The Jab Man
by John Evans
The glimmer reflected off the buildings is crazy tonight. There is never a night in New York with out bright lights, but Friday nights seem to turn it up a notch. I want to watch and get lost in the show, but I can't. I turn from the window and look at the cold steel that lays in my lap. A week ago it might have phased me, but not now. These cats I'm running with have shown me what it takes to own these Brooklyn streets.
Who am I? Nobody knows right now I can tell you that for sure. They will though, for sure after tonight they will. The scenario is passing through my mind, but I can't make it clear. I know what needs to be done, but the smoke and the music is stealing my focus. The bass from the fifteen inch speakers in the back is so loud that my earring rattles when it gets low. The Cadillac Escalade is the smoothest ride I have ever felt. The leather seats are so soft, you would think you're in somebody's living room, but still I can't focus. J-nyce turns to me and offers me the L, but I don't want to hit it right now. In fact I want him to put it out. Maybe crack the windows to clear the ride of the smoke. No way I am going to tell him though, and end up looking weak.
Daddy E is behind the wheel moving us through traffic in tune with the beats. He saw the look in my eye when he handed me the tool. What he said needed to be said, but I knew the words were hollow. If I didn't do this I was through in this town and he knew it. He had pulled me to the side and looked me in the eye, while I gripped the instrument of my future tight in my hand.
"Look B," and he pointed behind me at the rest of the squad, "If you can't do this don't sweat it. We will get your back until you're ready."
Then the three of us had jumped in the black Cadillac, with the twenty-four inch chrome wheels, and headed to the battle. Daddy E's words ran through my head, but I know I have to smoke this chump or the neighborhood will come down on me. The Brooklyn Seven is the hardest group rocking the streets right now and for me to get the opportunity to join their squad is a once in a lifetime shot. Nobody on my block would understand punking out at this point, especially not with someone like me getting this far.
Nineteen years old and nobody, but my closest people know my name and there isn't that many of them. The rest of the Seven is comprised of permanents, people who were born and raised on these New York streets. Me, I been here since my family moved here when I was five, but I am still an outsider to them. My roots come from the south, which makes them doubt my potential even more, but I know it gives me the edge. I know it is what made me stand out to them.
I was chilling on the corner by my house when they rolled up on me. Daddy E in his Cadillac and Phillip One in his candy red Maybach Mercedes stopped dead in front of me. Inside was the rest of the squad whose number had recently slipped to six. No one on the street knew for sure what happened to their front man, Clean Mike, but he was gone and they needed to fill ranks. The car doors opened and the entire Brooklyn Seven poured out before me. Daddy E, J-nyce, Phillip One, Pac Man, C.C., and Tech Unique in a half circle all in front of me. A lump rose in my throat, but I wasn't going to back down. Hell no, if they were going to rumble with me I was down. It wasn't a question though, they were there for no other reason.
Daddy E came at me first. He is the master behind the scenes, so I am not surprised now. Quick with deft skill he rocked me. I struck out a few times and managed to fend him off, but then J-nyce had at me. I realized it was going to be a round robin of power and I was in the middle. Left to right they came at me. Back and forth we went. I wasn't prepared for it, but I was holding my own. A crowd had gathered around me and people had started to shout. Most of them were in support of the Seven, but my boys were there to pump me up. The whole thing had probably lasted for fifteen minutes, but it seemed like forever. I was gripping the stop sign with one hand while I tried to catch my breath. They turned their backs to me and a discussion took placed. It was by no means a victory on my part, but I hadn't been completely crushed. It was the way I handled myself and kept my head up, they told me, which had convinced them to take me on.
From there I had bounced with them wherever they went. I wasn't one of the Seven yet, but instead I was more like an understudy. They introduced me as The Jab Man and people seemed to understand where my place was without it being said. They spent the previous two weeks getting me a wardrobe, a banging pad, a fresh cut, and some ice to put in my ear. They never told me what was next. I knew it had to be coming, but I don't think they wanted me to prepare. That was the beauty of it. Daddy E walked up and told me the deal and then we rolled, without time to think about it.
However, the across town ride to find this fool was giving me ample time to process the situation. Once again J-nyce is motioning to me to take a hit.
"I'm cool dog for real."
He smiles large enough for me to read the letters of his name etched in his gold teeth.
"Don't sweat it. You're The Jab Man. You take that piece on your lap and don't even give him a chance to come at you. Just take him down. Once its done it will all be alright."
I know what he says is right, but still I can't help wondering if I can do it. Never before had I been in a situation like this, and right now I wondered if there was any alternative. Glancing behind me I can see Phillip's Mercedes in perfect pace with us. The entire squad has the nicest cars, the sickest clothes, and the respect of a city. It was all or nothing. They had pulled me in close and showed me the business. What I was about to do was a necessary part of it. Without battles like these, the squad wouldn't have the respect they did. They expected me to come up quick and take this dude out right from the start, but thats how it had to be if I was going to be one of the Seven.
Daddy E makes a left on Park Street and I know we are only a few blocks away. I was going at this alone, he had said. The Brooklyn Seven would be watching from a distance, ready to hit it hard once it was done. Looking down at my destiny, I remember what Pac Man had said. "Make sure you warm the grip up man, you don't want to get in there and not have it feel right." I put my hands on the grip and start moving it back and forth from hand to hand, getting use to the weight of it. The steel above the grip is cold, but I know it will warm up once I go to work on it. I check the switch and make sure it's in the right position. Pac had also said not to hit the switch until I was ready to go to unload, which made sense.
"Almost their Jab." Daddy E was eyeing me in the rear view, while we were stopped at a light. "Don't forget to breath. It will make everything glide with precision. This cat doesn't stand a chance, but if he gets a shot on you, don't run. Stand your ground and keep him in your sights. Don't stop until the clown is down for the count. You hear me?"
"No problem Daddy. I got this."
I was saying it as much to convince myself as him. I practiced my breathing while I continued to warm the grip up. Deep inside I knew my life was never going to be the same after tonight, no matter what happened. The feeling threatened to lift me off the ground, or maybe it was just the second hand Indo. Whatever the case I could feel the adrenaline building up inside me. My mouth was moving now, but no sound was coming out. The sound wasn't important to me right now, just the motion. I didn't want to waste too much of my energy.
I looked up just in time to see we were slowing to a stop at our destination. I looked at the place. From the outside it didn't look like much, but it was a jungle inside and I knew that for sure.
"We're going to drop you in the back. Make your way up the stairs. Bang on the door and they'll let you in. We've already arranged it." Daddy E was looking from the driver's seat, straight into my eyes. "This is your last chance B. If you haven't got what it takes you better confess it now."
"Not a chance E. I am going to take this bitch out like its nobody's business."
"That's what I want to hear." He reached out with his fist and I bumped my knuckles with his. Then J-nyce reached out and we did the same.
The Cadillac rounded the alley to the back door and stopped. I could see the old black stairs that led to a door on the second level.
"We meeting back here?"
"Yeah, probably be safer. Just make sure when you get out here you stay out of sight. This shit can get crazy sometimes." Daddy had his eyes locked with mine again. "You're The Jab Man. Put yourself on the map baby."
"I can't lose."
I slide off the smooth seats onto the concrete alley. The black truck slides away, gently disappearing into the shadows. I still had my piece gripped tight in my left hand and I moved my neck around to loosen up. Showtime baby. I calmly moved up the stairs and rapped on the door with my right hand. Instantly a huge dude dressed all in black opens the door.
"You The Jab Man?"
"Alright cool. Down the hall make a left. The dude there will tell you what you need to know."
I can't think it's so loud. The music in the building is loud and the entire foundation shakes with its beat. I let it move through me helping me prepare for the moment. I look around the corner and there is a guy standing in front of some stereo equipment. It appeared to be the source that was pushing the huge speakers I couldn't yet see. The dude must of known who I was, because he rushed over and took me aside immediately.
"You look ready for this, that's good. Alright he is on the other side over there." He is pointing to darkness past the equipment and I can't see a thing. "Let me check this thing out and make sure Daddy got you straight." From my left hand he takes my tool and carries it back to the place with the equipment.
I try to peer into the darkness, but I still can't see where the dude might be. A few minutes pass and the guy heads back to me with the instrument of my destiny.
"That didn't take long. Am I good to go?"
"Ah Yeah. That is one of Daddy's favorites you got some serious clout carrying that. Two minutes and I will give you the signal. Head straight out there," He points towards the darkness again, "You will see him instantly, once you feel it let him have it. Oh and don't forget to flip the switch."
I just give him the gangster's nod and then focus on my breathing. I don't know what this guy was thinking taking on the Seven, but he is going down quick. When you call out a squad like us you have to be on top of your game, but I knew I would have the jump on him. He would never see me coming. The Jab Man was about to be famous on the streets.
I catch the signal and I don't hesitate to move towards the darkness. There is a slit of light as I get closer and I head towards it. I keep moving with my breathing constant and bust through into blinding light. It doesn't matter though I don't need to see the chump. The beat picks up immediately and I hit the switch on the microphone in my hand. It's warm and inviting, and instantly I go to work. From inside my mind I release the rhymes in my head. The crowd goes wild and falls into my rhythm, which in turn propels me to be faster and sicker. My eyes are adjusted and I can see the chump to my left. Not even two minutes have passed and he moves from the stage. The Jab Man has won this battle. The streets are mine.