Back in the day, we used to hang out at my friend Jimmy’s apartment. Jimmy had a boombox with detachable speakers that sat on his kitchen counter. My friend Eric liked to pull a chair up and bury his head in between the two speakers and blast Run-DMC’s “Sucker M.C.’s” into his eardrums, over and over again:
“Two years ago, a friend of mine / Asked me to say, some MC Rhymes / So I said this rhyme I’m about to say / the rhyme was Def / a-then it went this way.”
After a couple of hours of hanging in Jimmy’s apartment and raiding his fridge, it would be time to hit the streets again — before his father came home — but Eric would have none of it. “ONE MORE TIME,” he’d yell…then he’d rewind the tape and start the song from the beginning.
The song’s sparse drum beat would come smashing through those two speakers; Eric’s mane of brown curly hair would be bopping up and down for the hundredth time, while a very frustrated Jimmy would threaten to pull the plug so we could all leave the apartment.
Author Sarah Dessen says, “A song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.” That’s how I feel whenever I hear “Sucker M.C.’s.” That song just takes me back to so many wonderful moments in my life.
I was 15 years old when that song came out, and was in a break dancing crew called the Nasty Four. I fell in love, for the first time, with a beautiful girl named Eunice who I met while sitting on a porch on Crescent Street in Astoria. Apparently, every one of my friends knew her…except for me. Someone mentioned that she was a model, so I smoothly asked to see her “portfolio.” When I looked at her pictures, I felt a sharp knife pain in my heart. I invited her to come to the beach with us the next day, and to my delight she accepted.
The next day, Eunice, the Nasty Four Crew, and I all took the train to Brighton Beach. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly, the sand was soft and comforting, and the ocean water was freezing cold, which was perfect because it gave me the excuse to pull Eunice in close for warmth, and the opportunity to kiss her for the first time. Then we took a walk on the beach, hand in hand, and I asked her out old school style. I said, “Do you want to go out with me?” — which, back in the day, meant to go steady and be exclusive — and when she said yes, I became the happiest break dancer the world had ever known.
That summer of 1983, Eunice and I spent every minute we could together. We went to the movies, out to eat, and dancing. We spent a lot of time in her apartment watching MTV music videos of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It,” “Every Breath You Take” by The Police; videos by The Culture Club, The Eurhythmics, Men Without Hats, Toni Basil…all of those songs bring back vivid memories. But “Sucker M.C.’s” was New York’s “summertime anthem” that year; the song could be heard bouncing out of every open window, boom box, car stereo, and storefront.
New York City is an amazing metropolis, with millions and millions of people spread out across five boroughs. So many different cultures and ethnicities living ever so close together. Yet with all our differences, music finds a way to unite us.
This summer, hopefully the weather will be beautiful, people will be walking around enjoying themselves, and one song will emerge as the anthem for 2015. May all your memories be as vivid as mine are from back in the day.