On the Come Up(7)

I know him, but I don’t, if that makes sense. I’ve seen him somewhere.

A slim guy in a black-and-white tracksuit follows him. Dark shades hide his eyes, although the sun’s down. He says something to the boy, and two gold fangs glisten in his mouth.

I nudge Aunt Pooh. “That’s Supreme.”

“Who?” she says around her Blow Pop.

“Supreme!” I say, like she’s supposed to know. She should. “My dad’s old manager.”

“Oh yeah. I remember him.”

I don’t remember him. I was a toddler when he was around, but I’ve memorized my dad’s story like a song. He recorded his first mixtape at sixteen. People still used CDs back then, so he made copies and passed them out around the neighborhood. Supreme got one and was so blown away that he begged Dad to let him manage his career. Dad agreed. From there, my dad became an underground legend, and Supreme became a legendary manager.

Dad fired Supreme right before he died. Jay claims they had “creative differences.”

The boy with Supreme climbs into the Ring. Soon as Hype hands him a mic, he says, “It’s your boy Milez with a z, the Swagerific prince!”

The cheers are loud.

“Ooh, he the one with that stupid-ass song,” Aunt Pooh says.

That’s how I know him. It’s called “Swagerific,” and I swear to God, it’s the dumbest song ever. I can’t go around the neighborhood without hearing his voice go, “Swagerific, so call me terrific. Swagerific. Swagerific. Swag, swag, swag . . .”

There’s a dance that goes with it called the “Wipe Me Down.” Little kids love it. The video’s got like a million views online.

“Shout-out to my pops, Supreme!” Milez says, pointing at him.

Supreme nods as people cheer.

“Well, shit,” Aunt Pooh says. “You going up against your pops’s manager’s son.”

Damn, I guess so. Not just that, but I gotta go up against a somebody. Stupid as that song is, everybody knows Milez and they’re already cheering for him. I’m a nobody in comparison.

But I’m a nobody who can rap. “Swagerific” has lines like, “Life ain’t fair, but why should I care? Why should I care? I got dollars in the air. I got dollars, I got dollars, I got dollars . . .”

Um. Yeah. This won’t be hard. But it also means that losing isn’t an option. I’d never live that down.

Hype plays a drumroll again. “Our next MC is . . . ,” he says, and a couple of people shout out their own names, as if that’ll make him call them. “Bri!”

Aunt Pooh raises my arm high and leads me to the Ring. “The champ is here!” she shouts, like I’m Muhammad Ali. I’m definitely not Ali. I’m scared as hell.

I climb into the Ring anyway. The spotlight beams in my face. Hundreds of faces stare at me and phones point in my direction.

Hype hands me a mic.

“Introduce yourself,” he says.

I’m supposed to hype myself up, but all I get out is, “I’m Bri.”

Some of the crowd snicker.

Hype chuckles. “Okay, Bri. Ain’t you Law’s daughter?”

What’s that got to do with it? “Yeah.”

“Aw, damn! If baby girl is anything like her pops, we ’bout to hear some heat.”

The crowd roars.

Can’t lie, I’m a tad bit annoyed that he mentioned my dad. I get why, but damn. Whether I’m good or not shouldn’t have a thing to do with him. He didn’t teach me to rap. I taught myself. So why does he get the credit?

“Time to flip the coin,” Hype says. “Bri, you get to call it.”

“Tails,” I mutter.

Hype tosses the coin and slaps it onto the back of his hand. “Tails it is. Who’s first?”

I nod toward Milez. I can hardly speak. No way I can go first.

“A’ight. Y’all ready out there?”

For the crowd, it’s basically a hell yes. For me? A hell no.

But I don’t have a choice.


The beat starts—“Niggas in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye.

My heart pounds harder than the bass in the song. Milez comes up to me, waaay too close. It gives me a chance to size him up. He talks a lot of shit, but damn, there’s fear in his eyes.

He starts rapping.

I ball so hard, you wish you was like me.

I’m fresh down to my Nikes.

Spend one hundred K in a day, The boy don’t play, Going broke ain’t likely.

I ball hard, this hood life crazy.

But I’m a G, it don’t faze me.

Ferrari gassed, Glock in back, Ready to pop if paparazzi chase me.

Okay, I’ll give props. Those lines are better than anything in “Swagerific,” but this boy can’t be serious. He’s not an uppercase G, a lowercase g, or any kind of G, so why is he claiming that life? He doesn’t even live in the hood. Everybody knows Supreme lives in the suburbs now. Yet his son is ’bout that life?


I gotta call him out. Maybe something like, “Your career? I end it. Your G status as authentic as them gems in your pendant.”

Ha! That’s a good one.

He’s still rapping about being such a gangster. I smirk, waiting for my turn. Until— I ball hard, so why bother?

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