I fell in love with Spragga Benz when I was twelve years old. Luckily for me, my obsession protected me from the streets of Franklyn Town, where I was free to roam like goats in the hot sun looking for shade.
I grew up in a tenement yard and lived in the main house which was shared with our landlord, Ms. Mc and another tenant Milly. In the yard there were three other spaces. One occupied by Jack Sprat, the other by Robbie a local bus conductor, the last room by Carol and her son DJ. We shared a communal wash area which was connected to an outdoor shower and toilet.
A big guinep tree provided the sweet tangy fruit in one season and mounds of leaf in another. In the front was a Julie mango tree and we would all watch the mangoes and sometimes would get lucky to eat one before Ms. Mac would picked them all off -half ripe.
Things were pretty normal for this type of dwelling. There was the usual vexation over who was responsible for cleaning the bathroom, who always swept the yard, who wasted water keeping the dust down and which child left the gate open for stray animals to wonder in. The tension would last for weeks or maybe months, but there were always longer periods when we are all malice free.
By 1994, I was occupying my rented half of the house in the tenement yard all by myself. My mother had migrated to the United States and my father found another woman to replace her.
I was the woman of the house and I enjoyed having it all to myself. I would read, play the radio, stand out by the gate on Friday nights, walk to Rollington Town to buy Jerk Chicken or go to Miss Dixon for boil corn and crab. I was free and I loved it.
One Sunday, while enjoying the weekend in the back of the yard, Robbie came over to me as I sat playing alone on the steps. He placed his arm around my neck and using the tip of his index finger, massaged the nipple which stood erect beneath my soiled cartooned blouse. Frozen in fear, I was jolted by a pinch on the tit and ran immediately to my rented quarters.
I knew that my innocence was at risk and told Carol who had become my yard mother. Her advice was direct. Stay away from him, stay inside and read. Reading would become my saving grace. I read anything and everything.
Through this sentence, to the half of a house that my parents rented in the tenement yard, I started reading the Star and encountered an upcoming artist named Spragga Benz. He hailed from the nearby Dunkirk community and spewed lyrics like ‘Jack it up, cock it up, dig out the red’; these were not appropriate for me, but there was no one there to care or to stop me from listening. I don’t know what it was about him, that pulled me in, but I was hooked on ‘A1 Lover’ and I was hooked on him.
I rejected the attention of my male counterparts, developed wit and used lyrics to spit insult at my suitors. My one-sided love affair kept me loyal and busy. I focused more on my school work and was less distracted by the attention of boys as I was already in a ‘relationship’. Creating and perfecting my Spragga-log consumed my free time. I played indoor, listened to his music and used ‘tracing’ lyrics like ‘We nuh like’ to let Robbie know that he had violated and that I was no longer afraid of him. The feisty energy that I exhibited and spat from my tongue kept him at bay.
As I grew older my obsession strengthened and was even a little weird now that I look back. In high school I was punished, because I insisted that my teacher refer to me as Mrs. Grant when doing roll call, my classmates had a field day.
At the height of my obsession my best friend and I went to ‘Fully-loaded’, a party where he was performing, to get my Spragga-log signed. It was an outdoor event and we were caught in the rain. We found a couple sheltering in their car and begged them to shelter my Spragga-log, as we stood outside being drenched by the rain.
My one-sided love affair with Spragga Benz saved my life. It saved me from promiscuity, teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, poverty and a life of tenement yard living.
Last week, I went through my Spragga-log, laughing through tears at my absurdity but grateful that a ‘Shotta’ saved me.