"I’m on my way to iHop right now."
"The homies wanted pancakes."
One bar into this phone call and we are already lost inside a Deem Spencer lyric. A good writer, a more seasoned writer, or just any writer at all, would have been able to use Deem’s admission of a 9pm trip to the International House of Pancakes to situate our protagonist within the larger state of rap in 2019. I am not a writer by any definition of the word, so I do nothing besides drop the ball and appreciate a mission of stoned excellence while slipping further down the Deem Spencer slope.
"I saw you open for Nasty Nigel at the Knockdown Center in Queens. How many shows had you done at that point?"
I will take this opportunity to note that I had absolutely no idea who Deem Spencer was when I first witnessed him bob and weave his way around a microphone wire in 2016. I was minding my own business in the back of a performance art space, supporting a friend, when a pencil sketch of a rapper with a wide toothed grin made the most of twenty-five minutes and millennial attention spans.
"I started throwing my own shows in March 2016. I had done one show each month up until that point. So it was probably my fifth show."
The person standing on stage is more J.J. than Jay-Z. He looks like he stole the mic. It was my feeling at the time that he had better start doing something good with it before an adult took it back. Speakers crack. A decaying arrangement of strings and keys begin to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon themselves across a pile of kick drums. Before someone who files their taxes on time could cut the sound, the kid who otherwise looks like he should be duct taped to the corner seat of an F train starts rapping:
“If I cared about some money I’d be in college wasting it."
Smirks from the audience. "Fuck yeahs!" from first semester dropouts and degree holders alike. The great white flash of a knowing smirk, sneaks out from underneath the edge of a bucket hat. He is not nervous. He is rapping south, directly at his own shoelaces. Looking up every single time a lyric stabs someone squarely in their fragile sense of self.
"Ya’ll niggas told me I’m a king / Then you told me I’m a slave / Then you told me Imma win / Then you told me I’m afraid."
To say that I was utterly unprepared to be verbally assaulted by a high schooler would be an understatement. There are very few breaths being taken between bars or within the audience. Lyrics are spilling and bouncing like jelly beans across the cement floor and no one can turn off the faucet. The once responsible adult is in rapture and has taken a seat.