Before the Beast
When I first began to embark on my quest. When I was still searching for my own voice as a rapper. When I was still learning how to be the artist I want to be, I went by a different name…FolkRhym.
It was a brisk night. An evening like many in Chicago during the fall. I was new to this place. Not so new that I didn’t have my bearings, but new when it comes to the timeline of my life at that moment.
I was fresh off an excursion to London where I worked on my first early writings and music. I hadn’t found a home in London so I found that in this new place, Chicago. A city of cold and steel and cunning and brawn.
Birth of a Beast
I was out to dinner with a lovely young dame…an actress…a bit older than I, but being that she became apart of who I was soon to be, special. We ate at Irazu. One of the best restaurants in Chicago. Costa Rican joint. It’s where I choose to take all the babes. Plus it’s always been walking distance from where I lived on Western Avenue.
We ate well, drank some good wine and laughed. She was nice, but ultimately it didn’t last. However “special” she may have been, the day was made by what would come. She didn’t know it, I didn’t know it, but Chicago did.
After we ate, since it was a Monday and she had work in the morning, I found her a cab, stole a kiss, and took to the brisk night air.
I texted a friend and former collaborator Epik 1. There’s an open mike at Quenchers every Monday that him and I would often performed at. It wasn’t soon after this night that I got a job working at Quenchers that would lead to me making my way into the scene.
When I had gotten to Quenchers, Uncle Ray was behind the bar. A tough and wise old Chicago hood that had been tending bar at Quenchers since the 80’s. I sat at the bar with Epik 1 and did some shots of whiskey while I bragged about the gorgeous actress I had just gone out with to Irazu. Uncle Ray always love to hear about the women I would get involved with.
The open mike hosted by good friend Darren Amaya was beginning. Handsome Joe and his sketch comedy show had ended and we all were sitting at the bar doing more shots. Epik and I talked about last weeks open mike.
“You gotta change that name of yours…FolkRhym. You can’t go by that, I’m telling you,” Epik said while writing his name on the chalkboard.
Epik 1 is an interesting type. He is one of the monks. Someone who has studied intensely all the different temples of hip hop. He’s a Dj, a rapper, a Producer, a B-boy, a graff writer, and a battle rapper. Many of us enter into the guild of hip hop and take up one or maybe two temples, some dabble a little in many if not most of the temples, but few are Masters in all the schools. Epik 1 is one of those. There are many in Chicago. But few live it as dedicated as this monk. So it is fitting that this instance came to be.
“I don’t understand what’s the problem with it?” I replied confident in my decision of my moniker.
“Two of the biggest gangs in Chicago are Folks and Peoples. You can’t be doing this thing out here and be on stage and all that with that name. If there is some from Peoples there they might make a move on ya, or
if they are Folks they may call you out on your name. You don’t want any of that,” We stood by the stage of Quenchers while others came to sign up for the nights open mike.
“Man, I like my name. I’m not changing it. We’ve had this conversation before, ain’t no one gonna bother me. I don’t dress in colors or whatever,” I replied like any defiant white man who didn’t think the rules of the game apply.
Normally this type of talk about changing my rapper name would annoy me. It wasn’t the first time we had had this conversation. On the one hand it’s nice to see someone looking out for ya, on the other hand we were beginning to perform together so this could possibly end up becoming his problem as well.
The Rapper Hank McCoy
The night went on and after I had done my set I came off stage. Epik and I went to the bar and had another drink with Uncle Ray.
“Ya know, you are a beast on stage, ya know that?” Epik says as he orders a beer to go with the makers mark.
“Hah thanks man,” we cheersed and took our shots of that brown burning liquor.
“Man matter of fact you even look like the Beast. With the glasses and the hair and beard and all that,” Epik took a sip of his beer and froze, “Matter of fact, what’s the Beast’s real name?”
I smiled, “Hank McCoy,” I felt it as soon as I said it.
“That’s your fuckin’ name.”