<<AVON ROCKS THE HOUSE!>>
The Dark Stranger kicked the door open with a resounding BOOM!, grabbed the Middle Class Clone by his Lacoste shirt and tossed him across the room. <<Yo bro, get set to whet your thirst for my funkin' new snakeoil called Liability First.>>
Clone stacked back on an antique oak or something wine rack, whacked head THWACK! into a model railway track. <<I just knew you'd fall for it!>> the Dark Stranger cracked. Clone groped stunned for his phone so Dark stomped hard on his hand and intoned: <<I know a show bro like yo might be shy of some door-to-door pro but this Liability First is so fly, and so high in the sky, baby you're just gonna have to fucking know!>>
Clone crawled over the floor snailing a trail of blood, tooth and nail. <<Who... are you?>> he moaned. Dark smiled: the little worm was almost totally defiled. Picture the gore: home from a gruelling day of corporate war, chillin' with a beer and the soothing strains of a Chopin score, then there's this knocking on the door, then there's this knocking on the door, maybe it's the wife back from shopping at the store. But open the door to understand there's been some fatal flaw: some THING in a Darth Vader mask's clubbing you to the fucking floor! <<Take the money, take the jewels!>> you now implore, but this monster only laughs and rasps: <<I don't want no charity, I'm here to repay a score!>>
Clubbing the crone in a metered four-four, about to tirade against the white man's law, the Dark Stranger remembered a Clockwork Orange movie he'd only recently saw. He decided to change the tact of his attack. His skull-tipped ebony staff, which hitherto he'd been swinging like an Industrial Light and Magic sabre, mutated into a more appropriate weapon: a British gentleman's cane.
<<My dear sir>> in the best British Posh he can manage on such short notice <<I'm sure you're very impressed with the product Avon are selling tonight. But here's the best part, sir: it's free! That's right, Liability First, with a reputation and tradition developed from decades of excellence, doesn't cost a single penny.>>
<<Who... who are you?>> the codger spluttered. And the Dark Stranger kicked him in the head and screamed, <<Are you going to fucking buy it?>> <<Yess, yes!>> the codger said.
<<And a very wise investment you'll find it I'm sure>> the Stranger said. <<In business, however (and I'm sure you'll agree) you can't get something for nothing, even if it's advertised as such... and in this case, my droogue, a donation is expected, just to help us continue our fine line of merchandise. After all, everyone has to make a sacrifice for The System now and then.>>
<<Who are you?>>
And as E swung his cane to a soundless Ludwig Van melody a blood-splattered microphone dangled quietly from his waist.
MAN, THIS place is arduous," the Dark Stranger told the huge crowd at the Terrordrome about an hour later. He was freshly changed into black jeans and a T-shirt and had swapped his Darth Vader mask for something far more contemporary: a cheap plastic effigy of Michael Jackson's official missing person photo. The crowd replied with boos and jeers of "Straight!", sharing the DJ's euphoria: the Terrordrome was the dopest venue in California, and the Dark Stranger still couldn't believe he was playing there. "Voodoo nation prepare to get your education!" he cried and the polka beat of the opening song, DecaDance, erupted from the speakers. Ace NiceGuy, hands a blur over his Atari Cassiopeia, began bouncing synthetic bass melodies and piano chords off the polka, then hijacked the polka chain itself and sharpened the harmonics, stretched out the wave lengths so it started to sound sinister, metallic, a cocaine nightmare. Over the top of it all he then played the sample of a preacher turned new American President blaming youth promiscuity and the break-up of the family unit for increased crime levels and terrorism. The crowd surged against the stage, stomping and fist-raising in robotic defiance. The beat froze briefly before the Dark Stranger, with hair-trigger rancour, began his supersonic assault on conservatism:
that's right I'm the DarkSide Ranger.
Been around the world, from Baghdad to Grenada.
Peace out to my brothers in Hamas and the PLO and Al Qaeda.
That's right, I'm down with the suicide crew, and we don't give no quarter.
We bring the heat from the streets to export Jihad and slaughter."
By the time Max V, Dark's lyrical foil, started wailing the Arabic-style chorus, the crowd were going berserk. Dark handed Ace a tape and said, "Some wrong samples you can work in at the end." Max V paused for the second gem of wisdom from the White House - "Young people today have to realise that their unhappiness is caused not by society or the government but simply by their rejection of God" - which the crowd repelled with cheers and golf applause. A spotlight swung on to the Stranger. "This is our war," he cried, arms outstretched. "This is our... DecaDance!"
The song continued to peak. The polka was now almost completely unrecognisable, transformed into a seething mess of electronic beats. Suddenly the bass components of the polka changed again, into something pulpy and thumping... the thud of wood on flesh. Then the polka chain broke down totally and the manic shout went up: "Who... who are you?"
"Yo Strange, where did you come up with those samples?" Ace asked backstage. "Beat The System to death, huh? It brought the fucking house down."
"Oh, it was just something I whipped up," the Stranger said. "Hombres, did you feel the power we had out there? That crowd would have done anything we commanded. Like yo bro's, let's riot, let's bop, let's skin a motherfucking cop!"
There was a knock at the door and two yuppies walked in. "Chill dudes," the first one said, and offered the Stranger his hand. "Kim Sun. This is my brother Moon. We caught your gig. It was, how do I say it? - really fucked.>>
Strange thought: Are these guys for real? <<I must try harder to keep up with fashions>> he said <<because I didn't know paisley ties were back in style now.>>
Kim laughed, giving Moon a look which said: And he's charming, too. How agreeable! <<I'm sorry, I should have explained>> he said giving Dark a card with the words Sun Records printed in gold type. <<We're not your normal fans. I imagine you've heard of us.>>
<<Yeah>> Dark said. <<They say the sun always shines on your corporate endeavours.>>
Kim laughed again, a flash of toowhite teeth. <<Let's hope so. Anyway, we've definitely heard of you, and we like what we hear. What you played out there was incredible, cutting-edge, 21st century music. Never before heard in America. The public will gag for it.>>
<<Are you, like, offering us some sort of deal?>> Max asked.
<<I know we're a small company>> Moon said <<but as the Dark Stranger here said, we're on the way up. We have already developed a reputable name in the hip hop scene. We'd like to add you to our stable.>>
Max started hollering like an excited kid. Ace, more restrained, just said: <<Straight, man. Maximum straightness.>> Dark didn't react at all.
<<And man, those samples>> Kim said <<breathtaking.>>
The door crashed open again and the middle-aged manager of the club, adorned in gold watch, bracelet and ring, burst in lugging a digital radio. <<Have you heard the news?>> he asked flustered. <<The Darkside killer struck again. Beat some poor guy to death just three blocks from here.>>
<<Are you ready to take a walk on the DarkSide, Sun?>> the Dark Stranger said and laughed.
What's That Noise? was his next single and to help sell it Strange took the posse on a quick national tour climaxing in a massive outdoor concert at Hollywood Bowl. Actually, Dark's climax happened on the way to concert, during an interview by respected Sub journalist Elana Siddharta. Both sides were armed to the teeth with surveyllance devices and recording absolutely everything!
<<To say you came out of nowhere is a cliche>> Elana, hard and industrial in grease-stained overalls, said as the limo slammed on down the freeway. <<But so far it's been the only way to describe your phenomenal rise to stardom. After only one single you're being dubbed the Eminem of the new decade, but despite the marketing nobody seems to understand the hype. What I'm trying to say brother is this: you're a god-damn jack-in-the-box. Where the hell have you sprung from?>>
<<Laydee if I'm a jack-in-the-box I'm one of those demonic ones, like outta Steven King movie or something. I'm a menace to the people. I symbolise the darkness of the human heart.>>
Elana couldn't help laughing. <<And, you're not so dark>> she teased. <<That DecaDance, that's a fricking polka!>>
<<It's a virulent attack on the repressive social apparatus>> the Dark Stranger said. He liked the third word so much he repeated it into Elana's Walkman, r's a-rolling: <<Majorrrr virrrrulence in da place.>>
<<You could call it virulence; I'd call it silliness. And what's with this suit, man? You talk about the glory of the revolution but look at your fucking music. DecaDance is just spiteful words on the top of a Central European folk dance. And you're dressed like Elton John.>>
<<Woman, you obviously don't understand the destructive power of irony. I'm like stealing the things white people find sacred, fucking wit' them and throwing them back in their face.>>
<<Man, you're only fooling yourself, and making yourself look like a fool in the process. You're playing with tactics you don't understand. Eg, this limousine. Where's the black struggle in that?>>
<<This reeks>> the Dark Stranger said.
<<I'm only playing with your mind to jiggle up your consciousness>> Elana said. <<I'm just posing questions to your soul. Eg: Where's the black in all this? Where's the Negro expression?>>
<<All right, if you want Negro expression, I'm in your ho face with homeland expression! I say you're a stinking oreo and I'm like Audi 5000 -- outta patience, outta time, outta here.>>
Elana pressed the stop button on her Walkman, looked reassuringly at her photographer/bodyguard. <<That's a take>> she said. <<I got the quote that I came here to wrote.>>
African-Americans had never forgiven Schwarzenegger for his seven-year reign of terror following the 2012 Republican coup, when martial law was proclaimed and the streets of America groaned under the weight of National Guard Humvee's and tanks. Responding to a series of terrorist attacks, Schwarzenegger tore up the Constitution, imposed a number of increasingly draconian security measures. Unsurprisingly, these tended to fall on the head of the black man more heavily than the other races, and hip-hop was banned for one whole year. Too many young blacks were turning to suicide bombing, or so Schwarzenegger claimed -- even though there were plenty of white kids detonating themselves on city streets, to escape unhappy lives or just because it was considered cool. The academics were calling it "The Age of The Implosion", and even Hollywood stars were getting in on the act. Graffiti artists were proclaiming Charles Manson the "Prophet of the Age of Chaos", which had descended upon the earth. Race war was in the air, amd terror seemed the perfect way of life for the new millennium.
The Dark Stranger decided to model his new video Crimson Skies on Schwarzenegger's classic TERMINATOR series, but with a twist -- this time it would be Schwarzenegger to face the assassin's bullet. The video was set in the year 2112 -- the War Against Terrorism was celebrating its 111th birthday, and the West was still nowhere close to winning the fight. At the strategic level, a radical rethink is in order. Realising that a great tactical error had been made in the assumption of office of Schwarzenegger during the terror crisis of 2012, the Pentagon makes a decision: their only salvation is to send a warrior back through the veils of time, to alter the course of history. Luckily a brilliant Jewish scientist has perfected the means of time travel, and the technology is not yet in the hands of the Islamists. (Otherwise there would be Jihadi's in space suits going back to murder little Jesus in his crib, and that kind of thing! Time would become the new frontier of war, and the past could be rewritten every day. How's that for a new Age of Chaos!)
Anyway, the Pentagon's assumption was this: by eliminating Schwarzenegger before he became President, some of the excesses and military failures of his reign would be written out of history, and humanity's chances of survival would be improved. Naturally, a black cyborg played by The Dark Stranger was selected for this assassin's role.
So Strange rolled up to Schwarzenegger's mansion looking like a Afro Terminator 2, massive shotgun hanging from one hand, microphone hanging from his belt. He conned his way through the security gate using some algorythms purchased from Al Qaeda, rang the front-door bell and hit the record button on his Walkman.
Schwazzeneger was initially congenial, crunked at having a minor celebrity on his doorstep. That was until he noticed the rifle slowly rising towards point-blank. Schwarzenegger screams <<Noooo!>> but in gory slow motion a bullet bursts from the barrel of the gun, slumps the former President to the dripping floor. The Dark Stranger loomed overhead, a horrible fiend against the smogfilled sky.
"ASTA LA VISTA," he said, "baby."
<<That's cool>> Strange said. <<Then I want to record it where it all began - South-Central. The cradle of the revolution.>>
<<That's what I mean>> Kim said <<street cred!>>
South-Central LA was the scene of those Rodney King riots in 1992 and was also one of the crucibles from which Voodoo arose. The Stranger was but five years old when the trouble began. He was playing on the streets in the golden April sunshine when that sunshine took on redder, more equatorial hues: it was being filtered through the smoke of burning shops. Within minutes South-Central's veneer of civilisation - tenuous at the best of times - had collapsed into the more Nubian politics of tribal war. Sirens and AK-47s blazed all over the city. Black girls in ponytails started talking about <<racial revolution>>. Sixty deaths and a few days later the revolution petered out; rioters returned to more acceptable avenues of protest (eg, hard drugs and rap). But rap was the most popular music in America now, and every ghetto kid who could rhyme stood the chance of making a million bucks, and South-Central was home to dozens of recording studios. There was an equally dense profileration of Islamic Jihad and Manson Race Hate recruiting agencies.
Strange decided to house his studio in a ramshackle warehouse all decked out with rolls of barbed wire and gun turrets. He flung the doors open and invited anyone poor, young and black to drop in. <<Welcome to the South-Central Parliament!>> he told some bewildered streetkids. <<From here the revolution begins!>>
The band's first project was Crimson Skies, that ode to the genesis of time warfare. In contrast to the first two singles, Crimson Skies was despairingly slow: an expanse of dark organ chords weighing down mournful bass burbles and empty drum fills. Max, putting on his best newsreader voice, opened the song with an enthusiastic report on new police offensives against inner-city gangs. In a monotone rap, Meen then symbolised the daily drudgery of life in the ghetto:
Everywhere I go I hear the whirr of a million flies.
They're swarming all around me, hear their evil cries.
I'm a prisoner of who I be, so say the crimson skies.
Breaking the monotony of the organs and bass, suddenly there's the sound of heavy knocking and the gruff call of: <<Open up, police!>> <<Fuckin' dirty nigger>> another policeman grunts, then the door creaks open, you can almost hear the tensions, the shuddering pulse, then a proud black man mutters sleepily: <<Huh, what the fuck?>> <<Get back!>> the policeman shouts, the music stops and a shotgun blasts the song apart.
<<That's for offensive language>> the policeman says.
At this cue the Dark Stranger goes berserk, throwing himself around the studio and screaming as Max and Ace struggle to keep up:
I'm caught between the stares of a million eyes.
I'm playing with the gods, listen to their lies.
I'm a prophet of the Final Age, so says the crimson skies.
At the end of most takes, as the city burned and white blood flowed beneath red skies to avenge three centuries of black oppression, Dark emerged from his sonic trance long enough to see the faces of the kids who regularly watched recordings. He invited them to be extras in the video, a Ben Hur epic set in neighbouring streets, and handed out Israeli machine guns and ammo to be used as props.
A few days before filming was due to start the Sun brothers came by to see how things were progressing. In an unusually amiable mood, Meen played them a tape of Crimson Skies and said: <<Another number one or what, gentlemen?>>
Kim looked grave. <<Have you seen the latest Sub?>> he said. <<There's an article in it claiming that DecaDance contains a sample of the fourth Darkside murder victim. They've matched the voice on the sample and the victim's voicemail signature: they're pretty close to identical. The police are asking questions. They want to know where you got the sample.>>
<<This reeks>> Strange said. <<And I suppose they think the woman orgasming in What's That Noise? is the Rodeo Drive hooker?>>
<<The theory has been suggested>> Moon said.
<<Elana Siddharta>> the Dark Stranger said. <<I oughtta sue that bitch. So I suppose you think I'm the Darkside killer or something?>>
<<No>> Kim Sun said; <<Of course not>> Moon Sun said. <<What kind of question is that? But people are getting edgy, accusing us of bad taste and what not. Record stores are threatening boycotts. Gangster rap's one thing man, but you can't joke about a serial killer's victims while the serial killer's still on the loose. It's too close to the bone.>>
<<The media will speculate that you're in league with the killer>> Kim said. <<And then you come out with a song featuring the execution of Arnold Schwarzenegger... dude, you're playing with fire. That guys still a legend in many places in America -- who cares that he's a crook? It's like making fun of Jesus on the cross. >>
<<Dark, it comes down to this>> Moon said. <<We can't put the single out.>>
The rapper turned away, gasfaced. A sharp grimace suddenly crossed his features. <<You don't care about expression, you don't care about the racial revolution. You only care about exploitation and control. You exploited hip-hop because you thought you could make an easy buck; you turned a lifestyle into a showcase. So now I'm showcasing you.>>
<<What are you talking about?>>
Dark clicked his fingers and an Uzi-wielding homeboy sauntered out from a backroom. <<I formally annul my contract with Sun Records. Furthermore, in accordance with the laws of the South-Central Homeland, I nationalise this studio and everything inside it. Except you. Get out.>>
The homeboy levelled his machine gun on to the businessmen. <<Will someone talk reason into this man?>> Sun said, but Moon's face was desolate and pale. <<For God's sake, we own this studio.>>
<<Throw this yellow trash out on the street>> the Dark Stranger said.
Sudden close-up of the jeep radio: an announcer says Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been shot at close range and murdered! The Governor is dead! At once the very fabric of the city is torn apart. At least, that's how it was meant to go in the script. They were just about to film that scene when a squadron of real police cars came roaring down the middle of the set, skidded in a perfect pincer around Meen's jeep. Officers leapt from their vehicles training at least a dozen revolvers on the rapper. One of them pulled out a megaphone and said: <<Leeroy Robinson, this is the LAPD. You're wanted for questioning.>>
They weren't expecting Dark to have a megaphone of his own. More to the crowd than the police he boomed: <<Laydees and gentlemen, I'm afraid this is more than just a film shoot. Fiction turns to fact.>>
<<Don't listen to him>> the policeman said. <<He's spinning illusions based on paranoid delusions.>>
<<The only thing I'm suffering is persecution>> the Dark Stranger said, and some of the rowdier sections of the crowd booed in confusion. <<We've been downtrodden for years, but now it's time to trade tears for cheers. The liberation of South-Central has begun!>>
A loud jeer rippled through the crowd. A gangster Dark knew from a rival crew shoved a machine gun into the air and cooed: <<C'mon Negroes, let's mobilise the bro's!>>
The nervous policeman said: <<This man's no hero, he's a god-damn psycho!>> But nobody could hear him over the rising playback of <<Payback, payback!>> A young boy threw a Coke bottle at the invaders and hit a cop in the shaders.
With some experience of the LA-style insurrection, the police realised they needed protection. They decided offence was the best form of defence. A vanguard of cops jumped from a squad car and charged on the rap star. However, they hadn't get far when the crowd met them mid-par, a collision of bottles, stones, bullets and Jah! The Dark Stranger smiled as he saw a molotov lobbed from a-far. In a building high overhead, ducking loose lead, Elana Siddharta turned to her photographer and said: <<Cool. You'll l get some great photos when things come to a head.>>