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Suspension of disbelief is essential, and required.
There are 5 images on the screen in front of you, each with its own unique sound from a specific album. Mouse over each one to hear something different and get a feel for it, vibe for a minute or two, or as you choose. When you are ready to proceed simply write 2 lines of free verse that you feel captures the style or tone of the music you’ve just heard.
If you don’t feel like putting in the effort, you may simply cut and paste any of these snippets into the text box below and submit it to continue.
“That’s why I can’t be caught up in all the hype
I keep my soul tight and let these lines take flight.”
“So like I was CEO I do my thing son
and turn this underground rap thing to my kingdom.”
“The beat is sinister, Primo makes you relax
I’m like the minister, when I be lacin’ the wax.”
The Early Years
“Can a record tell a story? Do vinyl grooves have their own memories separate from their purpose? These are questions that may be asked by the records themselves, slumbering in their cardboard sheaths late at night, neglected in musty crates in the back of extinct record stores. Do records talk to each other? What language do they speak? Do they pose and posture like the artists on their jacket covers, or do they swagger from their souls?”
-the record formerly known as Purple Rain
In the year of our Lord 1981 Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five laid bare their souls on my wax, leaving crisp vibrations in my grooves that would later be known as the Wheels of Steel. An evocative nickname to be sure, but I was never quite comfortable with the moniker. The wheel implies movement, forward movement to be specific, and while I do indeed spin like a disco ball I never seem to go anywhere. That expression will doubtless date me but I have no qualms about my relative age. I am timeless and invincible...except when you break me over a knee, at which point I become infinitely fragmented and sad.
The South Bronx has always been my heart and soul, ever since I was a speck of dust waiting to materialize into the form you see me in today. The streets used to be so alive, so full of vigor and excitement, so beautiful. Now their just gutters where I fear I will inevitably find my final resting place.
Make no mistake, I have a soul. Toss aside the fact that I am the embodiment of dreams and soundscapes and you will find that the atoms present in your body are the same that make up mine. They may have a little more flavor than yours, but I won’t judge.
The streets as an idea has been corrupted for many years by fake gangsters and phony lyricists, as if they had no shame, and is almost unrecognizable to me. Newer records tell me I am old and out of style, that I no longer feel the rhythm of the world, the rhyme lost to me. To these young punks I simply ask them to listen to my stories, to hear me spin and they will understand their heritage. No one ever takes me up on that offer.
Clearly I am old and used up now, sitting by a fireplace that doesn’t exist in a chair that isn’t real and reminiscing for the children. Back in my day there was respect. There was hope. There were dreams. When I sit on the shelf packed in among all the other discarded relics of martyrs past and listen to the young records spin their stories I don’t hear anything. All I hear is the emptiness of a dying culture. When I finally get my chance to spin one last time you will hear my yell, kick and fight for my soul. The question is whether or not there will anyone to listen to my voice.
A records soul is forever alight, sounds and feelings shooting this way and that faster than the human eye can perceive, a nest of vinyl neurons connected by only the slightest of microfibers. In truth the shape of the record itself is just as significant as its inner recordings, just as human appearance often has dual factors.
I have never stopped to wonder what I my physical shape really looks like, whether I look better with my sleeve on or off, whether dust makes me look old or distinguished. These petty trivialities make no nevermind to the shape of my heart nor the strength of my mind. In a world of materialities there is no place for my thoughts as they have no physical reality. They exist only to the extent that I exist. When I cease to exist so will everything I have ever conceived in my years of spinning, always spinning.
“Unless...” I muse to myself. “Unless my thoughts have lodged themselves in a listener’s ears, made their way to his or her mind and sparked something, anything. If that were to happen there would be continuing evidence of my existence long after I have faded away, even if only minimally.”
Of all the reasons why we are alive this is the most important. The truth in the words of my maker that are stamped into my skin must live on in someone, somewhere. If this is not the case then what was it all for? The struggle becomes meaningless, the fight silly. I refuse to believe this will come to pass. These works that I have been entrusted with are too beautiful, too painfully luminous to be cast aside and forgotten. There will be a new day for them, if not for me, and the cycle will continue. Of this I am hopeful and hold out hope.
But hope has a funny way of betraying the innermost yearnings of man and beast alike, and why should this not hold true for my inanimate self? I must be ready for a future that may in all likelihood have no place for the teachings of my maker. Good does not always overcome as fairytales would have the human mind believe, a simple trick to lead the hopes and dreams of children to water in their formative years. And despite the evidence, I still have faith. What an odd little human contrivance, and yet I notice that it exists inside me. I wonder, how much of my maker did he inscribe onto me...
New-School Soul Classic
I was there at the turn of the century, distilling myself to an atomic essence in the head of my maker. To many I may have seemed like a righteous angel, forcing back the darkness and despair, fighting against the hordes of YMCMB artists and fans, all for the glory of hip hop.
In truth I may have also been seen as the last gasping breath of a dying breed, one that has very little place in the new world being born. I’m never quite sure which I see myself as; it hardly matters at all anymore, perception means nothing without context and a fresh pair of dunks.
Weather patterns seem important to the human mind but of these I am blissfully unaware. In a fair and just world the weather on the tenth of February, 2006 would have been dark, dreary and too bleak for words. My makers heart was fragile, his body seemed through with small structural cracks and unseen weaknesses. I can’t speak for the rest of my brothers, but I felt it when it happened. He died and the part of him inscribed into me cried out.
The years since his passing have been empty. So much potential for evolution and growth wasting away in front of me while I sit idly by and have no choice but to watch in horror as the world continues to turn. I hear many of my owners complain about God, how he can in his infinite wisdom stand aside while uncounted atrocities take place and do nothing. Religion is a thing of the flesh, of the mind, and as I have neither is of no real consequence, but to God I say that he is selfish for taking my maker away just so he could have him by his side.
There are few of me left now, rotting in cardboard sleeves on dusty shelves or entombed in glass cases and hung like prized deer heads. The few of us that still get to spin are lovingly cared for, the rest orphans not lucky enough to have been adopted by rich parents.
There is an emptiness in my soul that cannot be filled, and in bitter moments I find myself wishing it never will be. In a dismal way it defines me and lends itself to my vinyl parts, adding character and loss where before there was once only plastic and glue.
“Yes Yes Ya’ll, and Ya Don’t Stop”...but we do inevitably stop, we have no choice. Electricity runs out, energy fades, and sounds lose their echo in time. Those of us lucky enough to get our swan song are limited in number and hold our prize close to our hearts, rarely letting the light of day shine through.
When the last turntable breaks in the basement of a lone disciple we will truly die. We will continue to exist, but our existence will have no purpose. We will no longer be able to express ourselves or fulfill our meaning. We will be the guardians of a lost ideal, silent and alone until our atoms become dust and our grooves fade away.
It will be as if we never existed at all.
If you would like to revisit any of the music portions of the story they are all only a few clicks away. Below is the track list for each level of the story for your reference. Enjoy.
Level 1: The Early Years
GF&F5 The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel
Level 2: The Intellectual
Artist Album Tracks
Gangstarr Moment of Truth Work
You Know My Steez
Moment of Truth
What I’m Here 4
Level 3: New-School Soul Classic
Artist Album Tracks
J Dilla Donuts Donuts (intro)
One For Ghost
Dilla Says Go
Last Donut of the Night