How did that even happen? It was the summer of ’97. There was no mapquest. I didn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t even have a dorm room phone, so how did that even happen?
I was finishing a summer program at Xavier (baby) in the N. O. and Malcolm was coming to pick me up. It was my birthday.
I’d just been made privy to the wonderful New Orleanian tradition of pinning a dollar on my shirt, and my broke but awesome college friends and strangers added to the collection plate that was my chest, shirt, and a safety pin.
But I still don’t know how it happened. How, without google maps and a cell phone, did my brother arrive at St. Mike’s dormitory between 4:00-4:30 pm? How did I know to be outside in the hot sun? (Man, new Orleans was the only place that topped Phenix City/Columbus in the brutal combination of hot and humid.) Maybe I used a calling card… he must have left at the right time…
But there he was. Rolling in his Saturn–he had driven from the ATL to the N.O. Malcolm had come to pick his little brother up and help him put some stuff in storage and drive back to Huntsville. Did you get that? This cat had already driven from Atlanta and was about to put 6.5 more hours into the drive.
Bruh. Sis. That’s my brother.
We got on the road and was ghost, and as we were prone to do, we listened to music–we listened to hip-hop. Dungeon Family. ATLiens and of course, Goodie Mob’s “Soul Food.” Now if you read this blog a year ago then you know about this. This album is what got me into freestyling. And here we were, nearly two years later, in the 6th Planet, listening to it.
My brother was a Jedi master.
“Joe, you know the whole album?”
(Translation = do you think you can rap this whole album and not get tripped up = these aren’t the droids you’re looking for…)
Me: “Psssssh, yeah…”
(Translation = c’mon bruh, don’t challenge me = these aren’t the droids I’m looking for…)
And somewhere, between Hattiesburg, MS and Tuscaloosa, AL, it happened. We rapped Soul Food from Free to The Day After. He would rap a verse then I would rap a verse. We passed the metaphysical mic back and forth…
“Sometimes I don’t even know how I’m gone eat…”
“…like elevators but I ain’t the one that’s pushing the buttons…”
“…it’s when you lick off all the yellow and you sell the white…”
“See Sega ain’t in this new world order…”
“Nothing hard about it, my little partner was just scared…”
“Ain’t no mo’ you; ain’t no mo’ me…”
Goodie Bag and Soul Food
“I’m ready to go up in the White House with my axe…”
“On this this concrete is where I make my money at…”
“I pray for you, but I won’t follow you to your end…”
For about 50 minutes, my brother and I exchanged dialogue through rhymes.
I’ll never in my life forget that. That I was introduced to freestyling because of my brother, and then, somehow, we found ourselves reciting the album that put me on that journey.
It was just a car ride, wasn’t it? Just something mundane, right? But my Lord, it was so extraordinary.
I was chilling with my brother on the road and we had tapped into a ritual. We may have only caught a glimpse of it then… but it was powerful.
That was almost 20 years ago.
That was Soul Food.
That stretched and strengthened the shared Soul-bond we had.
I played with Transformers and Voltron with this cat. We jumped out of windows at A&M together. I played outside with this cat… We played catch together. We rode bikes together. We set some trees on fire and got tore up by Ma together–though he sold me out. We played Tecmo Bowl and Contra together. We battled on Street Fighter 2 together–his old incessant fireball throwing @$$. In every era, in every genre, at every age, we went back and forth–and stitched a fabric called brotherhood.
I’m older now. My brother and I have families of our own. Things have changed. But that fabric remains. It has to remain. Just like Uncanny X-Men #275 remains and connects me to my oldest brother. Just like sipping Green Tea Lemonade places me in the company of my sister’s distinctive smirk…
But what I stitched together with Malcolm is the reason why my family called us “Malc’n’Joe.” It’s the reason why my iPhone just completed the phrase. Even my iPhone knows… that’s my brother. And when I see my daughters, the Blossom Sisters, all I see is Malc’n’Joe 2.0.
We got to Huntsville at 11pm. Ma was sleep–of course. We had eaten at a Sonic in Tuscaloosa. We had talked, rapped, freestyled, and rode in silence. It was the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.
How’d it happen that he picked me up at that time, though he was a little late, but there was no mapquest or cell phone?
He followed the threads and I felt their vibrations.
How did he drive for 14 hours straight?
That’s easy. We’re the children of a dad who… well, that’s a story for another day.
Happy birthday, Malcolm.
Faith, Hope, and Love
©2017 M. J. Sales