Among the Newly-Frugal Rappers

The hip-hop world is a less bling-bling place these days, as conspicuous consumption among rappers is down during the current recession.


CHICAGO.  I was rollin’ with my homeys down Stony Island Avenue when Fat Joe axed me to git offen his side of the seat.

“I can’t dawg,” I said.  “We ridin’ three in the front, three in the back to save on gas.”  He reached in his pocket and I thought for a minute he was gonna grab his Glock, but it turned out it was just his hand-held Super Soaker pistol.

“That all you got?” I axed.

“A clip of 8 Magsafe 9 millimeter bullets runs $19.95 at,” he said, a bit embarrassed at his penurious state.  “Even though I wants to produce more soft tissue damage to incompasistate my target, I can’t afford to right now.”

iCon up in the driver’s seat drained the “spit hit” from a quart bottle of Colt .45 that we’d been passing around and started to thow it out tha window.

“Hey dawg–don’t do that!” BackWurdz, a free-styler from da Kenwood projex wuz sayin’ from da back seat.

“Why tha hell not?” iCon said.  “You some kinda ‘vironmentalist’?”

“Naw,” Wurdz said.  “Thass a five cent deposit you throwin’ away!”

iCon turned and looked at the three of us in the back.  We had fallen a long way since the days when we used to pour Courvoisier over our Cap’n Crunch in da mornin.

“Actually, it’s ten cents in Michigan,” Fat Joe said in an off-hand way, but it was like the crackle of gunfire at a rap summit in da old days.

“R u serious?” Wurdz axed.

“Dass right,” Joe replied.  “Any other state it’s a Jefferson, but in da Motor City–we talkin’ Franklin D Roos-a-velt!”

“Woo-ee,” Shade E. xclaimed from da shotgun seat up front.

Wurdz’ face twisted into an expression of the unfocused rage that is his most endearing quality, then he busted out with a couple a couplets over a beat he banged out on the back of the seat.

If Michigan’s gonna give me a dime 
I’m packin’ up alla my Sprite Lemon-Limes. 
Crummy Illinois with its nickel deposit– 
I might as well throw my cans in the closet!

Everybody started to search da floor for mo bottles.  I came up with a Mountain Dew can, and iCon made like ta grab it.

“Unh-uh, man,” I said.  “Life is cheap on the streets, ya know what I’m sayin’?  I’ll blow you away you take a dime from me.”

“Wut u blow me away wit? You ain’t got no gun.”

I stuck my finger in my mouth and den, when he was lookin’ out da window, I gave him a Wet Willie, the most lethal weapon on the street.  I wuz keepin’ it real.

“Cut it out, fool!” he yelled at me, but it was too late.  I had my index finger halfway up his eustachian tube.  I coulda punctured his ear drum, but I decided I’d go easy on him.  We needed backup in case we ran into El Rukn Discount Nation, which had been terrorizing dollar stores on the South Side.

Eustacian tube:  Don’t go there.


“I’m gettin’ hungry,” OxxyMoron said.  “How much we got?”

We all reached in our pockets and pulled out what little change we had.  It came to $3.29.  “We got enough for three Whoppers and a cuppa senior coffee,” Shade E said.

“You old school, but you ain’t old enough to pull dat off,” iCon said.

“We could get a fish filet with tartar sauce and cheese and a small Frosty,” I suggested.

Fat Joe gave me a look of pitiless contempt.  “You ignorant fool!” he snarled.

“What’d I say?”

“Da Frosty is a trademarked product of Wendy’s!”

“You both ignorant,” iCon sneered.  “Da dope way to stretch your fast food dollar is to get the giant size fountain drink.”

“Why dat?” Fat Joe asked, genuinely curious.

iCon gave us the sly smile that he always used ta put on back in the day when he’s blowin away da competition at freestyle battles.  “Cuz you can go back for refills.  Free refills.”

His brazen contempt for law and order took us all aback for a moment.

“You mean,” I said, “that after you finish yo drink, you go back and fill da cup up again–even tho it say ‘No Free Refills’ right dere on da soda machine?”

“If you man enough, ponk!”

I lunged forward and grabbed him around da neck, but Fat Joe pulled me back.

“Dat’s just what da man wants us to do,” he said, playing da peacemaker.  “We gots to fight da power if we want to get our fill of Barq’s Root Beer, a Burger King favorite.”

I didn’t know Fat Joe had a socially conscious bone in his body, and it took me a minute to realize he wuz right.  “All right man,” I said to iCon.  “I got yo back.”

We pulled into the BK on South Stony Island.  “Go through the drive-thru,” OxxyMoron said with excitement.

“Shut up fool,” iCon snapped.  “You can’t go back fo fountain drinks if you outside.”


We walked in, tryin to look cool as we could.  iCon placed da order, extra pickles on da Whopper, and da kid behind da counter gave him da jumbo plastic drink cup we wuz gonna use to pull off da job.

We sat down and ate, washing da stuff down with big gulps of root beer.  When da cup was empty, it was time to make our move.

I placed myself strategically between da counter and iCon and asked da kid if Burger King had any special promotions goin down dat I should know about.

“Well, we’ve teamed up with Pink Panther 2 to offer 30 great prizes, including a diamond and pink sapphire necklace with a pendant that features a half-carat, white diamond center surrounded by small pink sapphires worth $3,500.”

“Oh, man,” I said, looking up at the promotional poster with Steve Martin on it.  “Are there any restrictions?” I asked nervously.

“You must be a US resident aged 18 or over,” he said.

“Dat ain’t no problem,” I said .  “I wuz born and raised on da mean streetz of da’hood, right here in Chi-town.  Hey iCon,” I yelled.  “You gotta enter dis contest!”

iCon turned around, an angry look on his face as he tried to cover up da crime.  Oh no–I’d forgotten he was ripping off a second drink!

“Hey,” da kid said, “No free refills!”

iCon turned to run to the exit, but it was too late.  He went down in a hail of BK tomato ketchup packs.

“Dawg,” I said as I bent over him, tears in my eyes.  “I’m sorry . . . ”

He gasped for breath.  “Tell my momma,” he said, the light fading from his eyes.  “Tell momma I tried to order from da BK Healthy Menu–but they supersized me.”

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Our Friends, the Rappers.”

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