The Follow 2: Blocked is almost here!
That’s right – my tenth novel drops on February 16th (which you can preorder for 99 pennies!) Earlier this month, I revealed the cover. Now, I offer up for your immediate consumption the first chapter of the anticipated sequel to last summer’s The Follow.
“Aye! Good Morning, New York! Chill 89 is live with yo’ boy, DJ Royale…”
“And your girl, Whitney B! We have a very special guest in the studio. He’s even granting us a visit on his thirtieth birthday, y’all! It’s the Millennial Marvin Gaye himself, Mr. King Smith. Happy birthday to you, sir!”
“Hey y’all. Good Morning and thank you for the birthday wishes.”
“Now, before Whit B opens up the line to all your adoring fans, we wanna chat with you about this new project you’re working on.”
“Yes, let me hold off on these chicks blowing up our phone lines at seven in the morning! Now King, your last album Wait for Me tore up the charts last year and now you’re involved in Lamar St Jon’s newest film Everything in the Stars, is that right?”
“Correct, Miss Whit. Lamar’s one of my favorite people in the world so when he recommended me to produce the soundtrack, well…in a word, I felt blessed, you feel me? Having two black men creating together, especially in this current state of affairs? It’s all love.”
“I feel that, brotha. Now since this movie is more of a PG-13 puppy love type of joint, how you plan on toning down those nasty ass lyrics of yours?”
“That was my next question, Royale! Because King can’t be talking about tasting somebody’s sweetness in a movie about two teenagers falling in love!”
“I know, I know. My lyrics are a little…racy, but that’s what I love about writing and composing. It allows me to get into different sides of who I am. Like my idol Marvin, for example. He did it all – from Motown doo-wop to woke What’s Goin’ On to sensual Sexual Healing. I feel like the older I get, the more I continue to evolve. So trust, you will see a different side of King Smith with this soundtrack.”
“I like that, sir. So tell Royale and I, as well as the listeners, when we can expect that first single to drop?”
“No drop date on the leading single yet, but the rest of the tracks are already done. Since the main plot of the movie is about Lamar’s character falling in love with an undocumented immigrant, I definitely want to bring a social awareness to the premiere track, but also sprinkle it with notes of love and affection.”
“Woke and sexy, just like Marvin. King, you see why the ladies and I go crazy over you?”
“And speaking of the ladies, are you and that lady of yours still going strong?”
“Royale! Please don’t answer that, King! There will be hearts breaking all over the city this morning!”
“I’m sorry to break it to you, Whit and fellow beautiful ladies of New York, but only one woman has my heart. I won’t shout her out, because she’ll kill me…but she knows who she is.”
“Oh, don’t worry, man! Every sister in the borough is Googling ‘King Smith’s girlfriend’ as we speak.”
“Yes they are! Now, on a serious note, we would be remiss if we didn’t bring up the elephant in the room. Last year, there were rumors floating that you were undergoing counseling for a sex addiction. We know that in past interviews, you’ve kinda danced around the subject but, given this love in your life, how do you deal with a rumor that just won’t go away?”
“Easy. I don’t address it.”
I hate interviews. Despise them. The moment I feel like I’m vibing with a host, here they go with this ‘sex rehab rumor’ bullshit. I’ve never publicly admitted to being a sex addict because, quite frankly, that’s my business. When I sit down for an interview, I’m there to talk about the music – period. I shouldn’t have to answer questions about my personal life.
Unfortunately, Slim had a different viewpoint.
“Why you keep dodging it, fam?” he said as we walked out of Chill 89’s studio and stepped into the back of my Maybach. “You’ve been in recovery for over a year.”
“And?” I said, settling into the warm leather. It was February and the heated seats were doing its’ thing for me.
“And it’s clear the streets know something. We knew from the beginning you wouldn’t be able to keep a lid on it for long. You’ve been blessed with a year of secrecy. That’s like a lifetime in this industry, to be honest. The longer you keep denying it, the more you look ashamed.”
“I’m not ashamed.”
Slim slipped a blunt from behind his ear and took his lighter out of his pocket. “And you shouldn’t be. Think about everything you’ve overcome and gained: starting therapy, surviving the relapses, helping Lamar – all of that took guts. Why not flip the conversation and focus on that?”
I snatched the lit blunt from him. “Flip the conversation?”
“Instead of addressing rumors, flip it into you creating a platform. All the stars have a cause they fightin’ for these days. Sex addiction awareness could be yours.”
I choked on smoke as I convulsed into laughter. “What? Nigga, do you even hear yourself? How I look, standing up talking about ‘Hey guys, ever have an uncontrollable urge to fuck every woman who looks your way? Me too!’ Nah, I’m good on that, bro.”
“You not thinkin’ big picture.” Slim snatched the blunt back. “The album was hot, but this movie soundtrack? This is, like, Pharrell Williams Despicable Me-level shit you about to do, son. I mean, look at Lamar. He has blown up to young Will Smith dimensions and he’s taking you with him with this movie.”
He leaned over, tapping ash into the tray. “You are about to blow up and these sex rehab questions will not go away. They’ll only get louder.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“Get out in front of them now,” Slim said, passing the blunt to me as the Bach made a right turn. “If you don’t believe me, ask your woman. Shauna’s team does this for a living. She’ll tell you I’m right.”
I didn’t have to ask. Babygirl had said the same thing as Slim in the past. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, though. Why does the world need to know about that part of my life? That’s in the past. I’m a better man now.
“I’ll think about it,” I lied, exhaling a swirl of smoke before passing the B back to Slim. I slipped my cell out of my pocket. “Right now, I’m more worried about the lead single for the soundtrack.”
“You still blocked?”
“Hell yeah,” I said, scrolling until I got to Shauna’s name in my contacts. Her pretty face smiled back at me from her avatar. She was my muse, my inspiration in and out of the studio. But not even Babygirl could get me out of the weeks-long writer’s block I was suffering through with this single. I had poured through my stack of lyric journals and had watched the movie trailer dozens of times, hoping for a twinge of creative spark.
So far – nothing.
I typed a text to my lady:
You getting your sexy ass ready for my party tonight?
I smirked as I hit the Send arrow. Seconds later, the three dots appeared. I loved when she responded immediately.
Of course. And thank you for not saying my name on Chill. LOL.
I gave a short laugh at my phone as the Bach eased in front of Trouble Man, my studio. Slim elbowed me. “All right, get out of that phone and get in this booth. You need to get unblocked as soon as possible. The demo track for this single is due in less than three weeks.”
The door opened on my side and we stepped out. “I just don’t know where to find the muse. I need something,” I said to Slim over my shoulder as we climbed the steps into Trouble Man.
Slim slapped my back. “Lemme do some thinking for you while I continue puffing this B.”
I shook my head as we turned into the engineering room. I saw Mercy, my ruby red guitar, by the enclosed booth. I stared at her, willing the music to come to me. I’d been blocked before, but not to this degree. If I was ever stuck on lyrics or an arrangement in the past, it usually worked itself out after a day or two. I’d listen to some Marvin, maybe a little throwback 90s hip hop, and gain inspiration from there. Even a night with my lady could clear my head and get my creative muse back on track. This time, though, nothing was working for me.
I picked Mercy up and sat with her on the couch as Slim turned on the boards.
“Come on, Mercy,” I whispered, giving her strings a gentle strum. “Give me a song that will change my life.”
Be careful what you ask for.