Busing in Boston was complicated. As complicated as the American race divide it sought to address. Boston was known as a racist town. A place for decades black athletes willfully avoided. Magic and I picked up on the subtle hints which once identified seemed obvious even egregious. After that the racism was everywhere often undetected or personally rationalized as something only a race baiting lunatic would twist. It all became known as a character we referred to as Boston Bob. Sports radio was our very first clue. The white baseball players of the Boston Red Sox always played the game, “the way it was intended.” And the black stars regardless of their triumphs in something as unambiguous as winning, losing, batting average and E.R.A. never grasped the “fundamentals.” It was comical.
1965 was the first year of my beloved METCO program in Madison the longest running desegregation program in the country changed my childhood. 1965 also brought future NBA star Ronald Lee along with Rollie to my father’s hometown thus consecrating, my everything. City stars and their coaches now came to Madison to see what the hype was about. “Niggers in Madison Hills, I seen it all” the racism in line with hurdles trailblazers most always leap. The year prior the US Senate finally passed the Civil Rights Act. In Massachusetts this gave life to passage of the Racial Imbalance Act. A decade later this led to forced busing inside the blue collared hub of the bean akin to a re-shuffling of the deck. To bring into balance Boston public school’s racial inequality a parentage of whites were bused to black neighborhoods and vice versa. This also exposed Boston’s thick color divide. Roxbury the Harlem of Boston, blacks bused into Whitey Bulger’s, “Southie” sparked violence and outrage. The civil rights marches of the 60’s shifted their attention in the 70’s to Boston.
The author of the legislation resided like many notables throughout the state’s history in Madison. He was grilled for the perception of introducing such a bill that had unsettled the entire town never himself having to deal with it. See it face first. In Madison, years before the forced city busing and integration of city public schools, Madison’s METCO had been in place. However the whites stayed were we were. It was a one way thing much different than the bi-racial busing that ignited the violence that had become a national story in the hub’s more depressed sections.
The reaction had been what you’d expect. Whitey Bulger had blown up the Brookline House in Brookline MA where John F Kennedy was born. The city became a war zone leaving deep scars molding the national perception of Boston us untenable for African American pro athletes. A sad commentary of the grounds of the 54th regiment, underground railroads and shot heard round the world. In 1988, the forced busing was suspended as legislators concluded the schools had been gainfully integrated. The city hadn’t changed and the same problems we’re dealing with again today nationwide persisted. There were small gains and in my world a couple of unintended side effects, one was Mike “Magic” Wholman and the other was Donnie Whalberg and The New Kids on the Block. One was my best friend, the other my local idol.
It was now the off season my first spring in high school and I still hadn’t been laid. This didn’t bode well for my rap career. To make matters worse the furthest I’d danced was with an exchange student one could argue I’d “pimped” which did bode well for my rap career. I showed off for attention that scared me once I got it. I just needed love and wanted Felecia. It’s what I dreamed about going back to my strong attachment to ABC’s, General Hospital a virtual launch pad for musical male pop acts. I called the 900 # cliff hung on Friday afternoons from our neighbors, Porsche and Mercedes when they weren’t home and denied it. I taped the episodes of VHS especially when Frisco disappeared only to come back and see Felecia marry Coltan who was being brain washed by the gangster Domino via a crooked ice cream man with wind chimes. I’d never been so emotionally engaged in anything to this day.
Felecia was an Aztec princess, blonde, blue eyed, racked, I thought if I could act like Frisco or Donnie I could get a Felecia. That and I knew it would probably require some prayer. Fuck I can’t sing. My first song, “Keeping it Together” in the seventh grade didn’t go so hot. My voice was cracking for my rap / candy teenage ballads chorus. I couldn’t hit notes after my voice changed. The lesson cost Dog, $150 from his father’s chimney stash. His nightly drinking had gotten so bad he never noticed.
Keepen it together
Any kind of weather
We will be together
Our love will last forever
Keepen it together
My father dubbed it, the laugh heard round the world. It was brutal however there were lessons in risk. Besides little boy bands were everywhere, why not me? This was another ethos of the Big Guy’s brand, “someone’s gotta be #1, might as well be us.” Over my first high school winter on Saturday’s after basketball, I dropped the R & B and went rap releasing a cocky single called, “Charlie P is back” which jacked the beat and style of Heavy D’s, ‘We Got Our Own Thang,’ I recorded it at Sugar Ray’s saving Dog the family theft and reminiscing on the grounds of his lost virginity of which I took a fee and provided a milkshake.
We dubbed and distributed twenty-five tapes. It made small enough rounds that Dog would begin coming up to me for the real reason a couple slackers might want to take a shot at musical pursuits. “Charlie, OK are you fucking ready for this?” I was. He was hyper. I made him hyper. He had issues. So did I, so did Monster, so did Herbie. Dog and I spent most nights in the 8th grade on the phone discussing our popularity. Our psychosis had finally paid off. Dog was tall, Irish, big hands he was surprisingly quite a basketball player. A key contributor our deep bench our freshman year. Dog whose first cousin was a former Madison basketball captain had an innate sense and soft touch you didn’t expect from such a lunatic. He only lasted half the season. He was simply not coachable. Dog rarely served detentions leading our grade in the stay away game of suspensions toeing a fine line of permanent expulsion from paradise.
“OK, are you fucking ready?” He loved to do this.
“Fucken tell me retard”
“OK, OK, OK, Jesus, this is insane, OK Debbie Carmichael ”
Racing through words and convulsions he would repeat the girls name slow, methodically. I replied “OK.”
“Dude, she loves Charlie P is back, she said.” And he’d begin cracking up, “She said you’re the best looking guy in the grade dude!” And he’d scream, jump up in the corner as if it was truly the dumbest thing in the world he’d ever heard. My one client at Sugar Ray’s had been laid years ago.
I’d turned lobster red knowing I’d have to muster something otherwise he’d never shut up, “I mean can you believe that, I mean you’re a good looking guy but you have big ears, braces. You spent most of your junior high career in a resource room with retards. You’re a fucking nut bag. You’re on medication. How do these girls not know this?”
“OK!” He would never stop if I hadn’t hit the “OK” my old resource room buddy from the Warner Zone. A ¼ of the trouble I got into in Junior High was simply to make him laugh.
“She wants us to go over her house after school with Coleen and Amy, she wants to have sex with you.”
“What?” I was floored.
“She said you ready for this? She said and I quote, you have to break it in at some point. Why not this afternoon?”
“What?” I was scared. “We could market you dude to a whole new audience. You’re insane Charlie. You are a sick, sick maniac. They’ve never seen anything like you dude!”
When you’re in resource rooms together before high school most of your secrets are somehow unearthed from simply snooping files of your fellow inmates often medicated, alone and bored. Anyway now that I had become solely a rapper I was happier. But just like my gang before one thing loomed over everything, I need a handle. The verses rapped well Dog applauded the new stuff but I was stuck with Chucky P.
“I think its fine dude.”
“Stop yo Dog would you please, for once! OK, now leave me alone, I gotta get this.”
Rap made wealthy suburban white folk just a little bit nervous. And hence more accepting of the property taxes they’d annually endure and complain less about. Young black teenagers running around with guns in big gold chains screaming, “Fuck the Police” on a light day fueled white fright. It forever cracked me up and kept me coming back for more. Racial profiling was in full swing in Madison this even included white kid’s that thought they were black. They had the Hubble telescope on me. Rap was stereotyped with such a knee jerk institutionalized reaction rooted in fear it was hard as a kid not to become obsessive about being intensely apart of it. It was a movement that swept me off my feet at ground level and unlocked another crucial, positive second outlet.
My hero in rap already was TuPac Shakur. Herby and I skipped class, ran to the mall on the MadPress to Sam Goody the day that Tupacolypse Now hit store shelves. It was that purple tape that spoke to me differently than any MC had to date. Dan Quayle had already thrust Mr. Shakur into the national debate with the age-old accusation his music forced some kid to kill some cop. I’d often bring Lamont to steal tapes in one quick minute revealing everything that was wrong with this country. Lamont “Spec” would simply walk in I’d laugh tucking in my shirt as all eyes and security followed him around making my “lift” quick, painless and above all, free.
Tues: Jesus you put a black man in a white kids’s body.
Wed: Kase Coolan was a C house regular card playing detention brother I went to John Adams Junior High with. A couple years older we went back. Kas was from the same neighborhood in Dorchester as Lamont. He always had something up his sleeve. More con than correctional he was already hustling corporations, tech savvy he also carried the very best connection a sixteen-year old black Boston kid could have at that time. Last year his older brother, one quiet day while selling shoes downtown earned a life altering gig on the spot. The agent was a female. And her name was Mary. The gig was DJ for an emerging rapper named Markey Mark. They were from the white / black sections of Dorchester which was Boston’s Brooklyn. No one had ever heard of this guy named Mark Walhberg but we loved the New Kids especially Donnie. I’d prayed to Jesus for him to manage me. And the musical scene of Boston, my tastes, adoration, skills and soul all tied up neatly into this very moment in time.
“Candy Girl” I rifled fast response to the common uncomfortable question posed to teens in crowds. The very first time I heard it in second grade at the roller rink, it captured my soul, Roxbury’s own New Edition. And part of forced busing was taking young Donnie from working class, racist ass Dorchester into Boston’s Harlem, Roxbury from Jimmy Page to George Clinton every day for school. And like Lamont Slaughter for me, the moves, style and inner city flowed from his lips into my hips. I’d imagine Donnie had experienced something similar.
We’d listened to Mark’s demo for a full year before anything hit. They were catching momentum locally. Kas and I went to Whalom Park (have a Whale of a time!) and caught what I was told was his first live appearance. In fact not one song out of the fifteen on the demo we had appeared on the Music on the People released just six months later. He knew I rapped always into something approached me that afternoon as we had conjured more than a couple cons together.
“Paradise look I know you got ADD an all but listen. The New Kids on the Block son?” Says this sarcastically like everything is of unspoken understanding. “Yo there’s already three separate bidders for the rights to Mark’s first album. They ain’t never even released nothen yet son, feel me?” Kas spoke years ahead of dope language that got fire ingraining itself into mainstream America of ahead of the curve cats. He was something else. And according to Mr. Robinson’s MAC was in the #4 spot edging one spot higher than me on the most detentions in 90-91 so far in the high school.
“Word? That’s me, gotta hear my new shit”
“Dam Dice, you a crazy little fuck. I’ll squeeze ya! Who copped you yo first Walkman?”
“You, you’re the man Kase – I’ll battle the rap too, one on one anywhere take me there, tellen you, ask Black an them. Yo I know that I got the dope lyrics I’ve just been searching for the non Casio SK-1 beats.” (Hit it Roofus)
“OK, Charlie, look I know you got that ADD an all but listen. You know how big the New Kids on the Block are son?”
“Yo that’s what I’m sayen, it doesn’t matter. There are already three separate bidders for the rights to Mark’s first album. They’ve never even released nothen. I got Donnie’s beeper and car phone number right here, see this?”
“Dam.” Is all one hundred and twenty five pounds of me could muster. Donnie Wahlberg, I just couldn’t believe it, the bad boy and first member of the New Kids, the blonde one. He’d been writing an album for his younger brother I’d just learn of. And Kas wasn’t no liar. I knew it to be true. I knew it didn’t matter if this Mark was talented or not, his older brother was a Beatle for Christ sakes.
“True, yo C rap something now hurry up though I gotta a bitch?”
“Hell 2 the yeah - check it, 1 sec, 1sec, ok, yo - a 2-$mooth an adolescent so let me begin a smooth righteous style that will make you grin. Fully equipped while exercising the mind 2-Smooth is a drug that you can prescribe, keep relaxing with the man of the hour, I don’t learn lessons but I learned to fight the power maken an impact with my smooth young mob and now steps forth a boy to do a man’s job.”
“Oh shit nigga, so what you callen yourself?
“2-smooth, with a dollar sign you know.”
“Yes!” Kas proclaimed. I jumped into his arms. “OK, just relax, everyone calm down, stop by tomorrow and we’ll put summen down.” I hated the Boston accent in the blue-collar white world but cherished it out of Michael Bivins and black Boston besides in Madison Hills no local kids spoke with a true Boston accent. It wasn’t until years later with the release of Good Will Hunting we saw it occur everywhere. It was an identity of cool now that the Oscar spotlighted an area none of them had ever traveled too (Southie guy).
Kase, “I’ve reserved the music Mac lab for an hour, this computer shit in here is crazy. I can’t believe nobody uses the shit. I ca lay fortah eight tracks digitally son.”
The next afternoon we walked our path to the school’s studio following our detention. We clap hands upon my entrance, hugged, show time, Kase asks, “you ready I’m a cue this joh?” “Yeah yo, yeah. I’m good to go, yo.” It was a verse I’d been working on my last two classes making it personal.
“Drop that shit yo.” Kase aka MC Porno throws a disk in and I begin to speak after I let the beat loop itself a few times.
‘Trapped in isolation, scalen walls that I created far away from a society that I manipulated, lies in seclusion to you it’s an illusion to me it’s a young mind full of confusion. Can’t gaze upon that cat cause I’ll start to cry. I drink myself dizzy tryen to figure out why? Why this boy, yo he did the things he did. And why is he labeled a lost cause when this kid is just a boy. Had a good mom, a good box on his shoulders had an imagination that could’ve moved boulders now all of this thinken got me drinken a 40 ounce of brew only if I knew what I know now back then”
And just like that the Don King smile out of Hasan thinking we might have something. “The GREAT WHITE HYPE!” He shouted. The truth was that my lyrics jumped off since I went solo. I had finally conceded the obvious fact that I couldn’t sing, like Willard in Footloose couldn’t dance, at all. I loved the name, the gang, the flow, it was all coming fast, I leaked the Kase / DJ T, Markey Mark thing via Dog to everyone and soon I received my first solo gigs which was a great reason to rock a bandana. I was back on with Jesus. My titled track and name of the album was going to be, @-$mooth an adolescent. I’d battle anyone that wanted to rap, the bigger the audience the better, the blacker the rapper the better as no white kids ever stepped to me. “Oh shot what else, you got, need a front and back son, I’m slide 48 to this!”
“Well, it’s just a chorus.” I unfolded the crumpled yellow paper in my shorts pockets underneath my jeans from yesterday’s detention, “Let’s sing to you a crystal song of fucked kids that got along put up inside their screwed up heads dam this couch feels great on meds, you fuck me up!”
“My dude!” I hit a one off worm into a tight backspin to celebrate our opportunity. It was all happening. I loved rap.