Bonus Cut Record Stories: Writing a Story to the Tune of a Record (“The City Under The City” Pt. 1)

Bonus Cut Record Stories is a new installment where Bonus Cut members write an original story while listening to and analyzing a specific hip-hop record. The reason for creating this installment is to showcase how visual a record can be. From the content and lyrics to the tune of the record as a whole, imagery, story and symbolism through hip-hop music is just as important as a story showcased on paper. Every story is a reflection of the album through the eyes of the writer.

For our first installment, Daniel takes on L’Orange & Stik Figa’s The City Under The City, which was released earlier this month.

Daniel decided to use each song as a chapter in his story. Each chapter has the title song at the end.

The City Under The City
By: Daniel Hodgman

Chapter One: Dusty Speakers

Templeton Street was a division bell. Gracing the east side of the street was the harbor, with massive steel towers long abandoned, crooked docks menacingly stretching into the deep, crows lulling on wooden fingers sticking out of the water, and abandoned boats staggered in various shipyards and empty warehouses. The slim strip of beach cowered under material objects and was oddly discolored; it was no longer recognizable. Black oil and factory tarnish had long invaded the crisp sands of old, and the docks were being dismantled by the invisible forces of nature. Most of the time, the harbor was under duress from incoming storms and rough weather. The waters were never calm and always housed whitecaps, and most incoming ship captains tended to stay as far away from the harbor’s interior as possible.

Across from the harbor on the opposite side of the strait was the west end of North Grove. Essentially Metropolis’ downtown, North Grove wore a mask filled with buildings scraping the sky and lights that illuminated the natural darkness of the night. North Grove’s border very rarely experienced any rough weather, and although it didn’t have a harbor or city coordinated shipping lane, boat’s preferred traveling closer to the North Grove side.

The west side of Templeton Street marked the official boundary of Amramak, Metropolis’ biggest and poorest region. Most of Amramak was home to the city’s working lower class. From the southwest end to the northwest side, Amramak provided schools, neighborhoods and outlet store mountains. The east side of Amramak was fitted with a dark gray complexion. Most of the streets supported coal and rubber factory plants, each with growling mouths of fire, conveyor belts of metal apocalypse and long noses that reaped toxic smoke over the region. Factories sprawled out of control on the east side, and soon complexes started to take over the rest of Amramak.

Most of Templeton ran on factory walls, but on the corner of Templeton and Adams there stood a building neither committed to the harbor outlets or factory machines. This building was called Dusty Speakers, an uncertain building with unquestionable power.

Dusty Speakers was coined as a nightclub, although it was much more than that. Under city ordinance, the club had to follow basic rules, but since Amramak was rarely noticed by politicians or city officials, the club aspect of Dusty Speakers simply acted as a disguise.

The front of Dusty Speakers rumbled and throbbed violently at night, with deep bass-groove melodies being played inside. Soul groups from around the area would often play and fill the club floor, and every blue moon, an out-of-city band would come and attract hundreds. The doors to Dusty Speakers were artificial and cold, branded with a smooth metallic skin. On each side of the doors were windows, and although they were darkened, it was impossible to not see the sprawl inside.

The inside of Dusty Speakers bounced with vigor. The floor and stage took over the left side of the venue and hundreds jumped under strobe lights and head-nodding melodies. The right side of the venue had more seating, a bar and conference tables. In contrast to the left, the right side of Dusty Speakers was cool and relaxed, moving at the speed of a slow drip. The bartenders were knowledgeable, the venue staff remained stoic and the patrons wore low dipped fedoras with cigars and cigarettes hanging from their lips.

The right side of the venue also had one door in the back. Behind the conference tables and bar layout, this door was locked and always guarded by Johan. People called him Mule.

Behind this door was a room that truly represented Dusty Speakers. Shrouded in mystery and darkness, this room housed the ideas that would turn the city on its knees; in this room were the contents of takeover, but also equality and freedom; in this room were the people who would make this happen, and the people that are most important to this story.

Chapter Two: Monochrome

The shadows encroaching covered him in a veil. He tapped his hat once and then tipped it down to cover his already shadowy eyes. He was wearing dark blue dress pants and a suit and tie that crafted his build perfectly. On his left ring finger he wore a gold ring with a red jade center. It shined even in the darkest of areas, and under the thick cloud of wispy shadows, the ring still bustled with life. On his right ring finger he wore a tattered piece of hemp. The piece itself was tight enough not to slip off of his finger, but it drooled and moped in its worn shell. Both rings were worn proudly.

The man stepped out into the light slowly streaming through the windows, and the shadows halted. His face was complicated, with glossy features harboring rough and patchy characteristics. His eyes were dark amber brown, and yet a bold scar used his right eye as a crutch. The man’s nose was thin, but it crept perfectly on his face. Although his ears graced scars, his hearing was stunningly accurate, even in louder environments. Through this mold, the man spoke to the shadows.

“We have been in this time before,” he said glaring at those closest to him. “Our city, our people and our communities. Our stories will be told and spoken freely. We will free everyone’s mind. And this is our sanctuary.”

The man started pacing now, his movements succinct with his speech. He wiped his brow once and shook it off.

“Our weapon has always been the freehand, and our artistic strokes have shown nothing but the truth. If they can’t hear what we have to say and the lessons we teach, who are they to not stop and listen for a second? Our land is now barren and cold, people are eating up the paper trails and what is happening right now is no more complicated than an ink blot test.”

At this the shadows started to move. At first they were huddled, almost crowded together in the observance of this man, but now they were shuffling excitedly under the ray of his speech. Faint clapping churned into a slow pandemic of cheering, but at this the man raised his hand for silence.

“Before this we were prosperous and the city was packed. All regions were growing, and everything was at peace. Now all we have are these pictures and records. The city is dying. The people are dying. We’re all thirsty for knowledge, except for them, the ones that have ruined this community.”

Slowly turning his back to his admirers, he fiddled next to his seat and revealed a cane. He propped most of his weight to his right and with a small movement the light exposed his left leg.

From the knee down to his loafers, his left leg was a metallic rod. It never budged, but it always gave the man grief. He looked down at it.

“This,” he whispered calmly, just enough to catch the ears of his onlookers, “is what they’re trying to turn us into.” He rapped the rod with his cane. “You hear that? It’s nothing more than a machine.”

Taking off his hat, the man took one step forward and sat down in his chair. His brow continued to perspire, and his cheeks became warm. The shuffling and scurrying of the shadows had ceased, and once again they were entranced.

“My name is Errol, and I’m simply sharing my story.”

The crowd of shadows then lifted as light from the outside and overhead bulbs flushed out the black and white scheme of the setting. Revealed was a long golden oak table, now gleaming dark yellow from the light. Around the table and around Errol were men, women and children. A group of men closest to Errol wore similar business suits and hats. Some wore gravelly faces with 5 o’clock shadows and messy hair, while others kept their image pristine and smooth. Most of the men were smoking, and at their belts were pistols. The suitors around the table were mainly everyday city folk. One family consisted of an old man with his two granddaughters. The old man simply wore jeans and a cut up shirt, and the two granddaughters kept close to each other in attire with work boots and knives on their belts. One woman appeared to have a tattoo of a small volcano on her neck, a bandana around her hair and a rifle by her side. Opposite of her sat a man who simply made sketches. He did not at all once look at Errol and never even looked up.

From an outsider’s view, this gathering looked like a town hall meeting. City folk were cramped in chairs and hovering over every word being spoken. Entourages of important members of the meeting were dispersed throughout the room, but clearly distinguishable. And because of this, it became apparent that Errol wasn’t the only high figurehead in the room. Behind Errol was a woman with light brown skin, wavy hair and a recurring leg twitch. In her lap sleeping was Nova Express by William S. Burroughs, her pages withered yet strong. Beside this woman was a man named Blind Tiger. With crossed legs, he gazed into the crowd without the slightest recognition of what was going on, but he was also peering into the scene with intent. He wore a checkered sports coat that soaked in the reds and the greens and wore thick black rimmed glasses with his right lens basked in coal.

As Errol proceeded to sit down in a seat, Blind Tiger slowly lifted from his. He at first struck the door with a glare and walked briskly to it. The window was tinted and barely showed any happenings from outside, and all that could be seen was a very faint tint. Slowly tapping the glass, Blind Tiger then put his right ear to the frame. From inside he could hear laughing and cheering, but the more prominent noise came from blaring saxophones. Under the wailing instruments, he could also hear glasses clinking and sinks running. A smile came to Blind Tiger, and as he lifted his ear from the door, the sounds from Dusty Speakers’ main floor continued to yell.

Turning away from the door and now facing the rest of the room, Blind Tiger held his smile.

“My name is Blind Tiger, and this is what we’re going to do.”

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