Fast money, drugs, sex, violence, and crime. Street life in the early 90s.
This week, we take a look at a criminal genius, ne’er do well, druggie, and overall shady Character. Afa! Pronounced Aye-Fuh. A tall, lanky weird looking dude who truly has the gift of gab. He was born to be a con man.
The things youth bond over……
When we’re kids, proximity is everything when it comes to social relations. Case in point, our first friends are either siblings, and or preschool mates. In kindergarten it’s the same. All the way through university. We become friends first with the people we see daily. As we enter our teen years things like music, fashion, and extracurricular activities narrow our tastes. Coming into early adulthood; that time when we’re honing our individual identities, some become denizens of the night.
The world beyond the control of one’s parents, or guardians is rife with excitement. Since the dawn of time, people have done revelry, mischief, and debauchery late at night. For youth fresh out into the world as newly minted adults, many stray from the lessons and values we were raised with. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
As all these new and exciting things are happening, we are forming the last of those “childhood bonds”. Making friends as adults is a different animal altogether.
The Never-ending “J”
I’ve always been a bit of a scientist. Tinkering and reverse engineering my broken toys as a child, I loved the idea of elaborate contraptions in cartoons. Those things like that game mousetrap, you know? At any rate,
this eventually manifested itself as me being the blunt roller, pipe, and bong maker of the gang.
One day I was experimenting with a blunt rolled inside a spliff. The first semester of university is almost over. The Christmas break is fast approaching. I am a few weeks past the day trip day mare (LOLZ), and I am happy to be getting some time off from classes soon.
As per custom, Adam is up for the weekend. Out of all the mooching housemates we had, only Afa is left. He’s a lot of fun to be around, has great stories, and always has a hustle. By now he is quickly becoming one of the gang.
Mike is about to leave when Adam arrives. We all chief up at the kitchen table. The blunt hits good. Burns slow. After 20 minutes, Mike’s like “Man! this thing still isn’t done. I’ma be late for work. see ya!” as he bounds out the door in a rush.
“So what’s in this thing anyway? Adam asks. To which I reply, a bit of that Jamaican brick weed from Jessie, some of those fat dimes we get from E.P., and the last of that blue krypto. (We used to call good weed “kind bud”, or “krippies” after the kryptonite strain that was popular back then).
I rolled it in a Swisher on the inside, wet it all down with honey, then I rolled that in another a rizla spliff.
“Damn Bro! You be gettin’ all scientific wit da weed” Sputters Afa. As he coughs up a lung off dat weed.
After about 35 minutes of smoking the same blunt, Adam blurts “Fuq! I’m high. Let’s run up to the corner store man. Get some soda, bunts, and munchies.
“Cool cool cool” I say. “I’m good. Afa, put that out when you’re done.”
Afa looks at me like “da fuq?”, then says “Put it out? Done? Man, I think I’m gonna keep rockin.”
Adam and I head out, get some petrol for his truck, buy our groceries, and head back. We walk in to see Afa sitting in the exact same spot. Smoking. He gleefully screams “fifty-five minutes and counting. It’s still going. Y’all better hurry up and hit this.
Looking back on it, this was the day the three of us made “that” bond. A bond over the never-ending “J”.
Five finger discount
Christmas came and went. Mike and I went back home for the Christmas break. Afa stayed at our place while we were gone. We came back a week before class resumed.
Afa asked for a ride up to the mall to get some money. He said he needed to return some jeans he got for Christmas, then he would buy a half ounce and a 10 strip of blotter fo da gang!
“Word up then! You actually have money for a change” We often broke his balls for being broke, but always having drugs and nice clothes.
During the early 90’s it was all about designer jeans. Big money! We wore Polo, Guess, Girbaud, Cross Colors, and Levi’s Silver Tabs. Well, we wanted to, but they were mad expensive. Until……
So we get to the mall and all goes as he said it would. He even bought us food. Yet, his money ran out after a day or to so he wanted to go back. He told Mike and I that he actually had a little hustle going. Where he would go into one of the big department stores, try on expensive jeans, and then walk out with a pair on under his. Then you go to a different store and return them for cash.
“Man, you’re freaking crazy! Mike says. I follow with “That would never work”.
It indeed did work. Unfortunately.
Suddenly we’re flush with cash. I was easily burning through two or three hundred dollars a day at one point. Wearing $300 dollar jeans, buying half sheets of blotter, and smoking cheeba by the ounce.
Jessie, and George
We got some pretty decent Jamaican seedless brick weed from Jessie, who’s family was Hispanic. He was about 17, but super mature. His parents let him sell weed out of their living room. George was his bestie. He was our age. A couple few years older than Jessie. He lived there too, I think they were cousins.
Goerge’s name wasn’t really George. we just called him that because he looked like Curious George from the children’s books.
They too would run the jeans hustle, so sometime we would all go together. Mike could do it, and got pretty good at it, but he had a Mother who was not playing that. If he got caught she would do what any good mother should, and spit roast him.
This being the case, he fell back and went out with us less and less. He was working more at Subway now, and didn’t need the money like that. Adam was scared shitless about the whole thing and was nothing but a liability. He would be so scared that we would just leave him in the car. That left me and Afa.
This was the beginning of he and I becoming as close as brothers for a brief moment in time.
all for one, one for all
Hanging with a bunch of street dudes in the 90’s meant fist fights. You HAD to know how to throw hands. PERIOD! The mode was go out to clubs mad deep. This means with a huge group. Be prepared to fight at any minute. Bear in mind that these were meat market commercial clubs. As House Music was a newborn form that had barely made it’s way outside of Chicago, New York, and Detroit.
Bad situations popped off regularly, so there was safety in numbers. If one of your dudes gets jumped, the whole gang is about to issue some whoop ass. This actually kept the violence down to a bit, as not many people go out to a club looking to get into a gang war.
That said, there were a few skirmishes, and plenty near misses.
George goes down
Jessie and George were solid dudes. All the bros in their set would have your back if push came to shove. Back then, loyalty was a thing. A lot of the people Afa introduced me to had very appealing qualities. They just weren’t going anywhere in life. Most had zero ambition, and lived to get high, get money, chase broads, and run game. Jessie and George had a bit more depth than the average bro though. As such, they and I began to hang tough.
This being the case, they would often ride to the different shopping malls with Afa and I to run the return game. After a few months, I was by far the best at it. Up until a few years ago, I was hot or cold. Black or white. No shades of grey. No nuance. Fully turned up, and ready to “take it there”. On this particular day I demonstrated that fact by doing things I would cringe at if my son were ever to do them.
We were in Dillards, a high end department store doin’ that thang. It was a Saturday afternoon, I actually wasn’t planning to boost anything that day, but I saw this crazy Girbaud jacket I had to have, I also saw a pair of Levi’s fat jeans. Big baggy raver pants were just coming out at this time.
I was already wearing these dope Pepe jeans I had boosted a week ago, and they were slim fitted. As such, I got the bright idea (stupid idea) to put the stolen clothes on top of the ones I walked in with. This is the complete opposite of how the game is run. This was a totally brazen act. Arrogant even. This day marked the beginning of the end of my brief career as a retail thief. Yet, It was not in the stars for me to go down this day. Instead it was George’s.
We got in, Did the dirt and got out without a hitch. As per custom, we had to go to another mall to make the exchange of goods for return cash. This partucular day we decided to go to the Regency Square Mall Which was a bit of a hike to get to. At the time, it was also the biggest and busiest mall in the city.
The returns all went well, but George sees this Polo sweater he wants to take, He was spurred on by my newly acquired jacket to do so. Did I mention that I am still wearing the boosted clothing on top of my OG threads the whole time?
So George goes back into the store we just left. The rest of us wanting no parts of it wait at the food court.
George comes back in a flash. Six or seven minutes tops. By now the danger vibes are screaming and we are itching to go, but NO!
Ol’ George decides that he wants to buy a hot dog from the food court. In unison, as if on cue, everyone is saying how this is all bad and we need to flee the premises STAT!
Less than a minute later, plain clothes security taps George on the shoulder and says he’s being detained for retail theft. We look at each other like. “Damn! I knew it” Suddenly everything goes all slow motion, yet it all happened so quickly……
Without missing a beat, George turns and sucker punches the officer in the jaw. Which actually staggered him for a second, Yet it wasn’t the “haymaker” knock out punch he was going for.
George then proceeds to do the funniest/saddest escape attempt in the history of petty thieves. He made about four slow motion steps before three people tackled him to the ground and gave him the business.
This was the last time I ever saw George.
much too much…
As I recount these experiences, a flood of memories rush forth. In order to tell the story properly, I will have to think serially. No need to try to get it all out at once. Therefore, with this particular era, the six month period preceding the first rave, I will have to segment this particular chapter.
Afa hasn’t even been covered. Plus we’ll have to visit the day I went down. As well as me meeting my rave princess, dropping out of uni, and leaving that life forever in order to pursue this new music lifestyle called raving in general, and House culture in specific.
it can never be overstated
House Music really did save my life. This is not a cliche. Over time I will continue to share with you my reasons for making such a claim.
It has been only about a month, but I can sense that many of you are rocking with me. I give you my most humble gratitude.
For almost a decade I have been described as aloof and shadowy. Standoffish, even. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in this.
Well, not anymore. I realized that I “have people”. People who actually check for and support my work, Regardless of how few, each one is extremely valued.
I have taken it upon myself to show gratitude to the people and the culture that has given me so much.
I am your servant, and I cherish you all.
to be continued…