The Sonic Vandals

by: Art Rosch

A phenomenon so dangerous, few live to tell its story. The Battle of the Boomkars…..


It’s one thirty in the morning. A sound arises in the distance, barely audible. The sound is almost subliminal, but it grows, at first gradually, but quickly acquires momentum as it approaches.

Boom!  Boom! Ka boom-boom! Ka-boom-boom! Louder and louder it advances. Like an approaching stampede. Like an unfolding apocalypse. BOOM BOOM KA-BOOM! It crescendos and jolts me from sleep like an earthquake. BOOM BOOOM BOOOOOM!

And with the same speed with which it arrived and passed, the terrible sound recedes. Boom boom. Ka-boom boom. Ka-boom.

The sound is as jarring as it is familiar. It’s a Boomkar. It’s a vehicle whose purpose is to transport sonic vandals throughout the night, waking those who slumber in its path. It is a variant of a tribal drum language. It is a beacon, a signal to other Boomkars, some from hostile tribes, to converge and do battle. They are Cadillac, Pontiac, Toyota, Honda, Dodge, and Ford, vehicles whose back seats and trunks have been repurposed, converted into homes for loudspeakers, bass tubes and amps. Acts of vehicular surgery that convert hip-hop bass lines into lethal weapons of sound. These are expressions of power.

The battle commences at a mall parking lot. The vehicles are arranged in ranks, like legions of Roman soldiers, their amplifiers cranked-up and ready to wage battle.

The balcony of my apartment has a perfect view of the Northway Mall parking lot. I’ve had  the opportunity to witness many a Boom-Battle first-hand. It’s dreadful. The carnage is indescribable.

It begins with the appearance of chieftains from the opposing Boomkar Tribes. A Humvee and an Escalade roll ominously forward until they are almost nose to nose. Each tribes commander emerges from their tricked-out vehicle, relaying flamboyant hand signals to their respective Deejay’s with their nimble fingers hovering inches above glowing control consoles. All Boomkar warriors are deaf. They have no choice but to communicate with hand signals.

The leader of the Escalade Krew is the infamous Doctor Doghouse. Stepping out of the black Humvee is the equally notorious B.G.F. Fat-pimp.

The Escalade Krew’s Doctor Doghouse crosses his arms to form an “X” at chest level. The fingers of both his hands are flashing the “devil’s horns” sign, the most notorious challenge in all of gang sign-language. He wears shorts that almost reach his ankles and are so baggy he could fit two of himself into each leg. His opponent, Fat-pimp, weighs-in at three hundred pounds and is dressed much the same. His shorts are so wide they could easily house a family of desert Bedouins with room to spare. Brand new baseball caps with their still-rigid shapes are worn sideways at such and such an angle, just so. The chieftains posture at one another, fingers pointed in all directions, arms crossed, knees bent, and shoulders rolling.

One would assume that these are signs of insult, that is, the tribal champions are flashing merk. Of course, flashing merk don’t mean shit unless actual weapons are involved.

This is easy merk, not the hard kind. The weapons are the Boomkars themselves.

As the ritual of the Boomkar progresses, each chief reaches into the pockets of their giant shorts and produces a knot, or stack of bills. At this point there manifests an advantage to the Escalade Krew, because Doghouse’s knot is head up in C-notes, real hundreds, and as he pulls back the thick rubber band, he can easily show that the C-notes aren’t just bush for Ones and Fives. The knot is deep. It’s all C-notes. Fat-pimp loses a load of headroom, his knot shows a couple of C’s, a couple of Twens, and a whole lot of Ones. Bad tone for Fat-pimp. Sometimes low quap is worse than no quap at all.

The chiefs walk in their stylized manner, limbs loose and arms flailing, fingers folded into complex semaphores. They circle one another, making a figure eight, which takes each chief in a circuit around their opponent’s ride.

Then the Escalade fires up its amps.

Boom-kachic! A boom-boom. Ka-chik boom-achic boom-achic!

I am at least a quarter mile off in the distance, and the concussion of the bass roils my intestines.

In response, the Humvee emits its own riffle of noise. Ka-chik boom! Ka-chik boom-boom-boom! Kachik-kachik-kachik-boom. Ta-boom boom!

Only a few words of the chieftan’s incantation are audible. The bass and the snare-slap dominate the asphalt-juddering roar. There are repeated calls of key-code phrases. “Motha fucka!  Motha fucka! Motha fucka! Yo! Yo!  Motha-fucka Yo!” That’s the Escalade. The Humvee snarls back. “Gonna get up yo-booty! Gonna get up yo-booty! Phat bee-ahtch gonna sit on it, sit on it!”

Cracks begin to spread out from beneath each tribes vehicle. The vocalizations serve as calls of love to the chieftains’ ladies and calls to the fathers of women in other tribes. Women desired by Fat-pimp and Doghouse. These calls appropriately demonstrate the impressive character and power of each Boomkar chief.

My scrotum is vibrating from the din. Both cars maintain a steady tone as they blast their booming volumes at one another. The Escalade’s hubcaps suddenly blow into the air with such a force that one of them shatters a sixty-foot mercury vapor lamp above. Doctor Doghouse staggers backwards and makes a sign to his Deejay: Up the volume! Turn on the extra Amps. Kick-out the Jam’s, Motherfucker!

The Humvee begins to fold and rumple along its width. The SUV’s imperial nine and a half foot long front grill and xenon headlamps compress from the onslaught. The Boomkar’s roof begins to fold-in upon itself, compacting the car down to eight feet wide. Then seven and a half feet. Then six! Cracks begin to spiderweb out from beneath the asphalt of both Boomkars.

“Mothafucka! Booty. Mothafucka! Booty! Get-up, get-up, get-up! Clap yo hands! Get-up!  Booty. Fucka! Ooo. Ka-chik. Bee-ahtch! Boom boom boom!”

The pavement gives way with a giant splongk! and both cars plunge into a cavernous sinkhole that has opened up below them. Doctor Doghouse’s fingers grip the ragged edges of the crater. He manages to climb out. His tattered shorts have been pushed up above his knees, revealing droopy white socks and sneakers designed to look like M-1 Abrams battle tanks. He looks back into the hole. There is no sign of the Humvee Krew’s Fat-pimp. The Doghouse tribe’s vehicles suddenly roar to life, each one circling the phalanx of their opponents’ Boomkars. Their Amps are turned all the way up. The acrid smell of burning electronics reaches me on my perch above the Northway Mall parking lot. Smoke blows from the trunks and windows of the Boomkars. The din is cataclysmic as Escalade Boomkars circle the defeated Humvee tribe.

Boom boom, ka-boom boom, ka-boom boom boom! Chik chik snap-bap boom, cha-boom!

There is a distant wailing. The Boomkars skid in swathes of rubber as they disperse in all directions. Off in the distance the collective whine of twenty, twenty-five police cruisers sounds as the authorities scream their way to the Boomkar Battle.

By the time they reach the scene of the carnage, all that remains is a smoking crater with the wreck of a Humvee in its bottom. B.G.F. Fat-pimp is gone. A faint boom-boom seems to emanate from the hole. That may only be my imagination. Or perhaps a dying echo ricocheting off a building far, far away, a feeble remnant of the battle between The Tribes of Sonic Vandals.

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