Photo: Luke Price
“…Obviously/ I be out for presidents to represent me.”
It’s like cutting off a finger.
Every time an emcee from the D falls or even moves away it’s like cutting off a finger. It hurts. It’s painful. And everyone outside of Detroit sees it as bad but it’s just a finger, right? Just one. You got a whole hand of them remaining.
But you cut off enough fingers and you have nothing left to make a fist. Nothing to fight with. Nothing to grab onto. You’re rendered useless and the outside world looks at you like how pathetic and sad — you can’t help yourself, but you’re expected to stop complaining and deal with the proverbial hand you’re dealt.
I’m telling you now, we’re tired of complaining about the pain. We don’t want to wake up every few months and hear about another one of our local legends who has fallen to whatever nonsensical shit they lost the battle to. Lupus, a bullet, drugs, whatever. Fuck. That. Shit.
The day Baatin died, I couldn’t stop from crying any time I thought about the city. The deserted downtown streets with orange pools of light cast over covered manholes spewing steam. A lone man hobbling down the sidewalk with no clear destination. A line of black hooded coats fuming breathes into the frozen air. Third-world houses full of crackheads. A train station full of broken windows like eyes with the lids ripped open. An open-air farmers market flooded with folks buying basil or bread. Flags blowing in the breeze through a packed Gratiot meat market. Slabs of ribs laid out over smoky grills lining the path. Laughter pouring into the street from Lafayette Coney Island as someone asks “can I see a menu?” The salty stink of a chili coney with extra cheese and onions. And the fist of Joe Louis punching straight out to the river.
A balled up fist full of fingers cut from limb one at a time.
And people ask me why I sometimes say “I hate Detroit sometimes.”
Its beauty is beyond words. Its horror even less definable. Like the wonder and ambiguity of a cloud. Black Milk states the question often asked of him in “Reppin For U,” “What’s the answer to this Hip-Hop cancer?” It’s an especially puzzling question when the disease that eats away at your core is the very thing that gives you lifeblood — Detroit.
I met Baatin only once, but he was the first hero I met in the D. What I walked away with was the feeling I’d met one of the gentlest, kindest hearts. A man with a lot to say, a lot to offer, and the commitment to fight and defend his position/art/city to the death. What I didn’t expect was to feel that way every time I met another hero from the D. It’s a unique breed that is birthed and rooted in that city. You could pick a man from Detroit out of a crowded club in Los Angeles. They’d look and be the toughest, but they’d return all the love and respect you show them, tenfold. And it’s that personified juxtaposition of strength and degradation that prompted 14KT to say to me when we were talking about Detroit and Baatin, “I die daily.”
I die daily.
And now I am having to write about another digit lost from the fist.
I hate Detroit sometimes.
And yet, I chose nothing else. I can find nothing better.
Previously Posted — R.I.P. Baatin