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Houston Dirty Gig Continues … #IIWII … Rap About Nothing

September 17th, 2017 · Tags:Cities · Music · Satire


When you were a child, did you know what you wanted to be when you grow up?

I knew what I didn’t want to be at about nine and it involved math.  Ha … I recently figured out that I was good in math back then only when it involved memorization — pluses, minuses, multiplication tables and all of that. Not so much the reasoning, formulated part of math.  Mix in an X or Y variable, and … (as you read this, make that sound effect of a brain exploding).

My math impairment was quite evident to me early on as I would help my dad raise/feed/count cattle on the farm.  I could carry and bust open a rectangle of baled hay as good as the next kid … but when it came to counting cattle, I was worthless.  Ha … I can remember my dad driving the pickup truck across the pasture and slowing moving into a herd of cattle.  “You count every cow that’s on your side of the pickup, and I’ll count mine,” my dad instructed.  About 20-25 head into the count, some heifer would reverse it’s course and head back into the herd behind me … and of course while she did that two or three steers would rush over into the group that I had just counted.  I would subtract the one and carry the three and all of that … but when Dad asked me “How many?,” he would get a definitive “uhhhh” from my side of the Ford.  We would have to start over.  Dad didn’t like that much.

Flash forward about 50 years and I pretty much have the same counting skills.  Ha … so I have to laugh that The Dirty Gig in Houston has me rescuing various companies’ documents that have been all but destroyed by the flood waters from ol’ Hurricane Harv. We are rescuing soaked “banker box” files of personnel records and medical records and what have you — the things that businesses have to retain.  Some of them are in that zone where the company is required to keep just one more year.  So they have limited importance, yet have to be retained all the same … I digress.

The point is that attention to detail is crucial.  Ha … as I told one of my bosses … pretty sure I am the last person in the world who should be doing this.  Just like the bales of hay, I can still pick up a 50- to 70-pound, rectangular box of mushy paper mache with the best of them … But counting, labeling, filing, organizing hundreds of boxes at every company.  (My brain just ‘sploded again …”)

Man … paper soaks up water like a sponge, and keep in mind these are “black water” ingredients, comprised of water and unknown microscopic beasties from sewage plants, chemical factories, street runoff … you name it.  It Nassssssss-tay!

But that’s what we do.  On a Dirty Gig, I might be in a warehouse ordering forklifts, pallets and drywall … or I could be operating a manlift a few stories high above the parking lot of a skyscraper … or I could be overseeing a crew that is ripping out walls and tearing up carpets … or cleaning computer equipment …  It’s always different.

Ha … this time I am “a documents expert.” This gig even included rescuing a disgusting, filthy, smelly, disintegrating vault full of cash at a bank that had been underwater.  Money laundering at ground zero … ha … but sadly, the currency — every red cent … or brown, slimy, greenish, moldy bill — is shipped away to be destroyed and replaced with new bills, in case you were wondering.  Actually the cents … the coin … will be cleaned and put back into circulation.

Thank goodness the bank folks were on site to keep me honest … in my count, that is … No twenty dollar bill is worth losing one’s job, nor their soul … I digress …

So we have counted and packaged and hauled and put the wet, salvageable documents in “reefer” trailers to freeze them and arrest mold growth.  Kind of cool, pun intended.

But even counting money can become mundane, and the mind is prone to wander.

Especially when driving around a city the size of Houston in a truck, bouncing from project to project.

As with any Dirty Gig, it is those mundane moments when I tend to get by with a little help from my friends.  Thank goodness for the laborers who help on my team.  Some of them actually work.  A few of them can even keep up with this farm boy … But almost all of them are entertaining.

In fact, one of my team is a somewhat notable rapper around the Houston music scene and has a high-quality, well-produced video on YouTube … and he even has played on stage at Austin’s SXSW Festival.  Several other workers dabble in this art form — so foreign to my musical ear.

Ha … there have been plenty of moments when someone broke out into freestyle, rhyming “mold” and “gold” and “truth be told” and stuff like that.  I think one verse had a “Kent” and “spent” and “rent” among the impromptu base lines and rhythms.

Serious conversations about rap have ensued in which I have predicted the genre has a limited life span — because there are only so many words that end in “a-t-i-o-n” … “imagination,” “indignation” “sensation” “destination” … and stuff like that.  This comment earned no street cred whatsoever from my workers, by the way.

But I have been keeping my mind open and my horizons broad, switching the truck radio to various urban format radio stations, with mixtures of R&B, hiphop and rap.  Ha … I even rapped in Spanish to my non-Spanish speaking workers.  They didn’t know it was just a poem that Señor Thompson required students to memorize in Spanish 101 back at the Vega escuela.  Ha … the workers just heard a slight repetitive rhythm and some foreign words that rhymed, busting from this guy.

And then something magical happened when — as rap artists — we started to collaborate in the cab of the truck, stuck in traffic and cruising through toll plazas and such.

We started to collaborate after hearing a rap song by Yo Gotti, Mike WiLL, featuring Nicki Minaj, that utters “Rake it up … Break it down … Bag it up … Rake it up, rake it up,”  and such over and over …  Then the song turns into a rant or diatribe about “ho’s” “N-words” and such.

I’d had my fill.  I said, “Guys, I hope that is not your favorite song,” and I reached over and turned off the song, hurriedly, before the repetition made me go insane.

(I would include the link, but the lyrics are pretty off-color … You can Google if so inclined … Or maybe you, or heck, maybe everyone in America already knows the song.)

The guys of course laughed at me, as I ranted about the repetition … then I finished my comment with the all-encompassing, multi-purpose, over-used wisdom of the last 10 years or so, with the cliche, shaking my head … “It is what it is.’”

Soon one of my workers was freestyling and we were making plans to produce a rap video all about the hard street life in Houston, the floodwaters, the challenges to work when companies are underwater … and then the chorus, or main rap would repeat “It is what it is” … “It is what it is” … “It is what it is” … duplicating the simplicity and sound effects and repetition of the “Rake It Up” song.

We were brilliant.  Everything was flowing … We talked about inserting one “bridge” in the song — a transition between other similar parts of the song.  The bridge would feature a bunch of young children voices from the school yard, jumping rope and happily chanting and laughing “It is what it is.”

I had visions of super-slow motion video sequences, showing us tough guys hopping out of our truck, walking with swagger and throwing down lots of hand gestures … rounding the box on the back of the truck and throwing open the door to reveal a truckload of money … You can picture that right?

Then our marketing minds took over.  We quickly slapped together the acronym IIWII and noted how cool those letters look, side by side.  In our minds, a hashtag was born too — #IIWII … we had plans for that to become a logo … maybe a gold piece of jewelry dangling from our necks … and to have IIWII on t-shirts and oversized ball caps.  Brilliant, I say.

Ha … as a joke, I grabbed a black Sharpie pen and wrote IIWII on a piece of that sticky, blue painter’s tape.  As a joke, I stuck it on my new rap partner’s back … kind of like the old “Kick Me” prank that kids paste on the backs of other kids.  My friend Ellis thought it was funny and he is a good sport, so he just left IIWII on his back even though he knew it was there.  Later, when we stopped to grab lunch at a neighborhood Kroger, he still had the blue tape on his back as we both headed over to collaborate on some hot chicken wings from the deli.  Ha … as Ellis was grabbing some tasty yardbird from under the heat lamps of the buffet, some stranger was in line behind him.

The stranger grinned as he saw the blue tape on Ellis and said, “You know someone is playing a trick on you, right?”

Ellis — or Yo-L.S. as I call him — grinned back, never stopping from his mission to load his plate.  He turned to the stranger and just said, “It is what it is.”

Ha how subtle … how funny.

… The next day, our B.I.G. bubble burst when we Googled again and this time found that there were in fact several songs with “It is what it is” lyrics.  Darn it!  They beat us to it. One of the songs was a rap song that pretty much was identical to what we were doing.  They say great minds think alike.  Does that include rap?  Could it be that I had heard this rap song before and subconsciously had planned to rip off the man?  Ha … I don’t think there is much chance of me accidentally being exposed to any more rap than I have to be … nor plagiarizing intentionally or otherwise. Chalk it up to coincidence … 

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

(staggered base beats on 1, 3 &4 … electronic clap sound effect …)

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

“Chalk it up, chalk it up.”

Know what I sayin?