I was up next to perform at the open mic night showcase in Brooklyn. Taste the Stage had become my second home after attending for a few months and I was ready to greet my guests. I stepped on to the small stage after a warm welcome and proceeded to belt the first verse to “Canto a Yemaya.”
Ya le recé a Xangó
ya le imploré a Oyá
también pedí clemencia a Olofín
y hoy le canto a Yemayá
y Oxum caridad del pobre
Yemayá, mi guía espiritual
Virgencita, yo que soy tan pobre
sólo clamo por la tranquilidad
de mi familia, de mis amigos
sólo clamo por la tranquilidad
The band and the crowd fell silent as I continued to sing without the music. This song I listened to every morning and every evening had become my bread and wine. I didn’t practice Santeria; hell, I barely knew what it was but the lyrics of this song and the beautiful Afro-Caribbean rhythm speak to my soul. I had to share this feeling.
I squeezed my eyes tight and held my hand to my belly. With every word I could feel a weight being lifted from my chest. My hips slowly began to sway to the beat and then my feet started to join in. I felt like I was dancing with someone. Towards the end of the song, I finally opened my eyes to see that some of the members of the audience got up to dance as well. Once I had finished my rendition, there was an eruption of applause. I thanked the crowd and hurried back to my table.
I was so flustered that I didn’t even notice him sitting in the booth next to the table I was sharing with my friend. She and I made Wednesdays our date night away from our kids; I was eager to hear her thoughts on my set. Before I could ask her anything, she pinched my arm and nodded to his booth.
I had no idea who this guy was. He looked a little familiar but I couldn’t place him. He grabbed the notebook and introduced the next performer. Once they stepped up, he reclaimed his seat in the booth next to me and my friend. I don’t know, maybe it was my imagination or maybe it was wishful thinking because it seemed to me there was a connection between us. Our eyes kept meeting and you know, we would smile a little bit. There was something brewing.
When I told my homegirl about this connection, she laughed and told me his name. J. Cole? Never heard of him. He’s a rapper. She also made a point to mention that he would never be involved with a brown skinned beauty like myself. That’s fine. I’m not truly interested anyway, right?
For the rest of the night, I crushed on everything about J. Cole from his knowing smirk to his laid back demeanor. His presence spoke for itself without the loud and excessive jewelry. I chatted with my homegirl a while longer while keeping a steady eye on J. He was laughing and speaking casually to his entourage and a few others between sets.
This is when he blew my mind. He stepped to the mic and began to perform a spoken word piece. It was so sexy. I loved to hear him talk about his struggle. There is so much power behind his words. So anyway after his set, it was time for band games. This is when the band played tunes and we, the audience, had to guess the song. I saw J. lean over to NJOB, the host, and whisper a request for the next tune.
No one got it. The band kept performing the same snippet and BAM, it hit me what the song was and I jumped up screaming the title. He smirked. I guess I was too excited but the audience was pleased and most importantly, so was he.
All in all Taste the Stage was amazing as usual. I was picking over my catfish nuggets when a rugged voice with a subtle southern accent whispered in my ear. In the flesh, shoulder to shoulder, I sat with J. Cole. He spoke to me like he knew me for ever. His smooth words were so hypnotic and of course, I can’t get into detail but his words sent chills through my body.
I mean at the end of it all, I left with him. His boys went their way and my homegirl went with them. We hopped in his car and drove to the Westin in Jersey City. It was around five in the morning at this point and I was tipsy and tired. The conversation was sexy but polite. J wasn’t crude or disrespectful, he put the moves on just right.
My life started to imitate art once his song about morning sex whispered on the radio. I couldn’t turn him down now, could I?
To be continued…..