December 27, 2015
Victor was out the back on his phone, multiple chains hanging from his neck. I grabbed water from the fridge, perched on the window ledge and watched a guy loiter outside the Deli across the road.
“Mason, my man. How ya doing? Wait till you see this girl today.” He shook his head and gave an obvious bite on his lip. “Fucken amazing! You’re gonna love her.”
“Ok, cool,” I said, checking out an issue of Fader on the table, A$Ap Rocky on the cover. “What time is she in, you got a track?”
“Ah, she’ll be here in an hour or so brother, I got a few tunes, one smooth jam in mind, but it has a kick, should go well in the club.” This typically meant Vic had pulled a bunch of royalty-free crap from the net and wanted me to ‘spice it up’.
“Ok, let’s have em, I’m gonna settle in.”
“Already in there, check the USB,” he said. “We gonna make some magic today Mase.”
“Vic, you know the deal, need that cash today.”
“Mase, you gotta chill man, I’m gonna look after you. Come on.”
“Dude, this is how it is. I got some stuff I need to sort today.”
“You better do right by this girl,” he said.
I headed down the hall and sat down at the desk, Victor had been doing this crap for years, everyone had a story about this dude. He was the type that liked to consider himself a hustler; I guess he was. He didn’t really produce music, mostly put on parties, and claimed to manage DJs but likely made most of his money controlling the illegal flow that went along with the club nights. He heard me play once, talked himself up, he has been paying me fuck all to do crappy jobs and lame gigs over the last two years. Always full of promises and hype.
“I needed to start unfollowing all these random girls posting booty shots, my feed was getting ridiculous, I felt weird checking it in public.”
A quick scroll through Instagram, perving on this girl Emma’s account had become a routine over the last few days. I needed to start unfollowing all these random girls posting booty shots, my feed was getting ridiculous, I felt weird checking it in public. I paused on a shot of Lucy, she had texted me last night about a random West Village party, we hadn’t spoken since out last encounter, over a month ago now. We had never really fucked like that before, with that sort of aggression. Throwing her hair back over her head like the girls in porn videos, I’d taken the same inspiration and grabbed a handful. It’s weird, it was some of the best sex we have had but it also signaled the end of us hooking up, like we were digging for something to fill a void.
I didn’t expect to hear from her again, Lucy was a cool chick but I never thought much would eventuate; she was one of the minimal techno tribe, blissfully satisfied with the slow progression. One of her friend’s sisters had come back from a stint in Europe and introduced her to it. The tech house crowd was the ‘new cool’ of the scene, no bright colors or confetti cannons. I had to be in a certain mood, but if it fit, it was easy for six hours to disappear in a set. We had once spent an entire weekend, held up in Zack’s apartment with a small crew from Berlin – one continuous mix all weekend, an epic quest the culminated in us all shaking the shit out of champagne bottles, exploding them around the room and then collapsing an hour later.
“The tech house crowd was the ‘new cool’ of the scene, no bright colors or confetti cannons.”
Lucy had hit me up on twitter after I posted a remix of a Tiga tune. Dark makeup and wide-open eyes dominated her profile pic – pretty enticing. She with grand plans for the city, plans that stretched beyond me. She was always out, forcing her way into meeting people, clambering to be let in, knowing that they would invite her to take a place in the world that she figured she was destined for. You had to admire the hustle.
Victor walked in, “Mason. This is Rosa, our next big star.”
I stood up to greet her, put my phone down on the desk. She flashed a big, nervous smile under layers of makeup. Rosa looked Dominican, maybe Puerto Rican, she stood with one heel hooked slightly behind the other in a medium length black leather skirt and a white shirt that was meant to be a loose style but it pulled super tight around her breasts, the type of cleavage that someone like Victor expected. She had this caring look, I imagined her cooking amazing food, dancing with her younger cousins and singing at backyard parties, I felt sorry for her – I knew how this played out.
Victor traded on hope. He prowled parties, restaurants, bbqs, met a bunch of girls out of his league, convinced them he could help them out by recording a demo. Some might have had money, or perhaps their parents covered the bill, ‘invested’ in their future. He paid me fuck all, so I’d say he made a bit from it. He built up their dreams, got them all drunk on hype, took them out and got them wasted.
“It was a shame about the track I was working with, it was hollow, heartless, but I wasn’t about to give her one of mine. Not for this money, not for Victor.”
I spent a couple hours with her in the booth. She wasn’t a bad singer but I couldn’t get anything amazing out of her. Matt sat next to me the whole time jabbering the whole time about how this one was special. Last year we did a track that went alright in Latino clubs and even got a little radio play but that passed by pretty quickly, although I’m sure he still uses the reference to get laid.
Rosa had written her own lyrics herself, the hook was cheesy, but sweet, all about wanting to run away but standing strong. It was a shame about the track I was working with, it was hollow, heartless, but I wasn’t about to give her one of mine. Not for this money, not for Victor.
She was nervous hearing her vocals back, he loosened her up with complements, got her excited and then she couldn’t stop smiling, rocking forward on her toes and bubbling. Matt kept on about all the people he was going to send it to and how they had to talk about “what is next for her”. This was the demonic master at work.
“After charting the rise of so many artists, I had built a hefty sense of entitlement. Growing up I asked myself what I would shout at the world, how would I make people feel.”
They headed out back and I fiddled with the song. There was no way I was putting my name to it and I felt pretty shit about that. Did I think I was above this? Maybe. Yeah, I did. I knew that feeling of focus when you are working on something that takes on life. I needed the money, but what I really needed was to be a part of something. After years of listening to track after track, charting the rise of so many artists, I had built a hefty sense of entitlement. Growing up I asked myself what I would shout at the world, how would I make people feel. This is fucking New York, people came here to make an impact, to get shit done. What was the point otherwise?
Victor redeemed himself by throwing me a meatball sub. The bread was fresh and it didn’t have too much sauce, one of the better meatball sandwiches I’d actually had. I was starved and demolished it while finishing the track. Down the back they had hip-hop playing and were getting into a bottle of vodka. Rosa was perched on the couch next to him, his hand stretched out on the couch behind her.
“How we looking?” he said, throwing some ice in a glass and pouring a vodka. “Grab a drink.”
I took a solid sip straight away, I should have let it chill for a bit, I got an instant flashback to a three day outdoor party in California, a hundred degree day where I came back from the dance area to the tents, grabbed the first water bottle I saw and squeezed it for a massive scull: straight – warm – vodka. Cheap vodka as well. It made me cringe just thinking of it.
“The tune is sounding good,” I said, “I’ll put it through the speakers out here or you guys can come in…”
“Rosa, after you?” he replied. She was far more relaxed now. She uncrossed her legs and stood up.
I wondered what it was like for a girl like this, to know that eyes were always on you as you moved.
As she walked down the hallway, I had to hand it to him, she knew how to rock a pair of heels. I wondered what it was like for a girl like this, to know that eyes were always on you as you moved.
“I love it!” She said, moving along to it. “Thanks so much Mason.”
“Nice work dude. I think we need to add something to build up the bridge but we are almost there.” He said. “Well done babe. It’s the first step.” He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in. He had no idea what he wanted changed in the bridge, just adding his two cents. When he left to take a call I followed him out.
“Can I grab that cash? I have to bounce.”
“Mase, stay, relax, lets have another drink,” He put his arm across mu should, stale breath hitting my cheeks, “We are gonna pop a bottle or two, kick things off a little.”
“Victor, don’t fuck with me, I need this cash.”
“Don’t I always look out for you? Why you getting like this?”
“I told you, that was the deal, don’t make this into an issue.”
Rosa was starting to loosen up as he showered her with the lubricating potential of opportunity.
He held my stare making it awkward, a chance to assert himself before pulling a bunch of cash out of his jacket and counting it out. We wrapped with champagne, Rosa was starting to loosen up as he showered her with the lubricating potential of opportunity. I wasn’t going to hang about, fairly sure of what Rosa’s next performance would be.