The Last DJ
The bumps of yesteryear rattled out of his torn speakers. A few construction workers shook their asses to the ancient booms, while arranging orange cones along the gutted roadside.
A bead of sweat crept out from under Raheem's black Miami Heat baseball cap and down his round face. Next to him, a pair of red dishwashing trays contained a few hundred CDs. Pitbull and Trick Daddy nestled snugly alongside Luther Vandross, Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass.
For five bucks, Raheem would copy the CD of your liking. For ten, he would copy three. For the most part, that's how Raheem makes his living, and always has been. Before compact discs came out, he could be seen walking the streets clutching a giant ghetto blaster, peddling tapes to generate enough money to put together his kit.
"It's hard out here now," he said. "Somebody complains, calls the po-lice, they'll come out and ask you for a party permit. City of Miami doesn't give out party permits anymore. It used to be that you could set up anywhere. Now, if you set up in the hood, people will come out, start dancing and then someone starts shooting. Didn't used to be like that."
Raheem slipped a salsa disc into the works and smiled when the construction workers began to step, in time, to the beat. Soon afterwards, a stumpy mustachioed man in a polo shirt burst out of the motel office.
"Stop it!" he cried, sending his tie aflutter. "Stop it! Turn that shit off...."
"Nah, man," Raheem protested in a light, defeated tone.
"You can't suck power out of here," he said with a stomp. "The manager will come and kick you out."
With a flick of his finger, he shut the music down. A City of Miami police cruiser rolled by and Raheem waved a familiar hand at the officer inside. "You see?" he said with a glum drop of his shoulders. "It's harder now. The police are always telling you to turn it down. But that's where you get your joy from, when the people feel the beat that makes them move —that moves you to play your thing."
He stood idle behind the silent setup, fingering the worn silver knobs. A middle-aged woman in corn rows wandered by. "Where's my CD?" she asked. "You know I need that CD."
He reached a hand into his crate and handed her a blank recordable. "Here you go, baby," he said.
She smiled and walked on. --Calvin Godfrey