DERRICK (excerpt II): Show & Prove
Derrick, Wolf, and Dub are invited to 97.7 FM to be guests on the Jermaine Arnold Morning Show. Despite a lackluster showing, the right place meets the right time, creating an opportunity to make an ally out of an industry heavyweight.
Derrick stood at a floor-to-ceiling window and looked out at the traffic moving on the highway down below. It was a gray and dreary Friday morning in Prince Georges County, Md, and the six-footer was happy to be indoors and off the road. Wolf had damn near run them into a guardrail texting and driving about thirty-five minutes earlier, unintentionally doing his best to try and fuck up the start to the weekend.
Music pumped through the speakers of the waiting room, where Derrick, Wolf, and Dub were waiting for the man of the moment to make his debut on-air at one of the two biggest urban radio stations in the area, 97.7 FM.
Twenty minutes and counting.
“D, allow me to introduce you to the one and only Lyric Thomas.”
The woman’s smiling eyes and laughing grin embraced him, as soon as he turned around.
“Mr. Carter! It’s a pleasure to meet you king. I’m a hugger, hope you don’t mind.”
Lyric was the life and energy of the Jermaine Arnold Morning Show. She moved in and wrapped her arms around Derrick’s waist, shamelessly inhaling his scent and mmm mmm mmm’ing as she released him.
Derrick couldn’t do anything but laugh at the exchange. Mildly taken aback by the energy he had heard on-air for years, proving to be real and genuine in-person.
“Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Thomas.”
“Ms. Thomas is my momma, easy now,” she giggled, swatting his arm. “How old are you Mr. Carter?” She rocked back on her heels with her hands on her hips, eyes narrowed.
“Twenty. I’ll be twenty-one in November.”
“TWENTY? All that voice is coming out of a barely leg--...I mean okay.”
“Yeah this is the baby-faced assassin right here,” Wolf added.
Derrick cut his eyes at his producer thinking to himself, ain’t nobody ever called me no corny shit like that.
Dub was on the other side of the room, playing a football game on his phone, while Wolf flirted with Lyric. A few moments passed before an intern ushered the three men into the hallway outside of the studio that Lyric headed into five minutes before the show started.
DJ Twin Peaks bellowed in his signature raspy voice, “ladies and gentlemen you are now tuned into the orange juice for your earholes!”
“The chicken minis for your soul,” Jermaine Arnold, the show’s namesake, drew out.
“And the black coffee that makes everything better,” said Lyric in an oversexualized tone she used to voice one of her characters for the show’s skits.
When she uttered the line she snuck a peek at Derrick through the thick glass windowpane before falling into the script for the beginning of today’s show.
The man of the hour returned her gaze with the slightest head nod and winked back at her. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he listened to the show enough times to know their opening. He was focused and in-tune with the gravitas of the moment, but her energy was speaking to him. She had lit his fuse and he allowed whatever derived from it to happen.
After the first fifteen minutes, the on-air sign above the door went dark and Jermaine waved them in. Introductions were made among the six people around the broadcast table while music played in the background. Dub sat beside Lyric, with Wolf to his right. Derrick sat between Wolf and Jermaine, but he was locked into the computer screen that Twin Peaks had turned in his direction.
The minute intros were made Jermaine excused himself from the room to take a call. It wasn’t lost on anyone that the nationally respected radio vet wasn’t all that interested in the interview. In his view, Derrick didn’t have a widely circulated project or tape and he had the audacity to be a mere twenty years old. He had seen stars of all ages, but could not fully grasp why this kid was on his show this morning. Twin Peaks and Lyric pushed for the interview with their both being far more tuned in to music at every level. Dub’s family ties ultimately cemented the slot, however.
“Hey D, talk to me, my guy. Wassup with you and Drone?”
Dub looked up at the question coming from the DJ. He was curious to see if an answer of any substance would be shared, even though he knew Derrick wasn't the oversharing type. His upbringing ground that out of him early.
“I can’t call it. I do know buddy is on his own with whatever issue he thinks might be there. I can’t give no clout I ain’t got, ya’feel?” Derrick replied coolly.
“I can respect it. So you're telling me you don’t have a diss track in the hopper ready to go? I know we just met, but I might feel some kind of way if I can’t get an exclusive.”
Peaks was a Philly native that grew up on the battle rap scene in his hometown. Upon his moving to the DC area three years ago he became a staple at every open mic and connected with all of the indie labels and crews of note. He was easily one of the most indie-friendly hip-hop DJ's to come through the city since Peter Parker left for Minneapolis.
In short, DJ Twin Peaks was a guy to know in the area.
“How bout this, you give me your direct contact and let me see what instrumentals you have on your computer and we might be able to figure something else out.”
The two men exchanged a silent glance that existed in the air for a beat.
The DJ who had taken his headphones off shook his head up and down slowly, a grin starting to spread across his lips.
“Hey young boul tough,” he said to no one in particular, picking up on the emcee's intent.
The pair exchanged phones and the monitor was turned around. When the wireless mouse was passed over Derrick scrolled the screen from top to bottom, scanning and mentally storing away what he saw When Jermaine walked back in, the young man passed the mouse back and the interview commenced after the show came back from break.
The interview itself came across as fairly underwhelming from Derrick’s standpoint. Did he have the hottest name in the city right now? Yes. Did he have a project out or on the way currently? No. Was a buzz growing at a number of majors that were showing interest? Yes. Was he anywhere close to taking actual meetings and signing on the dotted line? No. Now Wolf on the other hand was a different story.
The young beatmaker had put out his second beat tape in as many months and the go-go remix he created from a big pop record garnered interest from the original artist. In fact, Wolf who had a more affable personality was a talker by nature. His energy plus being Derrick’s boy allowed him to float the interview in a convincing enough way that kept it from being ended early. The host who was clearly ready to move on to something else, namely their regular show, turned his attention to the young MC suddenly.
“So what’s next for you young fella?”
“I’m not sure to be honest, Mr. Arnold. But I had an epiphany before we walked into the studio earlier.”
Wolf and Dub both looked at their partner curiously after having been around him all morning and hearing him say next to nothing. Peaks, Lyric, and Jermaine all stared at him intently for completely different reasons.
“Well don’t leave us twisting in the wind. The city is listening. What’s on your mind?”
Jermaine’s body language changed slightly after asking this. While it was true he didn’t know this kid, he did trust the ear of his co-hosts. Deep down he wanted to believe he had the goods, but he had been in the business too long to assume anything about anyone.
“I can show you better than I can tell you,” he said in Jermaine’s direction.
Derrick turned his attention to Peaks and asked, “you mind sharing your mix block coming at the bottom of the hour?”
An obvious excitement washed over the man’s features. Peaks being made a co-host of the top running morning show for the past five years, in this market, was a huge deal. But at his core, he was a hip-hop head. He lived for true lyricism, old school turntabling, and the essence of the genre.
What the young MC was indirectly asking was a big deal for him. Because this kind of thing just didn’t happen on this show. They played hip-hop and R&B but they were a morning show. There wasn’t much opportunity for hardcore hip-hop artists and lyricists to show out unless the particular artist was a star with a project out. And even then, the morning show just wasn’t the platform for that, normally.
“What’s on your mind?” Peaks asked with barely masked excitement.
“Let me get some T-Mix, my guy. That old Suave House sound.”
Twin Peaks’ eyes bulged before he shot a glance at Wolf. The only producer Derrick had ever worked with sat back with his arms crossed and licked his bottom lip slowly. The trio was in full-on audible mode with the interview being the only thing discussed on the way to the studio. Whatever was Derrick's gameplan, he was being made aware of it at the same time as everyone else. He had no intentions of letting the show's hosts know that though.
Wolf lifted his right hand to his chin, stroked the peach fuzz there, and shrugged.
Dub grinned to himself, thinking about the old 8ball & MJG CDs he had given his friend a couple of months back. The people who knew Derrick the best knew he was a sponge that was a fiend for music regardless of genre. But when it came to hip-hop, he had an appreciation for all flows, regions, beats, and bpm’s.
Over the last year, he kept a lot of current Houston hip-hop in heavy rotation. Whenever he just felt like vibing out though, he listened to a lot of UGK, early Outkast, and the Geto Boyz.
Jermaine sat up straight at the request. Originally from Port Arthur, Texas, he cut his teeth and became a young legend in radio in the 90s and early 2000s, on Houston radio. Of everyone in the room, he was the most familiar with the Suave House sound.
“I sure hope you know what you’re doing youngin’.”
The show continued with music being played for the next thirteen minutes. Wolf, who had been nodding along to the music playing through the speakers looked up at the clock that now read 11:24 am. He trusted that the man to his right knew what he was doing, he just didn’t know...what he was about to do. The usually animated producer leaned over to Dub first.
“You two hatch some plan without letting me know what’s good?”
Dub shook his head, “I listen to the music, bring him music, and mind my business.”
Somewhat satisfied with that answer, he then leaned over to Derrick.
“What’s the play here?”
“I’m about to make a new believer,” Derrick said. The expression on his face looking like he was bored. One of his tells.
Shit, he bout to air this bitch out, Wolf thought.
“Oh, and you know that beat you sent me the other night at BB’s? That’s my new single, I’m gonna end this freestyle with that. Something slight, probably just a verse.”
Wolf nodded and leaned back in his chair. Internally he was bouncing off the walls with anticipation. The pair were peanut butter and jelly in the studio. Seamless synergy akin to a Dr. Dre and a young Calvin Broadus. There was never any doubt that the verse would be crazy, but hearing the words, my new single, resonated differently for some reason.
Peaks had noticed this exchange out of the corner of his eye but couldn’t hear what was being said. He had heard Derrick’s previous mixtapes and a handful of one-offs that Derrick had released. The hype was most definitely real. But he had never seen him perform in person. The DJ couldn’t help but wonder how the young MC would cope with the pressure of being on the spot, on-air.
Make this, a moment, he thought.
Derrick sent the beat to the email Peaks had given him earlier with a message that read:
PLAY WHATEVER BEATS YOU WANT. BUT LEAVE ME SIXTY SECONDS OF THIS TRACK.
The DJ slid the track into the appropriate slot on the screen and previewed it in his headphones to get a feel for when and how to mix it in. He had been bobbing his head to the instrumentals he was loading into his mixer before, but abruptly ceased the vibe he was in.
He tilted his head to the right and closed his eyes.
The harps on the opening sent a sharp jolt through him. The stringed instrument just wasn't something you heard a lot of in today's mainstream hip-hop. Then came a more recognizable soul sound, from the other instruments that came in.
Boogie Niiiiiiights...oh whoa ohhhh
Boogie Niiiiiiights...oh whoa ohhhh
Oh whoa ohhhh…
When the beat slowed then started chopping, the DJ's eyes shot open. Although he couldn't place the sample, he recognized the sound. The signature drum cadence tore through his headphones forcing him to shoot a look in Wolf's direction.
Really nigga, he mouthed. Wolf grinned and nodded. Figuring out that he must have just heard a snippet of the track he put together.
A few seconds later Peaks sat back abruptly and his head started nodding. Lyric, the show’s producer, counted everyone back in and Jermaine went back to the mic. He did his usual back from break spiel and quickly handed the reins over to Peaks who let the listeners know there’d be a slight change to the show.