A choking mist of tobacco covered the room . Marshall scribbled and cancelled in a notepad. When he was done he raised a thumb up and Simbarashe responded with a nod. Marshall slid a set of headphones up his neck from his shoulder so they could clamp his ears. He then adjusted the microphone stand a bit.
After testing a few sound levels, Simba watched the score illustrate into Cubase, Marshall rapped. The boys had been into music since they were in High School, but this had become a career path for them and they spent much time trying to find a golden record that would elevate them from rags to riches.
Marshall finished off his verse and hung around the booth for some minutes as Simba hit the playback button and adjusted a few volume levels just so that it would be audible. A pre-mix , he called it. He would mix and master the project in his spare time but he needed to give Marshall a rough mix that he could listen to.
“Thank you man, appreciate it,” Marshall said as he saluted Simba.
“No sweat man,” Simba responded as he lit another cigarette. They knocked their fists together.
“Cross-fire blaz. You’re like a steam engine. You act like you never heard of lung cancer.”
“Lung cancer my foot, this smoke is actually keeping your socks down. Flowers have been dying in here.” Simba responded with a childish grin. They both laughed.
Marshall held his phone and scrolled through to see 8 missed calls that had come through from the same number, while he was recording. His phone had been on silent mode.
“Gotta make a call.”
He pressed his handset to the ear and waited for the dialing tone.
“Hello, I’ve been trying your number for hours where have you been honey?”
Marshall walked out of the room to be somewhere private as he replied.
“Making a hit for bae,”
“Nice, I hope that’s going well. You had me worried sick. There’s something I need to tell you, may we meet?”
“Let’s meet tomorrow, I can’t today. Is that okay with you babes?”
“Okay fine, but it’s important.”
Cathy, the girl who had been at the other end of the phone stood in front of a mirror after the short conversation with her boyfriend. She rested her palm on her stomach, smiled and whispered to it.
“Pray Daddy get’s a hit this time,”
Cathy and Marshall had been seeing each other for roughly above 2 years. They met at an arts festival when Cathy was still a journalism student on attachment. She was a lover of the arts especially music and poetry and made it a point to attend arts and cultural events where she often saw the same faces including her boyfriend.
Eventually frequently bumping into each other had led to a friendship which later turned into much more than that when Marshall confessed that he could no longer suppress his feelings for her. She agreed to be with him as she also had secretly admired him.
After confirming their feelings for each other, they became a tag team. Something like Jay Z and Beyonce except that Cathy was no singer, they weren’t rich and Marshall’s lips were not swollen.
In Zimbabwe the arts industry for people like Marshall usually offered only popularity at the time. The only accounts most artistes had were Facebook and Twitter accounts but likes and follows couldn’t butter bread or buy it. With Hip-hop it was worse because the popularity was to a small circle of other rising artistes. More like a situation where a pastor’s congregation is actually made up of fellow pastors. They had been “up-coming” from day one.
Not that Zimbabwean’s did not understand or like Hip-hop. They simply preferred American super-stars to the locals whom they considered faint carbon copies or American hip-hop icons.
Because of this, some of Cathy’s friends and family looked down upon Marshall and consistently tried to introduce her to “more sophisticated” men, who had safe jobs, owned successful businesses or where pastors. Churches were some of the most thriving businesses in Harare. It was the era of miracle money, babies, anointing oil and dream selling in Africa.
“Marshall can’t put food on the table. To be real, does he even own a table?” Yolanda clapped her hands and spread them out laughing.
Yolanda and Cathy got along as Sisters but the one thing they disagreed on is which men were “marriage material” and of course with such remarks it was clear that Yolanda regarded Marshall as an excuse for a man.
“He will prove you wrong one day. At least he is handsome and creative. I don’t see how you stomach pot bellies for money. Pun intended,” Cathy would hit back as the witty girl she was.
They were Jay Z and Beyonce, Bonnie and Clyde, always defending each other in public. The couple did have its problems here and there but never hung it’s dirty boxers in public. Nobody was allowed to see the torn parts. Nobody is perfect after-all.
Secretly Yolanda had always envied the union between her sister and her jobless boyfriend. The men who had showered her with gifts had also showered her cheeks with tears of sorrow. However she could never settle for a man who wouldn’t help her get her hair done, nails polished or dropped her home safely. A full-time pedestrian was unacceptable to her.
“All men cheat anyway, you just have to learn to fight for your man,” She often said.
“You trust Marshall too much and he’s seen it. One day he will make you cry.”
Cathy ignored Yolanda’s opinions. On this particular day, meeting her boyfriend the next day was the main thing on her mind.
Cathy rested her palm once again on her stomach. She was anxious about the next day.
On the other hand her boyfriend had just arrived home. He greeted his father who was reading the newspaper. His father placed the newspaper on the coffee table before him and muted the television. Mr. Mapuranga, tapped the seat beside him so as to say, “Come let’s have a chat, man to man.”
Marshall went and sat beside his father, head bowed down with a face written, “I already know what you want to say.”
This man to man chat was a repeat show on a different day. It was about his failed hip-hop career and how he disappointed his father by failing at O-level twice. This conversation was also about, “What’s next, so do you think you’ll ever raise a family on talent shows and Open Mics at the drinking at The Volt?”
Marshall’s mind was configured to make his father’s voice elusive, but the old man struck a nerve on that day when he said, “Your mother died unhappy because of you!”
“I made mistakes but I never wanted this okay!” The young man hung his heard as arteries painted his cornea red.
The old man kept silent for a while, as if guilty for striking that nerve. They avoided eye contact.
“You are are 26 and others your age are buying their parents groceries? We are living on rentals from the cottage and small projects I do. This music thing, it’s not working.”
Marshall’s lion-like frown shot at his father and invisible fumes of anger left his nostrils. They had the same frown.
“You don’t have a job I see you with that slim girlfriend of yours, Cathy. She looks like she’s from a good family. How will you take care of her?”
There was silence for a moment then…
“It’s okay Mr. Mapuranga, fine. I understand. I don’t own a thing here. I am as depressed about mom. Give me time.”
His eyes were blood-shot and teary but he wiped them by covering his face in a prayer-like position.
Marshall went out of the house, lit a match and got high on some marijuana.
( featured Image Credits from Francesco Mauro on Behance.net)
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