Take 5

It's better than HBO! Riding the mean streets of Minneapolis on Metro Transit's busiest bus route.

"Yeah, nice clothes, but they're on you, nigga," the kid replies edgily. "You're a white-skinned muthafucka, a Shanghai Noon muthafucka, you and that Somali hair of yours." So much laughter ensues that the game cannot continue.

 

2 Rides, 2 Raps

Pulling south out of Brookdale at the north end of the No. 5 line, a twentysomething passenger spinning rap rhymes in back is interrupted by a drunk in a light-blue watch cap. "Did you steal from me?" the drunk demands. "You're too old to steal from, and I ain't no thief," the rapper replies. "No, you're right. I was someplace else. I wasn't around you," the drunk says, and lays off.

The rapper tells me his name is Soul Taker. What's he rapping about? "Oh, I'm just throwing out the garbage now," he says. "That's point-zero-zero-one--no, wait!--that's point-zero-zero-zero-one percent of what I've got." Does he have a rhyme for the No. 5 line? After an initial attempt involving gunplay and gin, he stops. "No, man, that ain't right," he says. "Let me do something positive for the kids in the City Pages."

 

Ever since they made the 5 line for brothers like me to ride

It's been cool--no more cold standing outside:

Damn! There go the bus

Nah, that's the 5R--I need the S

I know everybody in the game wanna see me fall

But I'm still gonna be the mack to you all

"Sir, you got change for a five?"

"You ain't got enough to ride the bus," he said

"Oh, you gonna do me like that?

I thought you was a cool bus driver"

"Nah, you ain't gettin' on my bus with no fiver

Because you be startin' trouble, Black"

I looked at the Game and the Game looked back at me

My brother said, "Shoot that brother"

I said, "Nah, 'cause I ain't no killer, G"

 

I see this old drunk on the bus, acting not cool at all

Steady bothering a young brother--bus driver put him off at the mall!

I see a crackhead on the back--nah, he's in the front with a blue hat

He wanna ask question like, "Why you learn to rap and how you do that?"

It's true that I'm the coldest thing you ever seen in this industry

Back in 1973 Mama gave birth to a young brother just like me

Oh, the bus? It's about a lot of crazy stuff

And if you get on the 5 line you'll understand why I fuss

With everybody riding the bus

I can't even rhyme in peace

"I'm on my way to work!" "Brother, would you be quiet? Decease!"

Everybody wanna play. The girls wanna say to me,

"Um, do you know what time the 5 get downtown?"

Bitch, get a transfer! Or should I say a schedule

Then you'll know when the bus come around

There's a lot of cuties on the 5 line and I promise you this

But there's a lot of brothers--mean muggers who are getting pissed

They talkin' 'bout, "Yo, homey, that's my girl"

But that's all good and all

Cause I'm on my way to the mall

So I can buy me some shoes, y'all

 

On another evening a sharp-looking guy sporting sunglasses, a black cane, and a thin line of beard running from ear to ear makes his way to the back of the No. 5 as it heads north on Chicago. "Chilly is ready to go par-tay on the north side!" he announces, opening a can of beer from the six-pack cradled in a bag on his arm and passing a second can to a stranger beside him.

"That's Chilly. You want to talk to someone, you should talk to him," says the woman sitting next to me.

"You doin' a story on the 5 and you want a rhyme from me?" asks Chilly. "I got a rhyme for the 5, baby!

 

5 gonna take yo' life

If you wanna ride

On that 5

Comin' from the north

To the south side

On this bus you better not ride

 

"The 5 bus is ghetto fabulous," he says, breaking off. "It is the mainstream of crack hell. It will put you on Broadway, put you on Franklin, put you on Chicago and Lake. You go on the 5 to do one thing: Get on and get your ass off. Get you some dope and get back on. Get off and sell dope.

"'Go to the Mall of America, check out Planet Hollywood fo sho! We go there to shop. We go there for Camp Snoopy!'" he mocks. "I ride the 5 because I got a lot of friends on the 5! Got drugs on the 5. Lot of corruption on the 5. I can fuck up on the 5!" This observation elicits hearty laughter from Chilly's neighbors.

"5 is the home to ghetto godfathers," he goes on. "We pulsatin'. From the south side to the north side, it's like a vein runnin' through your arm. The 5 gets you to Penn, it gets you to Emerson. It gets you in trouble! The 5 will get you drunk! The 5 is the main street from suburban life to ghetto life. I am ghet-toh. I'm not a thug, I'm a hooood-lum! And I be out there wiiiiiith them! The one thing about a 5 bus: Either you doin' somethin' or you know somethin' about somethin'. When you see somethin', you gonna drop off and get somethin'. Get back on and then you don't know nothin'. Uh-huh.

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