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Nov 23, 04 08:28 AM

These Roads Have Me Vexed.


I'm remembering this rapper I saw in Asheville, North Carolina.


A couple Summers ago, I was skint and didn't take my annual trip to an exotic location: instead, I rented a bitchin' Mustang, and I drove to my friend Kelly Sue's in Kansas City. Then I drove south, to Branson, to Oxford and Clarksdale, Mississippi, Memphis, and then I headed to Asheville with the intention of driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway and then back home.

It was the day of the New York black out, which, after an initial panic (I asked a waitress at a Tennessee Cracker Barrel if she knew what was going on, and she replied, in her charming Southern drawl, "You mean here in Cooksville?"), I was melancholy to be absent for.

It was raining torrentially. I drove into Asheville, checked into a hotel, and headed to the Mellow Mushroom, which you may mock but is in fact a ridiculously tasty slice of pizza.

There was a DJ spinning instrumental hip hop tracks, and local hippie kids were getting up on the mic and rapping. It was fascinating: I mean, these were hippie kids, dreadlocked, poncho-wearing hippie kids. A procession of them got on the mic and rocked it to varying degrees of proficiency, each with, hilariously, a take on a current rapper's style: a hippie kid Snoop, a hippie kid Del, a dreadlocked Nelly manqu.

There was a dishwasher in the kitchen that I could see from my table. He was nodding his head to the track, clearly working out a strategy for freestyle, getting into the sound of the track. And then, when he was ready, he would put the dishes down and head over to the mic, wiping his hands on an apron. He was psyched, the words right there at his command, ready to rock it.

And then the moment he got on the mic, the DJ, who'd been spinning the same instrumental for a while, switched up the track. Faced with this new track, the hippie dishwasher's momentum collapsed, he halfheartedly tried to apply his meticulous plan to the new track, but always faltered, and would end unsatisfyingly and walk dejectedly back to the dishes, only to repeat the same pattern twenty minutes later, then again, then again.

I almost got up and had a word with the DJ, who was oblivious to the tragedy: Don't change the beat yet! Let the dishwasher have his moment. Please!

There was one rapper who was absolutely fantastic. He was actually dressed somewhat like a rapper, with only a modicum of hippie accoutrements. He brought a girlfriend with a taut belly and a giant buckle, and a notebook. He would get on the mic and the whole pizza parlour would elevate--all eight of us sitting at the tables in the Mellow Mushroom, munching, captivated. The amazing rain banging on the roof made us feel closed in, intimate, focussed. It was an extraordinary, urgent performance.

I really wanted to talk to him. I thought--Asheville rapper kid, why are you trying to sound like you're black? You're so talented. Go this route and you'll be good; find your unique and honest self, and you'll be great.

He had a line I remember: "These streets have got me vexed." These streets? The streets of North Carolina? Try these roads have me vexed. Wow, wouldn't it be awesome for a white hippie kid rapper to emerge from the Blue Ridge Mountains, not aping the rappers in vogue, but with his own bracingly honest style?

Posted by Mike at November 23, 2004 8:28 AM

"Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right".

Gotta love those hippie kids!
(.) (.)

Posted by: bee at November 23, 2004 8:43 AM

This blog has got me vexed yo
Why isn't you writin' 'bout sex and hos
Streets muthafucka, or is it roads?
Helpin' us whiteys be in da know.

Nice tits bee

Posted by: Ice tumbla at November 23, 2004 9:25 AM

You want quality white boy rap? Check out superinhalerman ( His song "Fried Tobacco Eyes" is about as dope as it gets. That's right. Dope.

It downloads really slow, but it's worth it.


Posted by: ike. at November 23, 2004 10:03 AM

"Mellow Mushroom"
hippie kids expected, wonder bread rap keeps you coming back!
I can't stop laughing about what an interresting evening at the pizza joint, wish I was there.

Posted by: bee at November 23, 2004 10:11 AM

ahh, very fond memories of the Mellow Mushroom down the street from where i went to college in Atlanta -- many a night all i cared to eat was two slices with sausage, mushroom and black olives -- they have one in Nashville now that they're a larger chain, and although good, it doesn't taste like it did then

sounds like a beautiful drive and a wonderful experience --

Posted by: Amy at November 23, 2004 10:23 AM

When I lived in Georgia I worked at a Mellow Mushroom for a few months, maybe a year. We never had hippie kid rap night but did make the best tofu sandwich in town. Whenever I go home I make sure to visit.

Posted by: liz at November 23, 2004 10:27 AM

my brother joined the army this year (a sadness and scariness in this day and age) and i went to his bootcamp graduation at ft. benning, georgia. every night as i watched tv in my terribly disgusting hotel room, i saw incredibly trippy commercials for the mellow mushroom. they were so drug inspired that i was forced to call home and share with my girlfriend my amazment that they were airing in the middleofnowhere, georgia.

Posted by: improvpete at November 23, 2004 11:15 AM

kick fucking ass story mr. mike! i want to go out on the road. oh dear gods above please save me from my cubicle-bound life!

Posted by: james the s at November 23, 2004 12:52 PM

it's not the blueridge mountians, but it is halifax. try Buck 65, a canadian whose style is unique, a cross between the lackadasical narrative of country, and the rhythmic poetry of rap.


Posted by: Sean at November 23, 2004 1:59 PM

to the dejected dishwasher:

if the dj changes the beat on you, you don't have to concede all derailed and dejected.

just say, 'yo dawg, can you put that other beat back on for a sec...(ahem)... alright check it..."

that'll be $8.50, next...

Posted by: rob from grand forks at November 23, 2004 3:13 PM

That was MY Cracker Barrel.
-Back in the days of out all night, 2 hour nap and scruffy fashionista brekky-brek with the boys. Good times. Toast anyone?
Beautiful top pic, by the way.

Posted by: Pennah at November 23, 2004 3:38 PM

You failed to tell us how the VA lottery ticket that you must have purchaed went!
Do you have to be a red-stater to claim your certain winnings?
Perhaps that's why you passed...

Posted by: Pourouttherum at November 23, 2004 5:48 PM

ashville has this clique of kids known as GFE which aternatively stands for different things like granola funk express and other bits. Mike you described them to a T. Some of the kids are nice guys. others (most) are total pricks who spend alot of time trying to out cool each other. Mostly they give lay women and men shit for not being as down or hip hop aware as they are. What was once a pretty cool scene with these folks has gotten progressively further from constructive.

Posted by: evan at November 23, 2004 9:20 PM

If I respond first does that mean I'm the best-est??

I do hope so and I will try my best to be the first one to say something stupid :) :).

Posted by: firstest bestest at November 23, 2004 10:37 PM

I'm sorry, but I being from NJ and having gone to college in the south, I just can't believe anywhere in NC has good pizza.

Posted by: rob at November 24, 2004 9:04 AM

By the way I'm well aware that everyone thinks the pizza in their home town is best. I meant no offense to the good people of NC, especially not a town where there is a strong underground hippie rap movement

Posted by: rob at November 24, 2004 9:11 AM

James the S., I commiserate with your cubicle-bound life, as I live the same. Mr. Mike's journal is the only thing that perks me up in the morning (that and my excellent overdose of coffee) and I find a sexy, vicarious thrill in living through his exploits. I don't even have a freakin' window in here! Help!

Nice campus photo above, Mike. Looks like the scenery on my drive home....

Posted by: Deb at November 24, 2004 10:28 AM

for white boy rap, Aesop Rock is as sick as it gets

Posted by: jim at November 24, 2004 10:55 AM