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            “This album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin'”

                        - The Notorious B.I.G.

This is the song that everybody knows. When we read Shakespeare, the happy dagger rusted out of its sheath, we must memorize a monologue: If you don't know, I have everything to gain. I'm cutting class for the corner where the history of hustle is being made, where there are dreams guttered out of a palmful of foil—the pages crinkled alive. I can count money in one hand & my friends in the other, & I can read the faces of people with heaters strapped to their waists—people who trade multiple choice for metal. I'll admit it: Shakespeare had a metronome on his tongue & did build his own globe, & here I am speaking to ghosts, to people piled high on the other side of a microphone. I'll speak a soliloquy for three to five minutes & if I'm alive long enough, spit out a whole play that fills a set of speakers with a sequence of speeches too good not to know by heart.




            "I made it out
            I'm bringin' mad joy
            The doctor looked & said
            'He's gonna be a bad boy'"

                        - The Notorious B.I.G.

Check yourself at the schoolhouse door, a line of hooks where the others hang spread against the wall. Here, a muffler on the mouth is made in place of the knowledge of good & bad. The streets run gray with old blood. Babies are  born choking. Bill Withers sang Harlem out in the smoke—summer night chorded over the boroughs, used up in the palm. Grown up, babies find the foil colored dark at the spot, yellow awning elbowed out over the yellow sidewalk. In this way respect is earned: in blocks, out of the crease of blood detained still in blackness. Beats break over a bass line like birth: the everyday ability to build a kingdom on the corner—fist full of lyrics brushed out in color over the concrete where our boots soot the street clean.


image: Aaron Burch