December 27, 2015
He let a large plume of smoke escape his mouth, it drifted up before being cut apart by shards of sunlight breaking through the old frosted glass. His pipe was a long old wooden number with fur down the shaft and feathers hanging below the bowl, a Native American creation with a back story that was dying to be told.
I should have known better then to come back to Virgil’s place. The dynamic between him and Lucy was obvious at his party. One to be left alone. But he was too interesting a dude, his pad was dope and what else was there to do on a Tuesday afternoon.
“This work is amazing,” I said, my eyes drifting across three huge canvases on one side of the wall, “All this is yours?”
“Ha, hell no,” he looked at me weird, “You think I want to live in some kind of masturbatory isolation? Do you only listen to your own music?”
“Come on.” Lucy said. “Those three are yours though.” Pointing at the massive sequence I was still admiring.
“Yeah, but only because they aren’t finished. Not even half finished. The rest I pick up here and there, from friends mostly, that little one over there is perhaps, what you could call an enemy.” He stood, walked across the room and changed the music and refilled his vodka.
“Virgil, you have to hear some of Mason’s work, his stuff is awesome.” Lucy said, perched on a cushion in little shorts and a loose short.
“Of course. What kind of music?” He asked.
“Hip Hop, Electronic stuff. Dance music, that sort of thing.” I replied. Lucy crunched her brow a little, “Way to undersell yourself,” she said, “He’s also an amazing DJ, does those videos that gets tons of views on Youtube.”
“You know Biggie Smalls was up on this roof a couple weeks before that horrible shooting. Never did get him in the paddling pool though.”
“I do love to indulge the music business,” he said, “You know Biggie Smalls was up on this roof a couple weeks before that horrible shooting. Never did get him in the paddling pool though. We’ll have to hear some of your stuff.”
“I’m just starting out really, taking what I can get, building contacts. You know. I’d settle for almost anything at the moment.”
He smiled, “Not many people settle their way into anything in this city, not much in our industries anyway.”
I wondered if Lucy had slept with this dude – of course she had. This connoisseur of the young and hungry, a beacon of breaking constraints and conformity. Look at how she looked at him. I could see him kissing her, challenging her. Was that why she invited me here? To flaunt some kind of weird scenario in my face? He looked like he enjoyed some freaky stuff. When you get to his age you must be running out of things to try.
“I don’t know the music players like I used to, but I’m sure they’ll still the same, these people wouldn’t stop to look at your work in the subway, wouldn’t share a beer with you before your name is worth something,”
“Music is much like the art world. They either want a pound of your flesh, or to take what you have and make it their own” he said as I passed him back the pipe. He cleaned it out with his finger and repacked it before continuing, “I don’t know the music players like I used to, but I’m sure they’ll still the same, these people wouldn’t stop to look at your work in the subway, wouldn’t share a beer with you before your name is worth something, before there is some value for them. This game we play is one for takers – that’s it. The musicians that make big money today, do it from switching their focus to the business side – but you lose something in that I think. My favorite artists had the freedom to choose how they burnt their flame – to get lost, high, fuck, sleep, or create. The labels kept things ticking over, but back then the best talent wasn’t in boardrooms, on billboards or tweeting fucken diet supplements. You know? It’s not that it’s better or worse, just different. Fuck that. It’s worse.”
“It’s definitely a different world dude,” I said, “many of those stars may have had the freedom but a lot of them burnt out young right? Not even cracking thirty, a lifetime of work wasted.”
“Some of them did cut out early – but they lived their way, not for anyone else. What I’m saying is, don’t let labels intimidate you.”
“Maybe it’s selfish of me,” he said, “Some of them did cut out early – but they lived their way, not for anyone else. What I’m saying is, don’t let labels intimidate you, behind it they’re like everyone else, just trying to find a way to stay fuckable in a world obsessed with youth and power. Some of them truly love the art, would do anything for it; others just follow that perception that it’s the right place to park. Whatever.” He fell back against the coach crossing one leg over the other slowly. Lucy said she was cold and bounced to her feet, we both watched her leave before taking a drink.
I pictured all the epic conversations that had gone down here, I pictured him talking shit here twenty years ago. My brain started swimming in images of Lucy riding him, right here on the couch. I wondered all the places they had done it, who else had been involved, perhaps he had brought us downstairs for some sort of threesome. Ok, chill. No more weed for me. My mind was racing. I shook it off and had another drink. It didn’t really bother me that she might be hooking up, we had nothing really going on, I swallowed and decided I should say something.
“The balance is shifting right. The power is not so much with the labels now.” I said. “You can do it without them, people are doing it as independents.” My mouth was dry, I’d finished my Vodka and wondered if there were beers in the fridge down here.
“The way I see it,” he let rivers of smoke escape both sides of his mouth, “where energy is being created, where there are artists, there will always be someone leaching. Things change, I don’t get into the social media side of things much, but I’m sure there are new gatekeepers, people deciding who makes it to the masses, who can live off what they love and who moonlights. Take any independent musician, one that is at the top of the game – you saying they wouldn’t suit up for Nike?”
“Maybe they would. But they could do it on their terms, you know?”
“That’s the hustle right,” he said. “You’re fighting to get your work out there while labels be looking to get talent early on, getting it cheap and ‘making’ an artist. You want some leverage, you gotta be able to force their hands, you got to come at them with some momentum.”
“Sounds like wise words.” I said, wondering how much this dude sold his paintings for.
“Art is like pussy – it’s best when you encounter it in the world – when it teases you and you have to hunt it down. You don’t want it served up over email. You have to discover it – ideally while high.”
“Let them hunt you dude.” He said. “Humans always love the chase.”