By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
I grew up listening to Hip Hop. RUN DMC, The Fat Boys, and Big Daddy Kane were always pumping in my room. I discovered my favorite rapper in the 1990s: Biggie Smalls. His lyrics were the best ever and I could relate to him. He was of colour, fat, a former crack dealer, and he had no dad.
I would sing one of Biggies lyrics over and over:
“Pop duke left mom duke the faggot took the back way!”
I was 19 and didn’t question homophobia. I now know that sexuality has nothing to do with being a deadbeat dad.
After being kicked out of every high school I attended I ended up at an alternative school made up mainly of privileged white kids. A few of us were of colour: me, 2 Native guys who I hung with, and a couple of Black guys.
All the white kids dressed way different! They sported ultra baggy jeans and tops with labels new to me: Pornstar, Etnies, Globe, DC and others.
They were ravers and they got high for days on end, usually Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and they got high before, during, and after school. I’d never heard of after parties and after after parties until I met them.
Loud bass flowed from their earphones to the hallways and classrooms. It was a bassline I liked.
During the middle of a morning class while going to the washroom I approached a skinny white kid in the hallway. He wore a baseball cap, sported braces and acne, and looked like he was coming down from a high, always.
As he walked in the opposite direction I moved in front of him. We were the only two guys in the hallway, his face showed fear. Back then I shaved my head once a week and wore baggy jeans and t-shirts and runners. Apparently all the white kids were scared of me before they knew me. This white kid was one of them.
He took his earphones off when I motioned him to. I was two inches away from him, face to face, and if I was wearing a Whisper 2000 I would have been able to hear his heart pound fast. With him standing frozen in front of me I asked him a question:
“What are you listening to?” I said.
“Jungle,” he said.
“Can I listen?” I said.
He reluctantly moved his earphones toward me. I put them on and I swear he shit his pants; his eyes showed his fear that he would not get them back.
The bass traveled from his walkman through the earphones to my head and I loved it.
“If I give you a black tape will you make me a copy?” I said as I gave him back his earphones.
“Sure!” he said with a sigh of relief.
The next day I brought him a tape. The day after that he brought it back: Freaky Flow #4. I couldn’t wait to get home and listen to it. I wasn’t disappointed when I did.
Joel was the white guy’s name. He was a raver and junkie from Calgary who sold “E” and crystal-meth at raves for different dealers. And he became my music guy at the only school who would accept me as a student in Toronto.
I started going to parties (raves) on the weekend and enjoying the music. The rooms were filled with rich and middle class white kids taking out their anger on the dancefloor and escaped reality in washroom stalls where they snorted their drug of choice.
Jungle was the music I preferred and I would listen to it at home via the tapes Joel would record for me every week. Freaky Flow became my favorite local DJ; I would listen to him at home on my stereo or on my walkman on my walk to school.
Biggie was my main inspiration but Freaky Flow, in particular Freaky Flow #4 was a tape I loved writing to. Poems in my head would form as I lay on my bed while listening to him. I would put pen to pad while the bass shook my walls. Verses about girls I had feelings for, past and present, would fill pages.
Thank Creator I can’t find them anymore poems.
But I wrote.
Not well, but I wrote.
And it was bass and beats put together by Freaky Flow, and given to me by Joel, that provided the background and backdrop to my commencement as a poet.
“Freaky, freaky, freaky, freaky flow!” is something my neighbours must have heard thousands of times.
I did more writing in my head than on paper but it was Jungle beats that took me there. I could lay on my bed for a whole side of a tape with no interruption; regular music tapes start and stop; the tapes by Jungle DJs flowed, no pun intended. And Freaky Flow flowed the best.
Joels gave me #’s one, four, and seven. At least that’s what I still have. I don’t know how many tapes Freaky Flow put together. DJs were trying to get into the CD world too. But the tapes were my thing. I didn’t even have a CD a player.
Stacks of Jungle tapes formed on my dresser. I still have them. I still listen to them.
It’s Freaky Flow #4 that will stay with me forever. It was part of the start to me being a poet. Native poet Chyrstos is the base of my poetry life. Maybe I should read Not Vanishing by Chrystos while listening to Freaky Flow?
I never met Freaky Flow. He’s probably an investment banker now, or something similar, like most of those privileged white raver kids who dealt and used and never did jail time unlike dealers and users of colour.
Last I heard of Joel he was on the down, still using and not able to handle the death of the rave scene and talking of yesteryear. I still have the tapes Joel recorded for me; I still remember the fear in his eyes when we first talked; I’m still very appreciative of him introducing me to Jungle and taping music for me.
More importantly, I still write to a freaky, freaky, freaky, flow!