Welcome to My Cozie Corner's stop on the
"Burner" book tour.
This tour is brought to you by Innovative Book Tours.
Jason Teal (AKA J-Keen Deprez2) decided to quit turntablism, at least in the short term, and spend more time at home with his girlfriend and eighteen-month old daughter. As he approached the pivotal age of thirty, a heightened sense of responsibility blended with a strong dose of anxiety about his future lead him to this decision. He did however continue to produce a close-knit group of rappers, diabolically clever lyricists whose careers he hoped to aid. But in the digital era, with legions of talented producers competing for ninety-nine cent downloads, making a living of his production skills became impossible. He needed live gigs to supplement his studio work, and that took him away from his family, and even with weekly gigs, being a hip-hop deejay in San Francisco was far from lucrative.
Instead he invested his hopes and dreams in a strange, psychedelic, hip-hop symphony inspired by a mishmash of American musical genius. “Imagine Philip Glass teaming up with RZA and Jimi Hendrix—and that should give you a pretty good idea how my symphony sounds. I just need more time to work on it,” Jason said, passing a bowl of fresh strawberries across the table to his girlfriend.
“And meanwhile, what? I’m supposed to dance twice as much to support the three of us?” His girlfriend, Alicia, a mother, a full-time student, and an exotic dancer, wasn’t havin’ it.
“You’re delusional, baby.”
And so, after several long and impassioned parleys on the subject, they decided the best plan of action would be for Jason to “get serious” and go into advertising. He’d put his skills to work for corporate America, doing jingles and background music for commercials. Once he’d resolved to do it, he got excited. He’d use advertising, as a way to get his foot in the door, and eventually score films.
But getting a job in advertising as a creative was a lot tougher than he imagined. For one thing, music for commercials was almost never done in-house. It was contracted out, which meant he needed someone to represent him. He needed a music agent. After trying for months to get one, and coming up against the harsh reality that no agent worth his salt has time for a guy with potential, he decided to go the independent route. He did his homework and targeted a few creative directors at ad agencies in San Francisco. He sent them a sampler of thirty-two tracks on CD, each one running from forty seconds to two minutes in length. He covered the music spectrum, from pop to hip-hop to rock, and he even threw in a country track for good measure.
Then as fate would have it, an event occurred that made going into advertising seem more like inevitability than choice. One night driving down 19th Ave on her way back from class at SF State, Alicia heard Jason’s country track on the radio. She recognized it because they had written their own version with obscene lyrics, and they sang it all the time. !e commercial sold auto insurance. Her excitement turned sour when he said, “If that’s true, then they used the track without my permission. In other words, they stole it.”
The helplessness of getting ripped off like that sent him looking for a lawyer, but, as with the music agent, none of the lawyers he called had time for a broke-ass hip-hop producer seeking justice. In despair, he called “California Lawyers for the Arts,” a non-pro"t set up to help artists in need of legal service. He paid a small fee to join, and this got him thirty free minutes to hash out the situation with an attorney.
Jason played his track for the lawyer, and then the commercial.
They’re identical. The tempo, the arrangement; it’s exactly the same. They didn’t even bother to tweak it.”
The attorney explained that these pitfalls often happen to young artists. There isn’t enough money here to turn this into a lawsuit. But there is a silver-lining,” the lawyer enthused. “I would use this as an opportunity to get my foot in the door. If I were you, I would do a little research and find out who did the ad. Then I’d go to the agency and introduce myself to the creative director. You might wind up with a job.”
Jason took his advice, and a few days later he found himself facing a large jowly man with acne scars and blond hair going gray around the edges. Darwin Choate was the creative director at Sorensen & Kierkegaard. His office had a panoramic view of the piers along the Embarcadero, and the worst span of the Bay Bridge. As an act of good will, he squeezed Jason into his lunch hour for the appointment. Jason pled his case. The creative director expressed complete innocence of any wrongdoing. He had no idea what Jason was talking about—no knowledge of the thirty-two tracks on CD. Jason produced the email he sent the agency months ago, alerting them about his music.
“People send us stuff all the time. But if it’s not requested, it ends up in the trash. I don’t think you have any idea of what goes on here. I don’t mean to rag on you, but nobody in this office cares enough about your music, to even think about stealing
“I didn’t say you stole it.”
“Stole, appropriated, used without permission, however you wanna phrase it, that seems to be what you’re implying, and we don’t have time for that nonsense here. That’s ridiculous…”
At the end of the interview, Darwin commented on his resume. “I see you have a Bachelor of Science degree in Astrophysics from CalTech in Pasadena3. What happened?”
“I got tired of multivariable calculus, and decided to follow my heart and do music instead.”
“Fair enough.” Darwin smiled and threw him a bone. He offered Jason a non-paying internship over the summer.
“I came here looking for a job, a real job.”
Darwin shrugged. “It’s the best I can do.”
In bitter silence, Jason stood there searching the soul of Darwin Choate, and then he left his office without speaking a word.
As he walked down Battery Street to Market, he reprimanded himself for not being more witty and forceful. You’re like a dumb-fucking mute sometimes! It was the voice programmed into his head since childhood speaking. He took the 6 Parnassus bus, and thought about the dream he had last night. He dreamt that downtown San Francisco had been flooded by a tsunami and was completely underwater. In the area around the cable car terminal at Powell & Market, wild-eyed vagrants, crackheads, and panhandlers were sur"ng on high waves of yellow water. In the midst of all this, his dead brother stood holding the trident of Poseidon, a three-pronged spear. And then, in the way that dreams unfold, the scene shifted. He saw his dead brother—a famous graffiti artist—standing amid the ruins of a construction site doing a burner. He stenciled in a three-pronged spear, and, then, in big Krylon baby-blue bubble letters he wrote, “Gnosis, not hypnosis…”
He got of the bus at Haight & Masonic, and zigzagged his way down Haight Street past groups of people camped on the sidewalk asking for money. A merchant and a panhandler stood beak-to-beak in the midst of a dispute. The panhandler had tats on his neck and a spiked-leather collar. !e merchant had his fists balled up ready to fight, in front of a large glass window. From across the street, a rapper Jason knew hollered out his name, and together they walked over to Amoeba Records.
The line in front of Amoeba stretched down the block to the Golden Arches on Stanyan. At the door, they showed their passes and shouldered their way into the crowd.
2 Jason took his name from the 16th Century Renaissance composer Josquin Desprez. Considered the greatest composer of the age, his mastery of polyphonic vocal music earned him the sobriquet “master of the notes” from none other than Martin Luther. In spite of his monumental achievements, little is known about him personally.
3 Jason lied on his resume. He was indeed an Astrophysics major but he quit school in his last semester to come to San Francisco to deejay for, and produce a group, called TriggaNAM.
The book has a strong sexual component. Jason’s girlfriend, Alicia, has become an exotic dancer to support her three-year old daughter, and to put herself through school to earn a degree in psychology. But as she exploits her sexual power in the club, she also becomes its victim.
About the Author, M.C. Mars:
M.C. Mars is the author of DON'T TAKE ME THE LONG WAY, his memoir of driving a cab at night in San Francisco for twenty- four years. He’s also a rapper with three albums to his credit, and hip-hop roots that go all the way back to the late 70s. He lives in San Francisco, where he continues to perfect his free- style, and his spaghetti sauce.
Learn more about M.C. Mars and his books on:
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