee is the equally notorious B.G.F. Fatpimp
The Escalade’s Doctor Doghouse crosses his arms to form an “X” at chest height. The fingers of both hands are flashing the "devil's horns" sign, the most notorious challenge of gang sign language. He wears shorts that almost reach his ankles but are so baggy he could fit two of himself into each leg. His opponent, Fatpimp, weighs three hundred pounds, but is dressed much the same. His shorts could house a large family of desert Bedouin with room to spare. Brand new baseball caps with their still-rigid shapes and original price tags are worn sideways at such and such an angle, just so. The chieftains posture at one another, fingers pointed in all directions, arms crossed, knees bent, shoulders rolling.
One would assume that these are signs of insult, that is, the tribal champions are flashing merk. Of course, flashing merk don’t mean shit unless actual weapons are involved. Nobody's gonna get capped sideways.
This is easy merk, not the hard kind. The weapons are the Boomkars themselves.
The next part of the ritual is for each chief to reach into the pocket of his giant shorts and produce a knot. At this point there is an advantage to the Escalade, because Doghouse’s knot is head up in c-notes, real hundreds, and as he withdraws the thick rubber band, he can easily show that the c-notes aren’t just bush for ones and fives. The knot is deep in c-notes. Fatpimp loses a load of headroom, his knot shows a couple c’s a couple twens, and a whole lotta ones. Bad tone for Fatpimp. Sometimes low quap is worse than no quap.
The chiefs walk in their stylized manner, limbs loose and arms flailing, fingers folded into complex semaphores. They circle one another, making a figure eight, which takes each chief around the opponent’s ride.
Then the Escalade fires up its amps.
Boom, kachic! A boom boom. Ka chik-boomachic boomachic!
I am at least a quarter mile distant, and the concussion of the bass roils my intestines.
In response, the Humvee emits another riffle: Kachik boom! Kachik boom boom boom! Kachik- kachik-kachik-boom. Taboom boom!
Only a few words of the incantation are audible. The bass and the snare slap dominate the asphalt-juddering roar. There are repeated calls of key code phrases. “Motha fucka! Motha fucka! Motha fucka! Yo! Yo! Mothafucka Yo!” That's the Escalade. The Humvee snarls back. “Gonna get up yo booty! Gonna get up yo booty! Phat bee-ahtch gonna sit on it, sit on it!”
Cracks begin to spread from beneath each vehicle. The vocalizations, I believe, are calls of love to the chieftains’ ladies. Or perhaps they are calls to the fathers of women in other tribes, women desired by Fatpimp and Doghouse. These calls are meant to demonstrate the impressive character and power of each chief.
My scrotum is vibrating from the din. Both cars hold equal volume and blare at one another. The Escalade’s hubcaps suddenly blow into the air with such force that one of them shatters a sixty foot mercury vapor lamp. Doctor Doghouse makes a sign to his deej: up the volume! Turn on the extra amps. Kick out the jams, motherfucker!
The Humvee begins to fold and rumple along its width. The imperial nine and a half foot grille and headlights compress. The roof folds upon itself until the vehicle is perhaps eight feet wide. Seven and a half. Six feet! Cracks widen beneath both Kars.
“Mothafucka! Booty. Mothafucka! Booty! Get up get up get up! Clap yo hands! Get up! Booty. Fucka! Ooo. Kachik. Beeahtch! Boom boom boom!”
The pavement gives way with a giant splongk! and both cars fall into a sinkhole. Doctor Doghouse’s fingers are gripping the ragged edges of the crater. He manages to climb out. His torn shorts are sucked under his armpits. Droopy white socks look sad and lost sitting atop sneakers that look like M-1 Abrams battle tanks. He looks back into the hole. There is no sign of the Humvee’s Fatpimp. The vehicles belonging to Doghouse’s tribe suddenly roar to life, each one circling the phalanx of their opponents’ Boomkars. Their amps are turned all the way up. The acrid smell of burning electronics reaches me on my perch above the parking lot. Smoke blows from the trunks and windows of Boomkars. The din is cataclysmic. Escalade Boomkars circle the defeated Humvee tribe’s Boomkars.
Boom boom kaboom boom kaboom boom boom! Chik chik snap bap boom, chaboom!
There is a distant wailing. The Boomkars skid in swathes of rubber as they disperse in all directions. Twenty, twenty five police cars are screaming their way to the Boomkar Battle.
By the time they reach the scene of the karnage, all that remains is a giant sinkhole with the wreck of a Humvee in its depths. B.G.F. Fatpimp is gone. A faint boom boom seems to emit from the hole. That may be my imagination. Or perhaps it is a dying echo bouncing off a building far away, a feeble remnant of the battle between tribes of sonic vandals.