Turn The Beat Around
And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. -- Corinthians 12:6
Come with me / Hail Mary nigga, run quick see / What do we have here now? -- Tupac Shakur, "Hail Mary"
It all started with the voice.
There was a girl in the neighborhood, the Third Ward to be exact, who little Darryl Scott took a liking to. She was passing out flyers for a dance at JB's Entertainment Center, and Darryl said hey, if you'll be there, I'll be there.
The girl's daddy turned out to be the DJ for the party. Disco Harold and his 800 Watts of Power. That was a lot of juice back in 1976. But the real power was in Harold's personality. Harold was from New York City, and his slick patter on top of that sweet funk music formed an irresistible combination. The boy was captivated, so much so that he convinced Harold to let him spend time with his daughter, as well as transport and set up his massive sound system.
It wasn't long before the boy was scavenging his own stereo components from the trash, resurrecting junk to play the records he now fiended for like candy. Darryl had always had charm, so he started developing the voice to go with it. And he kept on working for Disco Harold, until the day when he was on the microphone at JB's, doing a sound check, making sure everything was working right for that night's jam.
Darryl had just clicked off when the owner came rushing over. Seemed that Harold wasn't going to make it that night. "Who was that talking just now?" Someone pointed to Darryl. Naw, couldn't be. That boy can't be more than 13 years old. Well, that was a 13-year-old voice coming out those speakers. "Go home and get dressed," the owner said. "You're DJing tonight."
Tonight, 24 years later, Darryl Scott is still playing to the crowd as he walks the length of the counter in his store, Blast Records. His voice is still commanding; the years having cured it into a rich baritone. He's still immersed in music, every inch of his establishment covered with CDs, promotional posters, vinyl LPs and autographed pictures. He's still drawing a crowd, just like all those years when Houston club owners would promise their first-born just to get Scott into their venues. Only his subject matter has changed. Greatly.
"We're looking at Deuteronomy, chapter 28," Scott says, standing next to a board bearing the words "Tonight's Lesson: Blessings 4 Obedience, Curses 4 Disobedience." More than 30 people are packed into the record shop, where Scott holds Bible study every Tuesday night. There are a lot of couples, a lot of kids. They sit on folding chairs and weight benches, beneath huge posters promoting Scarface or Fat Pat or Death Row's Greatest Hits. Several young men who could easily switch places with those on the posters are sitting by the door.
"Everybody got their weapons?" Scott asks as he passes out Bibles from a pile on the counter. He's wearing khakis, a black mock-neck shirt, a cell phone and a pager. "All we're hoping for is for you to walk out of here a little different than when you came in. We just want to give you a few things to live by."
Lot of folks can't understand spreading the Word in a store whose foundation is rap music -- kind of like having Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in a bar, they say. Heck, even Scott was ready to shut down his landmark shop after he got saved. And truth be told, he still isn't too comfortable with the whole situation. Somewhere along the way, though, he figured out that a lot of folks who came through Blast Records over the past 16 years never would have set foot in a church. Some folks are just more comfortable listening to UGK or Run-DMC than G-O-D. But that doesn't mean they should be abandoned. Just because you're saved doesn't mean you have to be saved from rap. And maybe rap itself can even help save a few folks.
Scott isn't too partial to rap, never really was. Although he looks twentysomething, he just turned 37, which makes him more a child of the funk generation -- Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Confunkshun, George Clinton, Parliament. Those were the sounds he used to pump back in the late '70s and early '80s, when he came to dominate the DJ scene in Houston.
Back then, live disc jockeys who blended records into a seamless stream of sound were a relatively recent phenomenon, a new breed of musician. The trend had begun in New York City ghettos in the late '60s and early '70s. DJs took over public parks, playing free music for their disenfranchised audience, creating hip-hop culture. When the DJs got their friends to weave rhymes over the beat, rap music was born. Nightclubs -- the French had started calling them discothèques -- started using DJs instead of live bands.
No matter what the source, people always love to hear hits. DJs played the actual records instead of performing renditions of popular songs. It didn't take long for DJs to figure out that they could record their mixes of hit songs on tapes and create revenue independent of club owners or the record industry. Scott made a killing selling $10 mix tapes that became collector's items around town. He always put the word Blast on his tapes -- Spring Break Blast, Isley Brothers Blast, Slow Jam Blast. As the tapes circulated around Houston, his fame grew.
Audience in tow, he started playing nightclubs. The Screaming Eagle, the Red Rooster, Grand Central Station. Freedom's "Get Up and Dance" was the record that got the party started. Blue Hawaiians and Hurricanes were the drinks of choice. Monte Carlos, Regals and Cutlasses were the smooth rides -- Cadillacs for big-time players.
Scott, though, he drove a Mercedes-Benz. Bought it in the tenth grade with DJ money. Bought a Jaguar the year after that. Didn't trade in the Mercedes, either -- had the Jag and the Benz. You know you're a ghetto celebrity when folks recognize your car. Scott used to jam in MacGregor Park every Sunday. You could hear his sound system clear from South Park to the Third Ward. As soon as he drove up, folks would bum-rush the Benz, cash in hand, begging for Blast tapes.
Scott's timing on the turntables was impeccable. Nary a beat was missed as he moved from one song to the next. He always knew what hit to drop, when to maintain the pace, when to slow it down, and his fans loved him for it. They followed him wherever he played, so owners of dead nightspots often guaranteed Scott a percentage of the door. Scott's take got so large he would be scared to leave the venue with it, entrusting his bankroll to friends or family who sneaked it out undetected. After a while the club owners would always "renegotiate," thinking Scott's following was now theirs. Scott would then move to a new spot, bringing his audience with him -- and the same thing would happen, time and time again.
The nightlife wasn't an easy life. Scott didn't figure out who Eddie Murphy was for the longest, never having been home on a weekend night to watch Saturday Night Live. There were a lot of women, which brought a lot of turmoil. He started drinking, becoming so partial to Jack Daniel's that when he finally quit, his neighborhood liquor store closed down. Dealing with club owners was like catching snakes. It got so hectic that by 1984 Scott was contemplating retirement. He was 20 years old.
There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in this world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me .Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? -- Corinthians, Chapter 14
My weed smoke is my la / A key of coke is a pie / When I'm lifted I'm high / With new clothes on I'm fly / Cars is whips and sneakers is kicks / Money is chips, movies is flicks / Also, cribs is homes / Jacks is pay phones / Cocaine is nose candy / Cigarettes is bones / Your bankroll is your poke / A choke hold is a yoke / A kite is a note, a con is an okey-doke / And if you got punched that mean you got snuffed / To clean is to buff, a bull-scare is a strong bluff / I know you like the way I'm freakin' it / I talk with slang and I'ma never stop speakin' it. -- Big L, "Ebonics"
"The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning ." It's halfway through Bible study, and Scott is deep into Deuteronomy, chapter 28, having covered the benefits of obedience and now exploring the consequences of disobedience.
" the Lord will smite thee with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed ." His voice fills the room, unamplified. The message is on point, but he drives it home anyway. "Hmmph. That itch. Ladies, you know how these fellas be hollering atcha and be just scratchin' themselves ." Knowing, nervous laughter.
Soon Scott proceeds down to the other end of his counter, nearest to the door, where the young bucks gather. "You're thinking, I'm caught up in circumstances. I'm here due to choices my parents made. Why do I have to be involved in this? We was drafted in this."
"We got too many absentee ballots in this parent thang," he continues. "It's flesh outta control. But God don't make no mistakes. Sometimes it's good to be in a one-parent family, if the father is one of these sorry wanna-be ballers. One of these syrup-sippin', sweets-rollin' fellas, thinkin' it's cool to look like a thug. Feelin' bad for themselves 'cause they in the ghetto. They hide behind the sex and weed and drugs and music, then bring a child into more misery in the world ."
Scott opened Blast Records in 1984 at the same South Park junction of Martin Luther King and Old Spanish Trail where it still stands. It was a smash, with the rise of rap music creating a hunger among young folks for the likes of Run-DMC and LL Cool J. Older folks stopped by, too, for their dose of Klymaxx or Babyface. The money was so good that Scott quit DJing clubs. He kept making tapes, though. That was good money right there.
It also was in 1984 that Scott cut his father loose. Pops had left long before then, when Darryl was only two, but he stayed in the neighborhood. Once Scott got to high school, he reached out to his father, spending Christmas or his birthday with him. That lasted about a year or so. "I don't know why you go all out of your way for that man," Darryl's mother told him one day. "He don't care anything about anybody. If you don't call him, he's never going to call you."
Scott decided to test his mom's claim. Turned out she was right. After being ignored for a good while, Scott went to his father's house to confront him, and they argued bitterly. The father picked up the phone, called Scott's mother and said, "You better come over here and get this boy before he end up like Marvin Gaye," who had been shot dead months earlier by his dad.
It would be ten years before Scott would see his father again.
As so often happens in the ghetto, Scott found a daddy unrelated by blood: Rudy Howard, director of the city's "Young Life" Christian program. It was Howard who planted the seed of salvation within Scott, although it took a good while to grow.
Scott met his wife, Carlon, in 1985, and they had a daughter a few years later. Every time Scott would start to act up, Carlon would tell him to call Howard. "Darryl would be like, 'Oh, what did I do now,' " Carlon recalls. "I would just say, 'You two haven't spoken in a while. Call him just to keep in touch.' " When Carlon and Scott were married in 1992, Howard was there. The elder Scott was not invited.
Carlon took sick in 1994 and was confined to her bed, and Scott refused to leave her side even though he had a bad toothache. When his neck started to swell, Carlon begged him to go to the hospital. Scott left the house and disappeared. Carlon and her mother finally located him the next day in the intensive care unit of Ben Taub, hooked up to a terrifying tangle of machines. One of them was breathing for him, through a tube inserted in his throat. Unable to speak, he communicated by scribbling on a pad.
An abscessed tooth had poisoned Scott's system. "I asked the doctors if he was going to make it," Carlon says. "They said, 'We don't know.' "
Carlon called Howard, who by then was an assistant pastor at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. First thing he did was whisper in Scott's ear. A tear rolled down Scott's cheek. It was the first time Carlon had ever seen him cry.
"He told me all the things I had already endured," Scott remembers. "That I had beat the statistics, was an inspiration for my family to get out of the ghetto. He told me there was nothing the doctors could do for me, or my wife, or my mom. He told me, 'This thing is between you and God. You know what you have to do.' "
Scott began to pray, first for everyone else in the hospital, then on a more personal note. Two days later Scott was breathing on his own. It was such a startling recovery that doctors first thought the respirator was miscalibrated. When they removed the breathing tube from his throat, the pain was so great Scott almost wished they would just leave it in. But after six nights in intensive care, Scott walked out of Ben Taub.
Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any, that your Father which also is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. --Mark, Chapter 11
Everybody's got a different way of ending it / And when your number comes for service then they send it in / Now your time has arrived for your final test / I see the fear in your eyes and in your final breath / I never understood why / I never seen a man cry 'til I seen a man die --Scarface, "I Seen a Man Die"
Six months after he was released from the hospital, Scott was at home one day when a strange feeling came over his body. One side of his body got cold, almost numb. He went tingly all over. His father-in-law, a paramedic, said it sounded like a slight stroke. But there were no side effects, so Scott paid it no mind. Until his mother told him that his father had just been hospitalized with a massive heart attack.
When Scott stepped off the elevator on the fifth floor of Ben Taub, the shock was almost physical. It was the same floor where he had almost died. He walked into the room and saw the same hole in his father's throat, smelled the same sick smell, saw the same machines.
Scott saw himself lying on that bed. Ten years after his father threatened to kill him, ten years after last laying eyes on the man, forgiveness was instant. He walked down the hall to a small room he remembered from his time in intensive care. Once he was alone, Scott broke down in tears and prayer.
"I realize now that when I was hospitalized, God was preparing me to forgive my father," Scott says. "My heart was softened. God did heart surgery on me." When his father passed, Scott was at peace.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgement: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet I am not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. -- Corinthians, Chapter 4
There's a million muthafuckas just like me / Only God can judge me --Tupac Shakur, "Only God Can Judge Me"
Scott didn't take to religion instantly. He had a lot of sin to get out of his system. The drinking was relatively easy to leave behind. The women were another matter. They had always flocked to him in the DJ booth and, later, his store, asking him with their eyes to put a "Be back in 30 minutes" sign on the front door and then spend some time in the back room. But once Scott did give his life to the Lord, he was dead serious about it. Almost too serious. "When Darryl first got saved, he came home the next day and told me, 'I'm closing down the shop,' " his wife says. "I was like, 'You're what? Let's talk about this.' "
Carlon was able to talk her husband into keeping Blast Records open, although he stopped making tapes. The depth of his new conviction made Scott dogmatic and intolerant, and he was hardest on himself. But with a family to support, he just couldn't walk away from his livelihood.
By now rap music was well on its way from being a subgenre to selling more records than pop, rock or country. It also had moved away from the good-time party vibe of the 1980s to something harder, angrier, stronger. Major entertainment companies were making billions selling violent ghetto fantasies to the suburbs, and young black men were only too happy to exploit the "legal drug game."
This did not sit well with the newly saved Scott. But as word got out about his salvation, and about Blast's shaky future, his hip-hop constituency started protesting. Letters arrived from jail saying that Blast was the only sanctuary they had on the outside. Local rappers reminded Scott how he had encouraged them to make the most of their talent. The store stayed open.
About this time, a young fella named Byron Jarmon moved to South Park from the Third Ward to stay with his grandmother. He kept hearing Scott's name, heard it so much he figured Scott was a big-time dope dealer. Then a friend told him he had a job working for Darryl Scott at a record store.
Byron started coming by, talking junk about wanting a job. Scott never took him seriously. He would see Byron drunk or high, hanging out on street corners, curb-serving crack. Byron had been kicked out of Lamar High School in the ninth grade for fighting, and he seemed to be headed down the same route at Yates High. But Byron kept coming by the store, so Scott kept hitting him with the Word.
"Have you ever just thought about the Lord?" Scott asked the small-time hustler one day. "'Cause if you don't accept the Lord, then you'll end up in hell."
"I hear you, I hear you," Byron said. But he didn't. He thought, "Man, this Jesus freak is really getting on my nerves with all this Lord talk, trying to cramp my lifestyle. I'm fixin' to do my own thang."
It turned out that Byron's friend wasn't right for the job, and Scott needed somebody to take his place. Something, he's not quite sure what, made him send word to Byron to come by the store. First thing Scott did was lay down his laws: No smoking weed before or during work, no drugs on the premises. Byron laughed and promised not to let him down.
One night Byron was walking home when a police car drove by. The car stopped, and the lawman stopped Byron and asked to see some ID. It just so happened that Byron had some crack hidden in his crotch.
"What you stoppin' me for?" Byron asked. "You were walking on the wrong side of the street" was the reply. The lawman spread Byron's arms and legs and began to search. Byron had never been arrested, and he thought about running. Instead, he started praying: "Lord, please, if you get me out of this, I'll never sell no cheese again."
How many people have made this same plea when faced with danger? How many have stuck to their word? Byron did. When Scott started having the Bible study at the record shop, Byron was the first one to stand up and give his life to the Lord. Five years after his brush with the law, he's drink- and drug-free, still working for Scott, who provides him with vacation days and medical coverage. He attends church every Sunday. He's got a steady girl Scott thinks he should marry. "Church people can be so hard on you. They show no mercy," Byron says, gold gleaming on his front teeth. " 'Don't do this, this is bad, this ain't right.' With D, it's a slow approach, and he breaks it down to street terms. It's real life that you can relate to."
Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust unto himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again --2 Corinthians 10:7
Hear me out, yo / Believe and never doubt, yo / 'Cause in a minute, the saints be out, yo / Hard to believe hard for the mind to conceive / Every soldier served what he deserves / That's just the word of the Lord / Hear it, believe it, receive it, and be it -- B.B. Jay, "Universal Concussion"
It's been about two years now of Bible study at Blast Records. Byron's conversion started something of a chain reaction, and so far 35 people have been saved at the record shop, amid all the CDs and posters and Ice Cubes and Big Pokeys.
"One day a friend asked me, 'Have you ever just looked around in here?' " Scott says, gazing past a Trick Daddy poster advertising the album Book of Thugs: Chapter AK, Verse 47. "And I said, 'Yeah, it grieves my heart.' One day I just prayed for everyone on the wall in here.
"But then my friend said, 'This is a camouflage. When lost people walk in here, they're at ease. They're comfortable. They relate to what you're saying because they're surrounded by what they're used to on an everyday basis. Then you hit 'em with the Word of God. But if you put a cross on the wall and say it's a church, they'll never come in.' When I heard that, I stopped feeling so bad about having Bible study in a record store."
Still, Scott eagerly awaits a sign that it's time to leave Blast Records. That will be the official end of DJ Darryl Scott -- but not of Blast Records. Byron will see to that. He's the one who loves the music now, who lives hip-hop culture and knows all the rappers. It's his time.
It would be impossible for Scott to lose his audience, though. Communicating with people, inspiring them, leading them -- that's what he was born to do. It's a foregone conclusion that Scott will soon have his own church. His timing has always been impeccable. He's just waiting for the right time to fade out the music.
See Washington's companion article, "Life in the Slow Lane."
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