I grew up in Staten Island and lived in a little housing community filled with small condos.
Random characters moved in and out of the neighborhood.
One such transient fellow was twenty-something white dude with red hair named Jimmy. He was tattooed up, sold drugs for work and rode dirt bikes for recreation.
He had a big stereo in his house, and would leave the side door open while he blasted music. The whole block could hear it.
When Nas’ debut LP, Illmatic, dropped, he played the album for months.
I was sitting in his living room one day when he reached behind the couch and pulled out a huge zip-lock bag filled with cocaine. I looked at it in awe. I was 12-years-old.
Music played in the background. He closed his eyes, rapped along and got lost in it.
His eyelids opened and he took a hit off a blunt he’d lit. He turned his gaze to the bag of coke and disdainfully shook his head.
Another bag of cocaine was sitting on a coffee table in the middle of the room. He grabbed it, unzipped and starting pouring it into the other bag.
“Turn that up louder,” he said. “Illmatic. That’s my shit.”