"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.
There's this belt in the engine of your car—it's called the serpentine belt.
Now, I know of this belt. We have a relationship in passing. I'd accept its friend request on Facebook, but I wouldn't follow it on Twitter. I’m saying, we're not gonna hang out, ya know? Basically, our relationship ends with me being able to open the hood and point to it and say, "That's the serpentine belt, and this is what it does." That’s us.
But so this is what it does: It's responsible for (1) operating the alternator, which charges things like the battery, the air conditioner and the power steering, and (2) the water pump, which keeps the temperature of the engine within a palatable range. It's very important and that, plus the fact that a malfunctioning serpentine belt is something I can't fix on my own, is why it was such a cock punch when the one in my car decided to pack up its bag and move on rightthefuck down the road.
It happened while I was on my way to work (like, it just came off—they do that, I guess), so, during lunch, I drove to an Auto Zone, bought a new one, then plotted on taking it, and my car, to the franchised mechanic's shop located a few miles from my campus after school. That's what I did because I am a man of action.
I pulled up (it was nearing 5 p.m.), parked near a group of three mechanics standing outside, got out and asked them to fix it. The (whom I'm assuming was the) main mechanic looked at my maroon pants and then looked at me and listened as I explained to him what was going on, new belt in hand. He replied, "We don't work with that brand of belt." (Apparently, the serpentine belt repair game is hella political.)
I said, "Okay, yeah, I get that. But I live a little too far away to drive home without it on and I already bought this one. I mean, it's probably gonna take you, what? Five minutes?" He turned the corners of his mouth down and nodded. "So, I'm saying, do something nice." Nothing. It was like talking to an ugly tank. I continued, "Okay, dude, but look, okay check this out. There's a gas station across the street. That one right there. The Chevron. You see it?" He nodded. He was a fucking nod machine. He might not’ve even had a tongue for all I know. NodNOdNOD. I kept picturing him just nodding his big watermelon head through life.
At the altar: Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? [head nod]
At the GED testing site: Do you understand the rules for the test as they've been explained to you? [head nod]
In his bed, having uncoordinated sex with an unattractive woman that'd had several Bud Lights: Do you like that? Does that feel good? Ooooh yeah, does that feel good? [head nod]
Etc. x infinity.
I said, "Okay, so I just got off work. I'm a little hungry and a little thirsty. Here's what we'll do. I'm going to open the hood." I took the few steps towards the car and opened the hood. "I'm going to leave the belt and this $20 bill on the front seat here." I dropped a twenty, along with the belt, on the seat. "And I'm going to walk over to the store and buy a drink and a bag of chips. I'll praaahbably eat them there. I'll praaahbably take my time. And I know you guys are either close to closing or you're closed already. You probably have families. Sure. I do too. So, let's say that when I get back, the belt is on the car, the $20 is gone and we just never have to even say that you worked on a belt that you weren't supposed to. I won't see anything. Nobody knows. You get an easy $20 for a couple of minutes and I get to drive home and not have my car seize up on me. We're all winners. Okay? Cool. Thanks for everything. Thank you. For real. Okay, bye."
I smiled a champion's smile at him and turned around and walked to the store. It was, very likely, the slickest I'd ever sounded in my whole entire life. I felt like Vince Vaughan in Swingers, which is pretty much the coolest that anybody that’s not a top tier professional athlete or famous musician can feel.
I walked into the store, purchased a Gatorade and a can of Pizzalicious Pringles (I'm all class, yo), then leaned on the wall outside and ate them. They tasted like the secrets of the universe. The sun was on my face. No finer moment has ever been had by any man.
When I finished, I turned and started wandering back towards my car. I didn't know if the guys where in the shop or if they'd left, but I knew they weren't standing near my car anymore. As I got closer, I noticed that the hood was closed. And I was overcome with pride.
I got to the door, looked around for the guys, didn't see anyone, smiled again, thanked them silently by admiring my own skills, then opened the door.
And the belt was sitting there on the seat. It hadn’t been opened or moved or even touched. The only thing gone was the $20. I mean, come on.
Nothing of nothing of nothing else.
My whole life.
1-5. Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap
Typically, we’ll rifle through a few top notch songs from the week, but this week that gets nixed because Chance The Rapper, featured in this space a few weeks ago after a charitable hat tip from the Head Chief In Charge, released his mixtape and OH MY GOD IT IS SO MUCH FUN.
I’m nearly certain his wEird0 voice is going to drive everyone up a fucking tree in about two months, but right now it's invigorating and interesting and my everything.
Download the tape and then go on Twitter and see if you can like it more than everyone else because oh no you’re the worst and I’m the worst and the Internet has made us all insufferable. Have a great weekend!
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.