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Authors: Chandra Sparks Taylor

Spin it Like That

spin it like that

To my parents, the late Cedric Louis Sparks and the late
Doris Jones Sparks. I hope I've made you proud.


First and foremost, I have to give honor to God, who during the most tumultuous time in my life has blessed me to fulfill my lifelong dream. He has truly given me beauty from the ashes. Thank you so much for all your many blessings. I love you with all my heart, and I pray that my words make you proud and help me on my journey to be the voice of the next generation.

To Curtis and Jamaal Taylor. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives. May God bless you so much you don't have room to receive it all. Please know that I love you both.

To my beautiful brown-eyed girl, Jessica Taylor. It is because of you that I have fulfilled my lifelong dream. Never forget how much your mommy loves you, my sweet baby girl. Never be afraid to dream.

To my parents, the late Cedric Louis Sparks and the late Doris Jones Sparks, thank you for instilling in me a love for God and the enjoyment of reading. I love you and I miss you.

To my supersupportive family: my brothers, Andra and Cedric Sparks; my sisters-in-law, Karen and Pamela Sparks; my incredible nieces and nephews, Anthony, Brittany, CJ and DeJa; and my uncle Edward Lamonte Johnson. I love you all more than words can say. P.S. Where are we going to eat to celebrate?

To the rest of my extended family: my grandparents, George and Lela Jones and the late Ida B. Sparks; my great-aunt Rosie Mae O'Bryant; my aunts Carolyn Hollman, Geraldine Murray, the late Minnie Jones Ford, Janice Jones, Cynthia Sparks and Deborah Sparks; my uncles George Jones, Jr., Robert Jones, Sr., David Jones, Sr., Tommy Jones, Sr., Michael Jones, Sr., the late Hosiea V. Sparks, Sr., and Lasco Sparks; Charles Murray and Reverend Larry Hollman; as well as all my cousins, especially Tiffany Murray Simmons, Charles Renard Murray, DeRenda Hollman and Arianna Johnson; and my dog, Rex. I love you.

To my girls for life: Allilsa Bradley, Toni Staton Harris, Nancey Flowers, Adrianne Durr Caldwell, Shandra Hill and Jacquelin Thomas, as well as my new friends Darlene Powell-Garlington, LaConnie Taylor-Jones, Na Toya Payne, Dana Olmsted, Francine Craft, Leslie Esdaile, Celeste Norfleet and Kathy Lee. Thank you, ladies, for always having my back and for teaching me more about God and his love. I'd also like to acknowledge the friends who came into my life for a reason or a season. Thank you for the lessons you taught me.

To my editor, Glenda Howard, as well as Linda Gill and the staff of Kimani Press. Thank you for believing in me enough to publish my work. I pray we have a long and prosperous relationship.

I've been blessed to have a dynamic support system across the country. I would be remiss if I didn't thank the members of the First Missionary Baptist Church, East Boyles, in Tarrant,

Alabama; Shiloh Baptist Church in Jamaica, New York, especially Pastor Russell Marquis and his wife, Martrice; Forty-fifth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham; the Queens chapter of Mocha Moms, Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., especially the Theta Sigma chapter (What's up, T.I.P. and F
?) and the Epsilon Pi Omega chapter; Ramsay Alternative High School in Birmingham; the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; and the Richardsons—Clem, Claudette, Marien and Jené.

I also have to acknowledge my editing clients over the years. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. It is my sincere hope that you have been pleased with my work.

Finally, to anyone who does me the honor of reading this novel, I have to say thank you. I pray that my words help you on your journey to becoming all that God wants you to be and that we'll meet again soon.

God bless you,
Chandra Sparks Taylor

chapter 1

weat popped off me and my heart danced as I scratched out beats until my fingers burned. I hunched my back so I was closer to my mixing board and bopped my head to the beat, waiting for my cue to start my solo, as my brother, Derrick Richardson, worked the crowd, spitting unrehearsed rhymes off the top of his head.

The audience was on fire, and so were we.

When I started my solo, my body took over, and I started vibing with the music. I no longer felt the pain in my fingers, and my face was so close to the vinyl that I could almost kiss it as I focused on making that record sing a new song. It was like I was outside myself, watching as I did these crazy combinations that had the crowd on their feet yelling my stage name, Jazzy J, and grooving to my beats. Their energy was unlike anything I had ever known in all my sixteen years, and I lived for it.

Derrick took center stage again, and I harmonized with him before belting out a few lines from an R & B tune that would put Mary J. Blige to shame. The crowd was in awe. Most people knew I could deejay, but they had no clue that I was a fierce singer, and I could rap, too. I had been saving my singing for the perfect moment, and that time was now—during the biggest performance of our lives. When Derrick was done, I scratched one last beat, then came from behind my Technics 1200 turntable and grabbed his hand. We took a bow as the crowd whistled and shouted so loud my ears hurt.

We were the final act for the All-District Rap Invitational, which had gathered the top acts from Queens, New York, to compete for a spot in All-City. There, the winner from each of the city's boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx—would battle for a deal with Impact Records, a company that was known for producing hits. Derrick and I were favorites to win All-District, and as far as I was concerned, All-District and All-City were just formalities. That record contract already had my name on it.

Derrick leaned over, sweat streaming down his chocolate-brown face, and gave me a high five. “Good job, Jasmine,” he yelled, sounding a little hoarse.

“Thanks.” I grinned at him as I whipped a towel from around my neck and handed it to him. “I knew you'd forget to bring one.”

He smiled his thanks as he wiped his face, then threw the towel into the crowd. The girls went crazy as they fought to get it, and I couldn't help but laugh as Derrick blushed. He didn't like the spotlight at all, although he was an incredible rapper.

I watched as the other participants took the stage, and I tried to keep from laughing when I spotted the group that had come on before us. They had forgotten half their routine and had walked off the stage in disgrace after the crowd started booing them. I was surprised they had the nerve to show their faces again. I know if it had been me… Nah, that would never be me. My routine was always tight.

The MC finally made his way to the stage again, and he told a few corny jokes while the judges tabulated our scores. I figured they were just doing it for show, because there was no doubt in my mind that Derrick and I had won.

When the third-place winner was announced, I smiled at my brother. They had been good, as had a few of the nineteen acts besides us, and even though I knew we were the best, I was still anxious about actually hearing our name called. When a solo performer was named the second-place winner, I didn't know whether to be happy or nervous. I crossed the fingers of my right hand behind my back and bounced in place, probably looking like I had to pee, as I silently encouraged the MC to call our names, and Derrick squeezed my other hand to calm me down.

“We want to thank all our acts for performing tonight,” the MC said, “and now without further ado, the winner of the first annual All-District Rap Invitational is Jazzy J and Kid D.”

The roar of the crowd was so loud that I could hardly hear who had won. It wasn't until Derrick lifted me up and spun me around that I realized it was us.

“We did it,” he shouted.

“We did it?” I repeated, making sure I hadn't heard him wrong.

He nodded as he put me down, smiling so hard I thought his face was gonna split in two. We walked over to the announcer and accepted our trophy and a check for a thousand dollars; then we waved to the crowd, which continued to cheer for us.

I spotted my friends Kyle Adams and Loretta Dennis in the front row, and they looked just as excited as I felt. I pointed to the trophy and grinned. Like my brother, my friends knew just how much I wanted to win this contest. It had always been my dream to land a record deal, and now I was one step closer.

Life just couldn't get any better.

“Nice show,” a man said as I pushed through the crowd to head offstage to meet my friends. It seemed like everybody and their mama had decided to come onstage to congratulate us, and it looked like it would take me a good twenty minutes to make my way to Kyle and Loretta.

“Thanks,” I said, showing off my perfect white teeth once again. I looked at the trophy to make sure it was still there and that I wasn't dreaming; then I glanced back at the guy as I pushed a lock of my curly hair out of my face. It was so hot in the Springfield Auditorium in Queens that my sandy-colored hair had become frizzy and had worked its way out of its ponytail. The man was big and dark, and he kind of reminded me of Big Rick from
Flavor of Love,
except he had a huge purple wide-brimmed hat that matched his purple shirt, which he wore with a white three-piece suit and a white tie. The fumes from his cigar mixed with the funk of the auditorium had me about to choke. I sniffed politely, but it didn't help.

When he blew another puff of smoke my way, I got annoyed.

“Don't you see the no-smoking signs in here?” I said, pointing to one above his head. “If you want to kill yourself, fine, but I'm too young to die.”

He grinned at me and blew smoke in my direction, which really made me mad. I rolled my eyes and smacked my lips before turning to walk off.

“Do you play at parties and clubs?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, turning to look at him again. I caught a glimpse of Loretta over the guy's shoulder. She was saying something, but she was too far away for me to hear her. I shrugged and looked at the guy again. “My brother and I have performed all over Queens.”

He nodded and stuck his cigar in his mouth again before he flicked a business card from his wallet. “Why don't you give my assistant a call? I might have some work for you.”

“Have your assistant call me,” I said.

He gave this deep laugh, and his whole frame shook. “You're a spunky little thing. I like that,” he said, and grinned. “Call my assistant,” he insisted.

“Okay,” I said, taking the card. I got numbers all the time from people who said they wanted me to play at their parties, but most of them never ended up following through. “Nice meeting you,” I said, not bothering to look at him as I headed over to my friends.

“We won,” I said, giving both Kyle and Loretta a hug.

“Congratulations,” Kyle said, giving me a pound and slinging his arm around my shoulder. “That show was hot.”

I turned to Loretta, but she was looking past me. I turned to see what she was staring at, but no one was there. “Hey,” I said, tapping her on the shoulder. “You're not gon' congratulate me?”

“Do you know who that was?” she asked, continuing to look past me.

“Who?” I asked.

Loretta finally focused on me and smiled like she had just seen her future baby daddy. “That was Dexter Chamberlain,” she said, smoothing her hair.

“Who's that?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember where I had heard it.

“That dude from DC Records,” Kyle said, and shrugged.

DC Records had been around for years, and the company had a huge stable of chart-topping gangsta rappers.

“You mean DC Chamberlain?” I asked as my eyes got wide. “I didn't know his first name was Dexter.”

Loretta nodded. “What did he want?”

“He told me he might have some work for me.”

“He probably wants to sign you,” Loretta said, getting excited. “I think I heard somewhere he wants to move away from gangsta rap.” She jumped up and down and pulled on my shoulder. “You'd be perfect. When you get a deal, can I be on the cover of your first CD?”

Loretta was desperate to break into the modeling game, but somehow none of her gigs ever came through.

“Sure,” I said, and laughed as Derrick walked up.

I filled him in on my encounter with DC Chamberlain, and he looked almost as unimpressed as Kyle.

“Do you really think he's interested in signing us?” I asked, trying not to show my excitement.

Kyle frowned. “If he is, you better run in the other direction. I know you've heard about that man's reputation.”

Derrick nodded.

I looked at Loretta, and I could see she was already picturing herself in my first video, too. “What do you care about his reputation as long as you get your name out there?” She shrugged and glanced away before pouting her lips, smoothing her weave and looking over her shoulder, posing for a
Daily News
photographer who had come over to take our picture.

I thought about what Loretta had said, and I realized she was right. Obviously DC knew I had skills or he wouldn't have asked me to call him. If I had his support, there was no way I could lose All-City.

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