The beginnings of almost any lifetime passion are defined by the confidence it offers you as a child. The kids in my neighborhood couldn’t afford a real musical instrument, let alone lessons. The local schools touted paltry art budgets that had us using the nubs of half-eaten crayons out of an old coffee tin and well-worn watercolors for an hour every other week.
Here, there are two arts through which a young boy can find his voice — basketball and rap. It takes a hefty diversion to distract children raised in a place where crime is a self-sustaining spiral and only two kids on the block have fathers. We were lucky. We found our diversion.
It began on a lazy summer day in an upstairs bedroom. My cousin from the suburbs brought along a tape recorder and the most basic of beatboxing skills. What resulted from our day-long session was a line by my little brother that has been burned into my memory,
“You can see me go as Bassey’s smiling/ His name is Bassey Cocoa because he’s bileing.”
Looking back on it now, the line doesn’t make much sense. But we couldn’t have been any more than 10 years old at the time, and tales of this epic diss would be recounted for years.