CYPHER 16

“Wzup, wzup, WZUP!?”  Dialex grinned widely into the camera.  His shiny, coal-black skin reflected the noonday sun.  Four burly police officers kept the restless crowd behind a roped off area around the camera and sound crew.  “This is your brilliant, talented and sexy host, Dialex and you’re watching ‘The Real’ – the joint where your favorite hip-hop artists show their freestyle skills in the cipher alongside the dopest unsigned MCs on the streets of New York, Atlanta, L.A and Chicago.”

Dialex thrust a thin finger towards the camera.  “That’s right, baby!  We bring the freestyle underground above ground and let you peep how the top ballers in hip-hop keep it real!”

The kinetic host walked towards the crowd.  Excited teens and young adults screamed, clapped and jumped up and down as he drew nearer.  “Today, we’re in Atlanta, the dirty-DIRTY,” Dialex began. “And we’re hangin’ out with rap phenomenon, Fate, the man who put the ‘P’ in pimpin’.”

He held up a CD.  On the cover was a photo of a scowling, cigar smoking man dressed in a black tuxedo and a silver mink coat.  The man’s head was crowned by a silver Fleetwood Dobbs hat.  Above the hat were the words ‘Pimpology 101’.  “Now unless you’ve been in solitary confinement for the past year, you know that Fate’s latest joint, ‘Pimpology 101’, has sold over eight million copies since its release six months ago and the latest single, ‘Pimp-Stick Preachin’’, is at number one on the Billboard charts for the fifth week.”

Dialex tossed Fate’s CD into the crowd.  A couple of teenage girls wrestled over the CD for a few seconds.  The larger of the two girls won the match and hugged the CD to her breasts after giving Fate’s photo a kiss.  “Fate ain’t just killin’ ‘em in the record stores, on the radio and in the clubs.  He’s slayin’ ‘em onRodeoDrive,MichiganAvenue and Buckhead, with the opening of FPG – Fatal Pimp Gear – inBeverly Hills,ChicagoandAtlanta.  Fate’s lines of clothing and intimate apparel are the hottest joints on the street…and in the bedroom.”

A thunderous roar rose from the crowd.  Dialex looked toward the glass doors of the FPG Buckhead store.  “Oh snap, Fate’s comin’ out of FPG Atlanta now!  Let’s go holla at our boy!”

Fate sauntered towards Dialex.  His maroon – beaded cornrowed hair danced on his broad shoulders with each swaggering step.  Fate’s carnation-pink, linen suit was complemented perfectly by maroon, ostrich-skin sandals and a maroon fedora.  His all female entourage – or ‘Stable’ – as he called them – were each dressed in white FPG sundresses, except for his bodyguards, who wore white miniskirts, white sports bras and white, garter-belt holsters, which housed nickel plated, pearl-handled .40 caliber pistols.

Dialex smiled widely as he pounded on Fate’s extended fist with his own. “Wzup, Pimp-Daddy?”

“I’m cooler than a snowman in an air-conditioned igloo, baby,” Fate crooned.  “What’s crackin’?”

“I’m keepin’ it crunk and bringin’ the funk, dog,” Dialex replied.  “You ready to do this?”

“I was born ready, playboy,” Fate said.  “See, I been rockin’ ciphers since I was a young playa in Chi-Town, hangin’ with my niggas on 112th and Halsted.”

“Well, let’s head down to the Auburn Avenue Research Library, where Cypher 16 – a conclave of some ill MCs – is turning the crowd out in the parking lot as we speak!”  Dialex bellowed.  “And y’all folks out there watching, just chillax, we’ll be right back after this commercial break.”

“Hold, up playa,” Fate said, as he placed a well-manicured, mahogany hand on Dialex’s shoulder.  “I just wanna let the fans know that, by the time this show airs, my movie – ‘Wild Hunneds’ – will be in theatres, so y’all go check a nigga out.”

“Well, y’all heard it right here, peoples,” Dialex replied.  “Fate will be rockin’ the big screen, so ya’ll check ya’ boy out!  We’ll be right black.”  The host grinned into the camera as he tapped his flat chest with his fist.  Fate slowly sipped Patron from a crystal and platinum goblet as a voluptuous, young, honey-toned woman, with bleached-blond afro-puffs, massaged his thick shoulders.

****

            “We’re back!  I’m your host, Dialex, and you’re tuned in to ‘The Real’!  We’re down at the Auburn Avenue Research Library in the A-T-L, with the Grand Professor of Pimponomics – Fate, who is about to jump in a circle of dope MCs – featuring Cypher 16 – and show his freestyle skills!”

Dialex waded through the rapturous crowd and made his way to the circle of MCs. “Cypher 16 just got back from six months in Nigeria, studying what they claim is the source of hip-hop and it appears – from the reaction of this crazy-hype crowd – that they brought back some raw, funk, dudu-type shizzle,” Dialex shoved his microphone under Fate’s chin and yelled over the roar of the multitude of adoring fans.  “What do you think of this crowd, Fate?”

Fate placed his lips close to Dialex’s microphone.  “The crowd is amped, playboy, or as we say here in the A: They crunk as hell!”  Fate slid his Oakley shades down to the bridge of his nose and peered over the maroon frame.  “There are some fine ass hoes out here too, baby-boy.  If they head right, I might give one or two the privilege of joining my stable.”

Dialex chuckled.  “You better be careful, Fate.  Your son might be watchin’.”

Fate smiled slyly.  “Hell, Li’l Fate know what time it is.  He a little playa his self.”  The Grand Professor of Pimponomicse lifted his goblet up to the camera.  “Hey, Junior, daddy loves you, big boy.”

Dialex pointed towards the cipher, which was steadily rocking the crowd.  “You ready to shake ‘em up, Fate?”

Fate tilted his fedora down over his left eye.  “Hell yeah, let’s do this.”

Dialex, Fate and Fate’s ‘Stable’ stepped towards the cipher.  The production crew of ‘The Real’ followed closely behind.

At the request of a fan, Cypher-16 was performing their hit song, “Nat Turna”, a-cappella.  Fate had seen Cypher-16 perform before, but there was something different about this performance.  Something that gave Fate chills and he hesitated before stepping cautiously into the circle.

The cipher seemed to engulf Fate.  To smother him.  Fate was, at once, hot and freezing cold.  He struggled to step out of the circle; to turn and sprint back to his Bentley; but he could not.  Fate was rooted in place…a young oak, planted in a circle of ancient iroko trees.

The MCs in the cipher began to slowly sway back and forth in unison, as they chanted:  “Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”.  The crowd stopped jumping and joined in with the swaying…the chanting…and pumped their fists in time with the chant.  “Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

Fate felt himself being tugged…pulled…snatched into a pit of whirling darkness.  Something in the darkness ripped at his flesh.  The moist blackness swallowed the screams that tumbled out of his gaping mouth.

****

            Suddenly, the darkness faded and the light of the world returned.  Fate looked around feverishly and the scream returned, but, this time, there was no darkness to swallow it.

He was on the deck of an old ship, which reeked of rancid meat, rum, saltwater and blood.  “Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”.

Fate’s shrieks were but drops in the ocean of screams that rose from the hold of that old ship.  The hold, from which emerged ten men.  Ten men, whose flesh held no light.  Ten men, who laughed heartily as they dragged a sinewy, Black woman – and a lion of a man – by chains, which gnawed at their wrists, ankles and necks.

The woman – jet-black and half a foot taller than the tallest of the ten, pale men – struggled futilely against the heavy, iron shackles as the ‘man-lion’ was slammed onto his forearms and knees.

A pale man stood on each of the giant’s wrists and one stood on each of his thick ankles.  One pale man tethered the woman to two rusty, iron rings embedded in the deck of the ship, then joined his comrades in line behind the fallen, captive warrior.

The woman tried to close her eyes but could not, because her eyelids had been stitched to her brow.  She was unable to shut out the horrors which she knew were about to be inflicted upon her husband:  The bloody defilement of an African giant at the hands of frail, leprous beasts.

The warrior refused to scream, but could not fight back the vomit that erupted from his belly.  The woman yelled ancestral curses at the pale men as they laughed and fulfilled themselves.

The last pale beast – called “Captain” by the others – traced the giant’s spine with the tip of his yellow-pink tongue as he knelt behind the warrior.

The pale men cheered the Captain on as he thrust himself into the ‘man-lion’ again and again and again.

The pale men giggled with glee.  The Captain laughed and thrust…laughed and thrust.

Fate stared in horror as – suddenly – the Captain’s face began to shift…to change.

“Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

The face of the jet-black African woman shifted…changed.

“Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

The man-lion’s face shifted…changed.

“Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

The woman’s face became the face of Fate’s mother…shrieking…wailing…spitting ancestral curses.

The warrior’s face became the face of Fate’s son…sobbing into his own vomit as the Captain ravaged his body, spirit and soul.

And the Captain’s face…the Captain’s face became Fate’s own.  The face of Fate…Grand Professor of Pimponomics…raping his child.  Devouring the essence of his beautiful, Black son.

“Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

Fate became dizzy…nauseous.  The ship…the world…began to somersault…to twist…to spin.  Once again, the darkness overtook him and, again, he was dragged into the cold-hot pit.

“Nat Turna…plantation burna…machete swinga…death bringa”

The darkness faded again.  Fate found himself back in the circle amongst the swaying, chanting MCs of Cypher 16.  He convulsed violently as he sobbed.

He stared at the goblet in his right hand.  The Patron inside cast a cloudy reflection of his face, which was wet with salty tears.  Fate hurled the goblet to the ground.  The crystal shattered and the platinum base rolled out of the circle.  He then snatched the maroon fedora from his head and tossed it into the puddle of Patron and shattered crystal which swirled at his feet.  He stomped the FPG insignia on the fedora’s crown and crushed the hat under his ostrich-skin sandals.

The circle of MCs closed in around Fate and embraced him as he shook and cried and thanked the ancestors for his death and rebirth at the onyx-stone spirit-hands of…Cypher 16.


About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link and Rite of Passage: Initiation. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika and contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. At present, Balogun is directing and fight choreographing the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk –a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of three novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the science fiction gangster saga, Redeemer; and the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika. He is also co-creator of the soon-to-be-released role-playing game, Ki-Khanga™: The Sword & Soul RPG. Balogun is Master Instructor of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Technical Director of Martial Ministries of America, a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. He is also a traditional African priest, actor and conflict resolution specialist, who works and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, his seven daughters and his son.

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  1. […] bring your Steamfunk, Horror, Sword & Soul and other Speculative Fiction stories, poetry, rap, song or spoken word and rock […]

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