A thin line of sweat clung to Melody’s upper lip as she gripped the mic in the darkness of the auditorium. She could hear the quiet buzzing of anticipation from the crowd. This would be Melody’s first big show with the hot upcoming rap group Urban Rootz. She attempted to keep her mind totally blank as a blaze of lights suddenly dispersed the darkness. Wise, the founder of Urban Rootz, dressed in a black t-shirt emblazoned with the metallic UR logo and smoking microphone, black Fubu jeans, and gray Timberlands had his short, wild locks pushed back with a headband. She automatically began to rock her hips to the pounding bass beat as Wise began his powerful flow. The crowd was clapping, yelling, bouncing, and throwing their hands in the air by the time L.A., the second half of Urban Rootz, was stepping forward to work the stage. L.A. jumped around the stage in his matching grey baseball cap and hoodie sporting the Urban Rootz logo, his black and grey Lugz boots pounding against the wooden planks of the stage. Melody swayed pulling the brim of her stylish hat low over her eyes. She was purposely keeping her face shielded from the crowd. The Rootz had agreed Melody’s introduction would be an explosive surprise. Melody’s heart beat picked up as L.A. came to the end of his flow and began the chorus of the song. DJ Tez worked the pounding beat into overtime, and dropped it completely as Wise shouted into the mic: “Introducing the new dope member of the UR clique; Melody!” Melody switched forward as Tez spun the beat back on. Suddenly her nervousness was gone as she pulled the hat away from her face and began her rapid fire flow. The crowd gasped, shouted their approval, and encouraged Melody. The audience rocked hard to Melody’s flow, as Tez stopped the beat once more and let her flow a capella. Wise and L.A. stood back grinning and bouncing as they watched her spellbind the audience. “WHOOOOOO-OOAAA!” From the streets of hard life/Too many nights of strife Blazing my soul free on the mic/Rock hard like Death strike Illest female to bless a stage/Dropping rhymes with urban sage Rising with tides of divinity/Destined to be my own entity Peep the math of the divine equation/Melody flows be amazing Busting the chains on brains/While I refrain from the pain Of yesterday at my back/While I ride this track Melody is the truth and it hurts/No need to prove my worth...” “Got-**** that girl can FLOW!” someone in the audience shouted. “Hell **** YEAH!” “Oh **** she SWEET than a muffucca!” She was totally in her element as she sashayed across the stage on 3 inch fringed red leather ankle boots. The lights glowed off her bronze skin against the glittery red of her off the shoulder top, and form fitting denim blue jeans. The belt at her waist that spelled out her name in rhinestones twinkled along with the silver bracelets she wore. Wise and L.A. joined in on the chorus as Tez picked the beat back up. Their performance ended in a black out to the deafening applause and shouts of the audience. Melody was suspended in a moment in time as L.A. and Wise rushed her from the stage. She was in a state of disbelief and shock. She could not even comprehend Wise and L.A. as they congratulated her. “Eh Ma, you hear me?” asked Wise peering into her face with a smile. “Uhh, what you say Wise?” she stammered as L.A. gave an understanding chuckle. “Yo, you ready to go one more gin? The crowd wants an encore!” Melody snapped out her trance and responded excitedly; “Oh hell yeah!” Wise and L.A. grinned at one another and shouted: “Aight then, let’s do this!” A fresh wave of thundering applause and shouts resonated throughout the auditorium as they rushed back on stage. The crowd lost their minds and screamed as Melody stepped forward, threw back her head, and belted out the first melodies of the song. In that one moment Wise and L.A. realized that a hip hop diva was born. ************************************************************************ Melody gave a silvery laugh as she raised a crystal wine glass filled with golden Moet in toast to the show’s success. “****, girl when you opened your mouth and just blew those notes out like that the people went INSANE!” exclaimed L.A. with a wide smile. Melody blushed as she responded ‘Man, I don’t know what happened. I mean I was just feeling it, so I let it out. I was so nervous at first, and then I just let my mind go blank, and I did what I had to.” “Well, girl, you did the **** thing. You have raw talent; there was no doubt in my mind about it when I first heard you sing. You can flow your *** off too. You are a double edged sword. You can blow and flow!” said Wise tossing back his glass of Moet, and refilling it quickly. A large crowd of friends, family, associates, and fans gathered around to offer their congratulations and admiration. “I jumped out my seat when I saw you switch out on that stage and throw that hat back. Girl you got a set of pipes on you! I was so surprised I like to have fainted!” exclaimed Mika, an old high school mate of Melody’s. Melody chuckled as her eyes gleamed with delight. “She was so quiet in high school. I did not know she could sang, much less rap!” Mika continued eyes wide with amazement. “Shiiii-t, yall did not have to hear her wailing and yelling the lyrics to every **** song on the radio growing up” Miguel, Melody’s brother, teased. “Boy no you did not!?” she gasped slapping at her brother playfully. Miguel had flown in from Florida to see Melody’s debut with Urban Rootz. Miguel grinned and continued; “But on the real even when we were little kids Melody could sing, and she could write some stuff that would make you go ****! I believed she was gonna be a star, and no one ever really knew she had it in her, but I knew all along.” “Ma, got madd talent. I remember the first time I heard her. We were doing a show up at U of M, and we invited some peeps from the audience to participate. Well Melody’s roommates Chandra and Nataki shoved her onstage. For a minute she froze up, and the next thing I knew she was owning that mic. Soon as she opened her mouth I was like ****! That girl blew me away! I told Wise we had to have her. She was perfect for us. I mean she had that flavor we had been looking for all along and never realized it until that moment.” said L.A. “Oh mos def. L.A. would have kicked my *** if we hadn’t picked her up. Mel has got the whole package. She’s pretty, but not in that overdone way, and she has just the right blend of sexiness and earthiness. She writes good lyrics too, and has so much PASSION. She LIVES her songs, man.” Wise said with evident admiration. Melody blushed under their continued praise. “Hell, all I know is that when you all go platinum I want a finder’s fee!” teased Chandra sipping her Moet. Nataki giggled in agreement as the others broke into appreciative laughter. The rest of the night was spent in a flurry of toasts, laughter, dancing and music. At 3:30 am the party began to break up, and people departed with final congratulations to Melody, Wise, and L.A. “Tonight was hype yall. Just imagine when we kick off the tour. It will be off the hinges!” Wise said excitedly. “Oh yeah, I believe this is just the beginning of a beautiful, beautiful thang. Do you agree Ms. Lady?” L.A. queried casting a warm grin at Melody. Stifling a yawn Melody smiled sleepily and murmured in agreement; “No doubt love, no doubt.” ************************************************************************ “****, Daddy, why can’t you just be happy for me!? I am finally doing what I love! The Urban Rootz are seriously talented, and I think we can make great music together. Why are you trippin?” Melody exclaimed in frustration as she slammed her glass of orange juice against the table. Melvin Kyne, Melody’s 6’5, former college football playing father, leaned back into the bright red leather booth and huffed and frowned at his only daughter. They were meeting for their usual Saturday morning breakfast date at Kerby’s in Southfield. . He was mad as hell that she was telling him she would be leaving college to join up with a rap group. “I’m not tripping Melody. You are. Girl you have a full ride at U of M, and you want to toss it all away to pursue a music career? Let me tell you. A college degree is a hell of a lot more solid than a music career. I’m not saying you aren’t talented baby, because you are, but there are thousands of wannabe singers out there. What guarantee is there that you won’t be one of those?” he demanded stabbing his fork into his ham and cheese omelet. Melody’s hazel brown eyes blazed with determination as she dropped her fork with a clink against her plate of French toast. “Isn’t that my risk to take? Daddy, I am 20 years old, not 12! You know all my life that I have loved music. This is something I believe in. I just KNOW that I can do this. I mean you and Momma always used to tell me to never be afraid to pursue my dreams. Well this is the dream I am going to pursue with or without your approval. I would like it if I had your approval, but if not…” she trailed off and bit her lip staring down into her orange juice. Mr. Kyne glared at her in tense silence for a moment. As he studied her he could see her Mother’s features in her face. Melody was 5’7 with a bronze brown complexion, gently slanting hazel brown eyes, full lips that curved into a wide smile, and a firm, athletic figure. Her thick dark hair was done up in braids that were crinkled at the ends. Mr. Kyne remembered well how willful Melody’s departed mother, Kyla, had been. Her eyes would flash with steel as Melody’s did now when she was determined to accomplish a mission. He softened at the memory of his wife, and sighed deeply. Melody was a junior in college, and was far from his little princess of 5 years old. She had grown into a beautiful mature young woman. She had learned lessons from hard experiences that had made her stronger. He admired her spirit and tenacity. He knew how much this meant to her, and deep in his heart he did not have the desire to be sour about it. He looked at her and chuckled softly sipping his black coffee. “****, you remind me of your momma. You are just as strong willed as she was.” Melody managed a small smile in spite of herself. She pushed a slice of French toast through a sticky trail of syrup and brought it to her lips. “Well it’s in my genes. Can’t be helped.” She said with a twinkle in her eyes. “Hmph” her father snorted as he took another bite of his omelet. “Well? Do I have your blessing or not?” Melody asked impatiently. Mr. Kyne put down his fork and regarded her seriously. “I know one way or the other you are going to do this. I will not say I approve of you dropping out of college, especially when you only have one year left to go, but I would be a hypocrite if I did not support you. Your mother and I meant what we said. You pursue your dream if you really believe in it. I don’t have to tell you this won’t be easy, but you keep focus on your goal, and never lose it. You can’t go too wrong if you stick to your own game plan. I don’t know much about the music business, but don’t you let no slick ****** get over on you. You make sure you keep in touch with our family lawyer. Anything you’re not sure of, ask questions, and don’t get caught up in all the fame and bullshitters, baby. It’s some fast talkers in that industry, so you have to be an even quicker thinker. You watch your back! And if you need anything you call me, hear?” Melody felt a grin tugging at her lips and she resisted the urge to jump up and fly into her father’s arms and plant a big kiss on his clean shaven head. He gruff old daddy would have been ruffled by such a show of affection, so she opted to seize his large hands and squeezed them warmly. “Thank you so much Daddy! I really appreciate this, and I will definitely call you if I need you to come beat a fool down” she said with a wide smile. Her father chuckled in amusement. “Alright now girl tell me what your plans are, before I change my mind!” Without hesitation Melody launched into describing her plans to record with Urban Rootz, the upcoming shows, and touring schedule. Her father nodded and grumbled a bit, sipping his coffee, as she spoke, but he did not interrupt. When she had fallen silent he templed his fingers beneath his chin in a moment of reflection then spoke. “Sounds like you all are very serious about this. I have given you my advice already. Go for it Princess.” “Thanks Daddy.” She said with a grateful smile. Melody and her father finished their breakfast with easy and pleasant bantering until their server came to clear their dishes away, and present them with their check. Mr. Kyne easily peeled a crisp twenty along with a few dollar bills off his wad of cash, and placed them on the table along with a tip as they rose to depart from the restaurant. In the parking light Melody embraced her father and kissed him on the cheek before she got into her car. Mr. Kyne watched wistfully for a moment as she flashed him a sunny smile and waved at him before backing out the parking lot. He watched her drive away toward the Lodge freeway, and looked toward the heavens. “Well, Kyla, we’ve done well by that girl, now I’m gonna leave her in you and God’s hands.” Then stepping into his silver Buick LeSabre he drove away. ************************************************************************ Eli Wallace adjusted the volume levels on his mix board, and held up 5 fingers to let Melody know recording would begin in five seconds. Melody nodded and readjusted the headset. Wise and L.A. had already laid the verses for the song earlier, and now Melody was recording the vocals. It was Monday evening, and they had been at Eli’s studio for 2 hours now. Eli Wallace was the owner of Blazing Sun Productions. He had his own personal studio and production team. Numerous local artists had used Eli’s services and Urban Rootz were the newest clients on Eli’s roster. Melody sang the vocals without a hitch, and Eli checked the recording before layering Wise and L.A.’s verses over the track. Twenty minutes later Eli had finished tooling the track and was letting them listen to the finished work. Melody’s crystal clear vocals soared over and wove through the beat complimenting Wise and L.A.’s crisp flows. Everyone listened intently as they bobbed their heads to the music. When the last note faded Eli glanced at the members of the Rootz expectantly. “Beautiful work man. Her vocals were so clear. I like that,” said Wise nodding approvingly. “That beat was on point. I think it’s tight,” noted L.A. “What do you think Ms. Lady?” L.A. asked turning to Melody. “I agree with Wise. I think it sounds smooth. Excellent work,” responded Melody. Eli’s mouth curved into a wide smile, his big brown eyes shining. “Good ****,” he said with satisfaction then asked; “Who’s up next or do you all want to take a break?” “Let’s break for about 20 or 30 minutes. We can go grab some snacks or something from the corner store. What restaurants are around here anyway? Yall hungry? I know I am,” Wise said. L.A. and Melody agreed, and Eli suggested a couple of local eateries in the neighborhood. “Hell, I could go for a bag of Better Made Barbeque chips myself,” he said. Melody grinned and asked; “You like them chips for real?” “Oh no doubt! I got to have my chips now, girl” he exclaimed and Melody laughed. Just then the chirping of a cell phone interrupted their conversation, and Melody excused herself to take the call. “Hello?” “Wassup girl? I heard you turned it out last weekend?” “Jay D.? How the hell did you get this number?” Melody hissed. “What? You ain’t happy to hear from me?” he asked sarcastically and laughed. Melody’s cheeks flooded with color, and her blood raced. “Got-**** you Jay D. I told you not to call me no more!” There was a brief moment of silence on the other end of the line, and Melody was about to hang up when Jay D. spoke up suddenly. “Look Melody, baby, don’t act like that. I’m not trying to **** your good thing up. I just wanted to congratulate you, okay?” Melody felt her resistance weakening for a moment. “Thanks,” she said simply. “No problem, love. Melody?” Melody could hear the change in his voice and she felt her guard go back up again. “Look Jay D I gotta go. Bye,” she said shortly and pressed the end call button on her Nokia 3300 cell phone. Melody wondered how he had gotten her number, and from whom, but she was not surprised he had been able to track her down after all these years. Jay D seemed to have universal connections, and could get any information he wanted, especially information pertaining to her. The thought angered her along with a deeper turmoil of emotions, but she refused to think about Jay D. and the past right now. “I’ve worked hard to make it, and I’m not going to let anything stop me,” she whispered with determination to herself. “Hey Melody, are you alright?” asked Wise seeing the expression on her face. Melody instantly forced a bright smile and nodded. “Oh yeah, I’m cool, love. I was just thinking about some things.” “Aight, well I got this new rhyme I want to collab with you on. Take a look, and tell me what you think. Think you can flow with that?” he asked extending a sheet of paper toward her. Melody’s eyes quickly flitted down the script on the sheet. She nodded her head. “This is tight. I can definitely vibe off this.” Wise grinned. “Cool. We are getting ready to order a pizza. What you want?” “Anything you guys are having,” she said agreeably. She was not really that hungry anymore, but she did not want the guys to think anything was wrong. “Aight,” Wise said and walked off toward the recording booth where Eli and L.A. were consulting with one another. Eli had put on Common’s CD , “One Day It Will All Make Sense”, and Melody could hear the soulful voice of Lauryn Hill pouring from the speakers as “Retrospect For Life” played. She turned away with cloudy eyes, and bit her lip as she stared blankly at the sheet of paper in her hands. She looked toward her cell phone as the phrase “Three and fifteen dollars ain’t worth your soul…” echoed in her ears.