Itâ€™s a hazy Wednesday evening in New York City, and a song youâ€™ve never heard before is on the radio. Itâ€™s got an Otis Redding sample, that escalating bit right before the chorus of â€œTry a Little Tenderness,â€ and itâ€™s not hard to recognize the voices rapping over it. Jay-Z and Kanye West are unmistakable from a hundred yards away. But something, or more accurately someone, keeps interrupting them. Explosions and bomb sound effects strafe the audio. The skitch and stutter of a record being wound back repeat over and over again.
Over the chaos of artillery and sample and song, a nasal and commanding voice rises and falls, now incredulous, now enraged, giggling, snorting, almost always shouting:
â€œNew York City, you listen to me! â€¦â€
The voice belongs to Funkmaster Flex, but then again, if you live in New York City, you already knew that. Flex (Aston George Taylor Jr. at home, but letâ€™s not think about that too much), is a deejay on Hot 97, one of the two major hip-hop and R&B stations in New York City area. Last Wednesday, the song he premiered was â€œOtis,â€ a new single from Kanye and Jay-Zâ€™s oft-delayed and still largely mysterious collaborative album â€œWatch the Throne.â€
That Flex, out of all the radio deejays in the country â€” and, perhaps more relevantly, out of all the rap blogs on the Internet â€” was entrusted with the songâ€™s debut speaks to the level of respect he carries in the hip-hop community. But Funkmaster Flexâ€™s prominence in the rap world is not why Jay-Z and Kanye gave him the song. They gave it to him because they knew what he would do with it on the air.
â€œNew York City you listen to me! If youâ€™re near a convenience store right now, any type of 24-hour store, go into the store right now, and put your hand in the cash register for no reason! Their money is your money as of right now!â€
Inexplicable criminal behavior is the least of what Funkmaster Flex advocates. The song â€” whether itâ€™s a closely guarded secret newly let out in the world, or an old standby being hammered into radio rotation once more â€” is only a sideshow, an excuse. Flex is the main event. Even if that means itâ€™s going to take over an hour of interruptions to get through a three-minute song.
â€œThatâ€™s right, New York City, this has been playing for 30 minutes! OK? And thatâ€™s the way it goes down, itâ€™s what it is!â€
Flex will make fun of your car, especially if it lacks air conditioning. Flex will suggest to a struggling deejay that he take a picture of Flexâ€™s face, paint it on his own face, and get work that way. This winter, after a particularly bad snowstorm in the city, during which it was alleged that sanitation workers were dallying in cleaning up the mess, Flex put a cash bounty on video footage of sleeping truck operators. Then he dared New Yorkâ€™s trashmen to retaliate by leaving his garbage uncollected.
â€œItâ€™s Wednesday, and Iâ€™m bored! Iâ€™m just talking crazy because Iâ€™m bored!â€
Flex, happily, is bored most nights. He has been known to get incensed about late Chinese food deliveries while on air. If he likes a song, he might play it two, three, four times in a row. Sometimes heâ€™ll cut the record out entirely and do the rapping himself.
But itâ€™s premieres like â€œOtis,â€ or â€œD.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),â€ the Jay-Z single Flex debuted in 2009, that bring out the best in him. This is because they arouse Flexâ€™s competitive instincts, which are fierce. Him having a record first means, by definition, someone else having it second. Which is the thing that excites Funkmaster Flex most of all. You never want to be the â€œyouâ€ Flex spends his triumphant premiere shows addressing.
â€œUnfortunately you dream about being this hot! You will never, ever, ever wear the crown! Thatâ€™s me right here! You can clean it, and polish it! Itâ€™s the best! Photograph it â€” digital if you have to! Itâ€™s all I can do for you!â€
On a lazy, sweltering weeknight in Manhattan, a new song trickling bit by bit out of some nearby speakers, nothing sounds better. Singles are ephemeral. Flex is not.
WRITTEN BY Zach Baron & FULL STORY HERE