Legends of the Fall

A conversation in Purgatory

The rapper taps ash on the floor. A moment later it vanishes.

"Shit got real hectic once all that East Coast-West Coast bullshit got hyped by Vibe magazine and the rest of them. I felt death doggin' me every day. But ... I was down with it."

"You wanted to die?" asks the president's son.

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Blog Image IMG_0780.JPG
Dale Stephanos

"I wanted to be a symbol."

"You mean a martyr."

"I s'pose. Just like your daddy."

The president's son walks back to the couch, sits down, points. "I was just a small child when it happened, but I know that my father never wanted to die. And if he had lived, or his brother after him, gangster rap never would have come to exist. You'd still be alive."

The rapper shrugs, says, "Could be," then takes a deep hit. When he exhales, the blue smoke forms a halo over his head.

"You know, it could be this chronic here," he says, holding the blunt before him, "but I think I just solved it."

"What?"

"The riddle, motherfucka, the riddle: why you got brought here, with me."

The president's son cocks his head, says, "I'm listening."

"Okay. Let me break it down for yo ass: You're rich and white. I'm black and from the streets. Your daddy was president, I never knew mine, and moms was a Black Panther."

"So we're opposites."

"In the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of God, we represent the same shit: wasted potential. Much wasted, because we both went and got ourselves killed, before we was even gettin' started."

The rapper tamps out and pockets the blunt.

"Now, you were there after I was gone. Most white people, they just thought I got what I deserved, right? Live by the gun, die by the gun."

The president's son nodded. "Mostly."

"Course they did. But I know a lot of black people saw it different. They saw me as ghetto hero, cut down in his prime. A voice silenced, far too quick. Same as you, right? Now you gone, everybody's talkin' about how you coulda been this, coulda done that."

"Probably."

"No, most definitely, little prince. A lot of 'em wanted you to be king someday. They believe in your blood."

"There's something else we have in common," says the president's son.

"Yeah?"

"You spoke of those two selves, fighting within you?"

"Yeah."

"I can relate."

"I bet."

"One of me just wanted to live as normal a life as I could -- run a magazine, travel, roller-blade. Enjoy my wealth, love my wife, live long and prosper. The other ... I guess it believed in my blood, too.

"Because of who I am, there were always people, powerful people, wanting me to run. They said with the right backing, I could have any office I desired."

"You got to be president, you coulda unsealed all the records, find out who really blasted your pops."

"Don't go there."

"Aight then. Yo, what year was it when you ... left?"

"1999."

"Bill Clinton still the man?"

"Barely. He nearly got fired. Sex scandal."

"Fucked the wrong ho?"

"Pretty much."

"Yo, I remember the day that cracker got inaugurated. Paper ran a color photo of him kneelin' at your daddy's grave, like he was prayin' or some shit. And I thought, 'That motherfucka is frontin' like he's somethin' he ain't.'"

"Yeah. My father."

The rapper laughs. "Billy couldn't handle his bitches, huh? Your pops didn't have any problems there. Homies in your family always got the fine bitches. Marilyn Monroe, Daryl Hannah and shit."

"Hey -- don't go there, either."

"Aight, aight. I'm just fuckin' with you. So, who gonna be the next president?"

"Well, the front-runner was George Bush."

"Oh, no. Oh, no. Step the fuck back. Man, in 1991 I was rappin', "Fuck the CIA, fuck the FBI, fuck the B-U-S-H.' Man, that motherfucka's like Jason in Friday the 13th."

"Not that George Bush. His son."

"His son? Well, see, there you go: the power in a name, in the blood. Those Gs who wanted to get your back, they came correct."

The rapper picks up his pen, starts writing, asks, "So what was it gonna be? Politics or life?"

The president's son gets up and begins to pace the room -- 10 steps, right angle turn, repeat.

"As I grew up, and learned, I began to sense the legacy of my father, to believe his leadership was the high-water mark for America. Johnson tried to hold the line on civil rights, but after he quit, the country's soul receded, back into the pit of ignorance and injustice. The forces that created you came to power. My uncle picked up the torch, but ..."

"He got capped, too."

"Right. And that blood leaking out of his head onto the floor ... that blood was our country's hope."

The rapper follows the president's son with his eyes.

"Was that hope in your head, too? Did you believe in your blood?"

The president's son stops again to stare into the mist.

"I was biding my time, making sure of my heart. But yes, I felt the destiny. Eventually, I would have gotten in the game."

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