Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Combat Jack's Story Of The History Of Loon

It’s not supposed to be like this, you know. As I’m watching the Al Jazeera clips this weekend with Amir Junaid Muhadith wax poetic, beard, kufi and robes in place, I’m thinking how much of an actual superstar he really is, is supposed to be. Chauncey Hawkins that is, the man I know as Loon. Out of almost everyone I represented in the music industry, Loon was probably the most natural, the most likely to succeed, as they say. The only thing making sense is that he is actually on national television. Not that converting to Islam is anything out of the ordinary for rap artists. Just the whole thing playing out like a scene from a bad movie. Then I start playing the movie back from the beginning.


I met Loon back in 1995. I was representing Lindsey Williams. Lindsay worked at the now defunct EMI Records. Was responsible for signing the new agey, quasi political, folksy feel-good rap group Arrested Development. Before then, he worked in the trenches at Rush Management, side by side with Lyor Cohen. Spent a lot of time on the road with the likes of Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick. Lindsey had some great stories, especially how Rick and Kane were like best friends that always stayed in beef, how Kane had to snuff Rick in the jaw once, just to put him in his place. So Lindsey, whose grandmother is also the Sylvia of Harlem’s famed tourist food spot Sylvia’s, calls me one day. Says he’s managing a two man group named Crime Family, and how they just got small offer from Tommy Boy Records. He needed someone to close the deal quick and cheap. He brought the group to my office so we could meet before any bread-breaking. Loon and Nitti. Just two younger cats from Uptown. Didn’t get to really hear how they sounded, what they were about, I was just trying to do Lindsey a solid, that and pay my bills. Since I had just done a deal with Penalty Records for CNN (Capone & Noriega) and Penalty was a label run under Tommy Boy, me and the lawyers sealed the Crime Fam deal quickly. Contracts signed, hands shook, checks cashed, we kept it moving, and that was the last time I heard from Crime Fam.

A year later or so, Tommy Boy started changing their roster, experimenting with the direction they were taking, had even done a deal with self help guru Deepak Chopra. They were scaling back from their involvement with rap music, with Hip Hop. Timing was off and Crime Fam never had a chance. They were dropped before the ink on the contract had a chance to dry. Then, if I remember correctly, Nitti got popped and was doing a short stint in jail for something. Loon called me. Said he needed my representation. I took a meeting with him. At the time, he was putting his demo tape together and was getting mad beats from a famed Harlem DJ whose very name I can’t remember as I’m writing this. I wanna say it was DJ Doo Wop. Some street cats were investing money into Loon, and they wanted me to shop for a new deal. No lie, Loon’s demo was dope. The word play, how he crafted songs that were delivered like it was effortless, but flowed, almost in a conversational style. Beat selection was on point too. Should have been easy getting that deal except for one big problem, Loon’s voice, nasal, lazy sounding, sounded too much like Ma$e’s, the new rapper who started to pop behind a single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” featuring none other than Sean “Puffy” Combs. It didn’t matter that he could rap way better than Ma$e, everyone was going the compare the two, and Ma$e had the upper hand, being that he came out first. Still, something told me to stick with him. Loon started stopping by my office, more frequently, almost on the daily. Had one disgusting habit though. Whenever we met, he’d pull my waste paper basket from the side of my desk and would casually spit in it. The longer our meetings, the more he would spit. Used to piss me off, especially since I used to warn him not to do that shit and how he would ignore me and continue spitting, like he had a problem with his spituitary glands and what not. Him leaving me with a basket filled with his saliva close to my desk. Still, Loon was extremely talented. The more he stopped by, the more he shared about his history, his background. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. Chauncey Hawkins was most definitely a one of a kind kind of dude.

Being a Brooklyn cat, it never ceased to amaze me how Harlem cats were so damned proud about being from Harlem. Like that shit meant they was royalty. Especially the closer they could claim to hailing from actual individuals who ran the upper Manhattan streets. They respected the crime/ street game like most others respected what college you graduated from, what profession you claimed. From Dame Dash to my attorney friend and office mate Matt Middleton, them Harlem kniccas made sure you respected their Harlem pedigree. Maybe that’s why there was always a subtle rivalry between BK and Uptown dudes. Two extremely proud ass boroughs. Loon was no different, other than the fact that he WAS, by blood, a product of Harlem’s true royalty. Loon’s parents were Carol Hawkins and William “Hamburger” Hughley. They were a couple that were known as Harlem’s true Bonnie and Clyde, running all types of street hustle on 116th Street during the pivotal 1970’s and also the 1980s. Chauncey Hawkins was bred to be a true blooded street hustler, especially since his true god-father was famed kingpin Nickey Barnes. I could only imagine the birthday parties, his first communion with Harlem’s finest all in attendance.

Then there was high school. Things had gotten hectic in the Uptown streets. Drug related fights turned to shootings, turned to murder turned to kidnappings. Chauncey’s mom wanted her son away from the meaner streets and sent him as far way from Harlem as possible, to Los Angeles. Chauncey had a 2nd god-father who lived in Los Angeles, George Jackson. Born and raised in Harlem, Jackson was a film maker who used his skills to escape the streets of Harlem. Having produced movies “Krush Groove”, “Jason’s Lyric” and incidentally, “New Jack City”, Jackson was in a better position to take care of Chancey than his actual parents were. Once in Los Angeles, Loon made it a point to reconnect with the streets, hanging with gang members. Being completely unaware of the L.A.’s gang culture, but eager to claim his spot, Loon ended up getting into fights with people he shouldn’t have, thus earning the nickname “Loon”, like in crazy as one. The name stuck. During the day, Loon was enrolled in the famed Beverly Hills High School. His classmates were Monica Lewinsky and Angelina Jolie. Hailing from the streets, but not unaccustomed to wealth, Loon fit right in. Comparing the differences between both worlds, Loon once remarked “poor people in Harlem are miserable because they’re poor and rich people in Beverly Hills are miserable because they have too much money, life’s crazy like that.”

Back in New York, and taking all of his influences to forge the image of the smooth, ice cold criminal rapper, Loon set out full time in building a successful music career. It didn’t hurt that he was handsome. [

]. Women loved him. I once even heard wifey talking to her girlfriends about how dude was all the right types of chocolate. On top of sounding like Ma$e, Loon went so far as to record a diss song aimed at Puff and Ma$e, him spitting subtle threats over the same “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” beat. As good as he was though, I advised him there there was no way he was going to win in a battle against Bad Boy. Puff was too big and Ma$e was climbing way too fast for Loon to catch up. I figured the best option for us was that old “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. Bad Boy always kept their doors open for me, plus at the time I was working with top Hitmen producer Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie. Angelettie had even recently shared how Puff and Ma$e recorded “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” as a joke, released the single without much thought, and were more than surprised at how well that record did on radio and in retail. I called Deric up, told him I had something hot for him to hear, asked him to keep an open mind. We met at Daddy’s House Recording studio in midday, midtown. I didn’t want Loon and Ma$e to be in the same room being how Loon dissed him. I wasn’t looking for no types of studio drama, didn’t want to ruin any chances Loon had at getting that much coveted deal. Instantly, Deric realized how dope Loon was, with the wordplay, the writing, how Loon’s persona fit the Bad Boy image to a t. He was sold, and I could tell he was trying to think of how to spin this one to Puff, how to make it work. Funny thing is right in the middle of our meeting, Ma$e calls Deric up as he was working on Ma$e’s album. As they’re talking on speaker phone, Deric asks Ma$e if he ever heard of Loon, what he thought of him. Ma$e’s responded like he was unimpressed, like he “maybe, kinda heard” of this “small cat”, had even heard a “weak” diss song. Loon, pissed at how he felt Ma$e was being disrespectful to him, let out some slick threat’s about how their “beef” was now “official”. Like Ma$e and half them Harlem kniccas didn’t steal their Harlem World style from Loon himself. As the meeting broke down, Loon ready for war, I suggested we leave the studio a.s.a.p. as I wasn’t willing to wait around for Ma$e and his “peoples” to show up.

Going back to the drawing board, Loon stayed focus on recording more songs, on honing his skills, on staying out of trouble. I felt that since we struck out with Puff and Bad Boy, our best shot would be to go over Puff’s head. Clive Davis was running Arista Records, the label that was home to Bad Boy. If you don’t know, Clive is the legendary record exec known for his knack in discovering and developing great talent. He’s known for discovering everyone from Janis Joplin to Aretha Franklin to Whitney Houston (pre- Bobby) to even Puff himself. Word on the street was that Bad Boy and Puff had gotten too big under Clive’s house and he was looking to keep his main negro in check by showing to the world that he could break his own rap artist under Arista proper. Time began to work in our favor. It took a full year to lock in a meeting with Clive, but our efforts paid off. Plus, by then, Ma$e debut record “Harlem World” sold millions of units. Ma$e’s success landed him a small label situation at Arista as well, and he was looking to put together a Harlem World group. Knowing full well that it wouldn’t make sense to have a Harlem World act without Loon, they squashed their beef. Ma$e soon offered Loon a deal as part of the group. Loon was eager to sign anything at that point, and the Ma$e affiliation looked real promising to him. Still I insisted that he remain patient. I felt Loon deserved a solo career. At the time, Loon had become very good friends with Clive’s newest pet project, a talented and beautiful singer/ songwriter named Alicia Keys. Loon even claimed that because of the closeness of their relationship, he himself gave Alicia the “Keys” name. Unsubstantiated, I believed him. Things began moving quickly now. Ma$e was putting soft pressure on Loon to sign to Harlem World. Loon was ready to sign anything. It was hard, but I managed to hold him off from signing anything, not until we met with Clive. Our meeting was set and it was only a matter of time before my dude Loon would become the house hold name he deserved to be.

Loon had spent over a year hustling, begging and borrowing to make music, a living as well as having to maintain, at least externally, the appearance of someone who was living the life of a successful artist. Without looking desperate, dude was living on fumes. The Ma$e ‘Harlem World’ group deal was probably looking like steak to him. Still, I felt he was a star, that he had persevered and was close to the end of his journey. Ma$e’s attorneys had sent papers to the office. The other members, Meeno, Baby Sta$e (Ma$e’s twin sister), Huddy Combs, Blinky Blink and Suga J were more than ready to sign. Pressure intensified since Loon was meant to feel by the other members of the group like he was holding up the deal. He probably was, but patience is an ungodly test to one who has waited years for their dreams to materialize. Word had come down that the Harlem World deal HAD to be signed by every member no later than the Friday of that week. Our meeting with Clive Davis was Thursday, the day before. “Hold on my nigga, Hold the fuck on” I kept saying all week. Holding him back from placing his John Hancock on that damned Harlem World deal. Thursday finally came, Loon and I were ready to do our dog and pony show, prove to one of the greatest record men in history that Chauncey Hawkins was well worth his attention, his professional guidance and his financial investment.

Sitting in the grand office of Arista Records on 57th Street was Lionel Ridenhour, a top exec at Arista, Drew Dixon, another exec that Clive had great trust in (as well as her already being a good friend to Loon), and Clive himself. Based on his pedigree, I had no worries that Loon was going to show and prove, what I didn’t expect was how effectively he was going to kill it. Gone was all the Harlem street talk, replaced with the “So pleased to meet you Mr. Davis, sir. I’ve been a true student of yours ever since my mother used to play Aretha Franklin when I was growing up…” No, no cooning, shucking and jiving, dude still had that hustler’s glint in his eyes, but let loose with the proper talk a kid learns when addressing their seniors. Loon had Davis eating out his hands from the start. As we began to play the demo, songs of shooting niggas in the head over drug deals gone wrong, of Loon fucking your girl behind your back and what not, and him, in real life with the “yes sirs,” I’m thinking how this is one of those surreal moments I could never make up. After spending what must have been 2 hours, Clive Davis finally let us go. NOTE TO ASPIRING ARTISTS: If an executive wants to sit with you for over 45 minutes, consider yourself golden. So we leave the office and I’m smelling fresh money now, seeing chart topping duet videos featuring Loon and his buddy Alicia Keys killing every radio and video format known to man. All that hard work and patience finally paying off. Like every successful meeting with a top executive, by the time I got back to my office, Clive Davis had left a message, fawning over Loon’s star power, how he was going to be THAT next superstar, and how he was going to put his team of attorneys on the job to crafting a suitable deal that Loon would approve of. Meanwhile, Loon was… preoccupied. He didn’t see what I saw, didn’t fully trust my enthusiasm. What he saw was that shit was bad for him in his daily life, and that how BIG looking that Harlem World contract sitting in my office seemed. Ma$e and the other future members of Harlem World had also been by the office, waiting, coaxing, leaning on Loon to sign. It didn’t help that I shared offices with their attorney. In my office, behind closed doors, Loon and I spoke for like another hour and a half, him so ready to ignore what took place and ready to sign anywhere, me practically begging dude not to sign with Ma$e, him promising he’d hold on, but kinda angry at me for asking him to wait a few more days, weeks even before any actual papers from Clive’s office might ever emerged. It was getting late, maybe around 9pm. I had had a long day and was ready to call it a night. We dapped. “Peace my nigga, stay focused”, I said. He responded “I got this.” I closed up shop and went home to my wife and kids. It was a good day, and I left wondering why all my days weren’t like that one.

The calls on my cell phone started coming in around 2 in the morning. Being that my wife and our two baby boys were asleep, I rushed to grab the phone lest the ringing wake them up. Plus, I didn’t want wifey wondering who the eff was calling me so late, like if I had some loose chick blowing up my spot in the middle of the night. I’ve always hated sounding like somebody woke me up from sleep whenever I answered a call, so I tried to play my voice like I was up, at 2 in the morning. It was Loon on the other line, sounding drunk or distant or confused. “I’m sick Reg. I’m sick” he repeated. “Sick like you been drinking, like you got the flu, like some goons stuck you up, sick like what Loon?” “Reg, after you left, I linked up with Ma$e and them. They kept at me and I, I, I signed the contract, I signed the Harlem World contract…”

*dead*

At that moment, and please understand that I don’t mean this in any way malicious or harmful to dude’s well being, but understand, after putting in all that work, several years worth, after all the calls, and support and encouragement, at that moment, at 2 FUCKING AM IN THE MORNING, with my wife and two sons sleeping in the next room, Chauncey Hawkins p/k/a Loon was DEAD to me. Maybe it was because I had absolutely nothing to say, no “what the fucks” and “how the hells”, nothing. But Loon probably felt that chill traveling from my soul, across the air waves and into his ear piece. Now the dumb talk, “They said if I wasn’t cool with it by the end of the weekend, they’d tear the contract up, let me out the contract.” “What time you getting in the office tomorrow morning? Let’s see what we could work out with them” ” And just like talking to a dead man, I lifelessly told him when I’d be in my office, like if it would make any fucking difference in the world. I think Loon would have felt better if I was mad, had yelled at him about how fucking stupid he was. But deep down, he knew what my silence meant. Disappointment in how, after all the years of outsmarting cats on the grimy uptown streets, years of outsmarting West Coast gang members, years of outsmarting his uber rich classmates in the hallways of Beverly Hills High, he finally outsmarted the one person he thought would never get got, himself.

So there we were that next morning, going through the motions, him making up childlike stories of how, if I made the call, Ma$e would release him from the contract. Me looking at the mess he created, the mess that I would have to clean up. Dear reader, please understand just how messy the situation was… Clive, arguably THE most powerful man in the business at the time, just lost the next artist that he set his sights on, to an artist already signed to Clive, on a label under his command. It would have been bad enough if Loon had signed to Puff, had entered into a deal with Bad Boy, but at least it would have made some kind of sense since everyone wanted a deal with Bad Boy. Clive himself made it very obvious that he felt a ways about how Puff’s success and magnetism started to outshine his. Loon signed to All Out Records, a label owned by Ma$e, signed under Bad Boy, signed under Arista Records. Add the fact that Loon would now have to split monies with 5 sub-par rappers and all I could do to maintain my dignity, my sanity, was walk away. After ducking a couple of Clive’s calls, I called him back, informing him that Loon had already locked into a deal overnight. Dude sounded like I shit on him, stabbed him in the back, like I was some dumb nigger playing games. Yeah, it was that bad. Clive was more than pissed, especially when he learned it was Ma$e that Loon had signed to. He even threatened to shut down Mas$e’s entire operation and all, but in the end, the Harlem World record came out, and we all know what an effin abortion of a record that was.

Still, things eventually worked out the way we initially envisioned it. Ma$e retired from rap, Bad Boy signed Loon like I knew they should. Loon also stacked paper writing songs for Puff. Still, most of the potential sales Loon should have had (his record did poorly) were already spent by the wonder years Ma$e had as top artist on the label. I also think the best years of that label had passed Loon by. Eventually he left Bad Boy and set up his now defunct label Boss Up Entertainment in 2006. I ran into him several times when he repped Bad Boy. We’ve always stayed cool, even though, at some function, dude had the audacity to accuse me of abandoning him, leaving his career for dead after he snuck signed the Harlem World deal. All I had to do was look him in the eye with the “nigga please” look to let him know I wasn’t at all amused by his crazy talk.

I’ve since read the stories too, about how he had beef with members of the famed Dip Set, how he clocked 40 Cal with a shovel in an altercation at an Uptown barber shop (hilarious). And I’ve kept an eye on his career, on all of his independent endeavors.

Now, I’m not trying to blow dude’s plans up or dismiss his recent conversion to Islam, but I do have a theory. Several months ago before his much publicized change of faith, Loon made an announcement on of all places, Face Book. On his page, he made an announcement that he was soon headed to Saudi Arabia. How he had linked up with some cats overseas that seen his potential as an artist and were about to invest in him. He also made an announcement that he was finally very close to achieving the wealth he had been striving to make his entire life. He even had a drop dated January 18th of this year, grinning, rubbing his hands talking about how he’s about to make some real “A-rab money”. For real. Now I respect Islam as I do most religions, and I will always remain above it all, a friend to Chauncey Hawkins, he’s an incredible human being. But, I don’t put nothing past him, him always being crazy as a Loon, maybe, just maybe, with all that hustle in his dna….

Nah. I’m a keep it like it is. Praise be to Allah my dude. May your travels bring you all the wealth and happiness you deserve.

Just be careful with them folks you running with these days.

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