Diamonds & Wood: The Re-Do And The Rain

"Diamonds & Wood" is an ongoing series in which music critic Shea Serrano breaks down the 5 hip-hop tracks you need to hear this week.

In class recently, a charming, rail-thin girl named Maladesma did maybe the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen happen in real life with my real life human eyeballs.

Quick Note: Her real name isn’t Maladesma. Her last name is Ledesma and so I just combined “mala,” which is Spanish for “bad,” with that to get Maladesma. She’s a handful.

After I caught her chewing gum (my life is a never ending battle against Bubbalicious), I asked her to go spit it out. She huffed, made her best annoyed face, then got up to go spit it out. She wandered over to the trash can in the most frustrated way that anyone has ever wandered over to a trash can, leaned her head over it, tilted it just enough to make eye contact with me, then let the gum tumble out of her mouth. It was all very basic, until it wasn’t.

What she wasn’t anticipating: When she turned her head to the side, the hair on the left side of her skull, straight and well cared for, dangled directly under her face. She didn’t see, and hadn’t anticipated, the change, so when the gum rolled out of her mouth it LANDED RIGHT THE FUCK IN HER HAIR.

She felt the weight change, immediately realized what happened, then grabbed it. Her grab only exacerbated the problem, mushing the gum firmly into the strands. She panicked. She shouted, “OH NO!” and then again, “OH NO!”

Now, I imagine there are ways to get gum out of one's hair (peanut butter, I hear, will chunk the gum up just enough so that you can pull it out), but none of that interested Maladesma. She walked over the supplies station, fished out a small pair of scissors from a plastic bin and then, without hesitation, cut off the bottom four or so inches of hair that was brawling with the gum.

She felt bad for herself. I felt bad for her. The other girls in the class felt bad for her. And the boys in the class laughed at her. Maladesma’s hair is long and thick, so it’s basically impossible to see her trim if you’re not specifically looking for it, but still, I tried my very best to reverse time with my brain power. It was to no avail. Poor thing.

Were I presented with the opportunity for a couple of re-dos in life, two instances come to mind:

The First

I was a photographer for the school paper in high school. I wasn’t that popular, but I was a little too offbeat handsome to be entirely hopeless. Anyway, one day, while eating lunch out on the football field, I noticed this weird creature thing. I picked it up and took it to a teacher I liked and he said it was some sort of cephalopod or something (it wasn’t). At any rate, later on, while snooping around for a cover story for the paper, I found myself in the teacher's break room. Some teachers came in, attacked the nurse, THEN TURNED HER INTO AN ALIEN. THE WHOLE FACULTY WERE ALIENS!!! I should’ve noticed sooner. I could’ve saved more people. But I didn’t. I’d like to re-do that over.

Note: That’s actually the plot of The Faculty, a FUCKING BOMB ASS movie that came out when I was in high school, yo. Remember it? I found the DVD the other day. Rent that shit, yo. Life changing. 

The Second, But The First Real One

For, like, two months in the 9th grade, this big-headed kid named Jose picked on me (I wasn’t always the 140 pound, 5’7” behemoth I am today). I don’t know what I did to draw his ire, but I remember it seemed like overnight he hated me. It wasn’t an all-the-time thing because we were in different populations (he was ESL and I was Pre-AP), but it was enough that I noticed. One day at lunch, for really no reason at all, he walked up behind me and SHOVED THE SHIT out of me. I crashed into the kids waiting in line in front of me. I felt my face turn red. Before I could even think (I knew in my bones it was him that’d pushed me), I spun around and launched an unopened can of Barq’s root beer at his nose as hard as I could. It looked like he’d been shot in the face with a shotgun. Because I am such a maniacal killer, my first two reactions were to 1, cry, which I did immediately, and 2, run away, which I did about two seconds later. The security guard at school found me in a restroom a short while later. When I got to the principal’s office, I played the He’s Been Bullying Me For Two Months And I Guess I Just Cracked card like a goddamn pro (more tears, like I was Denzel in John Q). Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t undo temporarily destroying his face though. The change I’d make? I’d like to go back, redo that part, then pick up the soda and open and drink it right in front of him as he bled out and say, “Man, this Barq’s really did have bite, huh?” Fuck that guy. Fuck you if you pick on people.

1-5. Johnny Rain, Lullaby of Machine

Last week, in lieu of highlighting five new songs from the week, we simply offered a link to Chance The Rapper’s gorgeous mixtape, Acid Rain, because, for real, it was the best thing that came out all week and Chance is obviously about to become the Internet and everyone is going to love him AND HE IS GOING TO BE EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME ALWAYS FOR THE NEXT WHATEVER AND JAJAJAJA.

This week, something similar, except with someone that we know next to nothing about. Meet Johnny Rain, who, so far as we can tell, is not EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME yet.

What we do know:

1. He’s young.

2. He’s from California.

3. To be as reductive as possible, he sounds like if you took young Drake and introduced him to current Frank Ocean and old Kanye and then maybe let ‘em hang out with an EDM DJ.

Proper story on him soon. In the meantime, enjoy his wonderful Lullaby of Machine, which apparently was released earlier this year.

Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston, TX. His work has appeared in the Houston Press, LA Weekly, Village Voice, XXL, The Source, Grantland and more. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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