Lights Out: An MC Ruff and DJ Tumble Adventure – Part One

Lights Out

An MC Ruff and DJ Tumble Adventure – Part 1


Phillip McCollum

Break it down,

Shake it down,

Ruff and Tumble make your world go ‘round.

A small amount of feedback came through the stage monitors. MC Ruff made the universal turn it the hell down symbol to the girl running the sound booth.



we ain’t gonna stop,

Not ‘til we done make your booty pop.

The crowd waved their raised hands from side to side, barely visible through a haze of synthetic smoke and beams of red and green light. Ruff could smell years of accumulated sweat and spilled alcohol. He zeroed in on one young kid and his girlfriend as a mass of fans pressed the two of them against the front of the stage. The girl’s hands were wrapped around the boy’s left arm. While he bounced around to the beat, she held on, staring listlessly at Ruff as if she were dreaming about planning their nuptials and the resultant seven little brats.

Since it was impossible to see the majority of the audience because of the lights, Ruff liked to focus on people in the front row. They paid the most credits anyway, so why not make them feel special? Besides, they would tell all of their friends about the amazing night (“I swear, Rhonda, he was looking right at me!”) Word of mouth sold tickets and tickets sold merchandise and that’s where the real money was at. No cut to the venue. No cut to the booking agent. No cut to the record label that Ruff and his partner had signed their life away to in youthful ignorance.

Just pure credits deposited directly into his Intergalactic Blockchain account.

From behind the couple, a familiar face emerged, or rather, a familiar hairdo.

Ice Cubicle.

Ruff and Tumble’s tongue-twisting, rapid fire-spitting rival from Newtonium Records.

His coiffed tower of blue dyed hair stood a foot tall like a tapered, upside-down salt shaker. Even through the haze, Ruff could swear he saw him wink and smile.

Whatever. Though he was probably here to try and throw off the dynamic duo’s game, he was just as free to be entranced by the mad skills of MC Ruff and DJ Tumble as the rest of the crowd.

Ruff looked back at the man behind the turntables. His friend of funkified flow. His compadre of beat concatenation. Long ago, in a galaxy not so far away, they were young punks sneaking into shows just like this. The deft DJ slid his hands smoothly across the reproduced vinyl and scratched out a little ditty. Then he spun around while the corners of his red leather jacket flipped in the air. He picked up the beat without a moment’s hesitation. His gold-capped teeth gleamed in reflection of the stage lights. Tumble was too busy to notice Cubicle. All for the better, Ruff thought.

He turned back toward the front of the stage. Cubicle was gone. He was lost in the packed sea of two hundred clubgoers. Not a large crowd by any means, but Chubb’s was a tiny venue. Normally, Ruff and Tumble played arenas averaging fifty thousand, but they liked impromptu gigs in tiny clubs every once in awhile, especially with new releases. They would announce the ticket sales on their Twister account the night before. These types of gigs kept them grounded. Closer to the fans.

Tumble’s rapidly clicking hi-hats faded out and the crowd applauded wildly.

“Meridia 7, we love you!”

Ruff knew it was cliche, but that never stopped the people from going wild every time they heard their home planet mentioned.

“I just want to say that y’all have been the funkiest, freshest crowd we’ve played for.”

A pair of incoming panties landed on his shoulder. He raised his eyebrows and picked them off. Pink, gigantic, and unadorned, they looked like something his grandma would have worn.

“Aww. Y’all know how to make this MC and DJ feel welcome.”

More screams and applause. The auditorium vibrated under pressure.

“Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.”

Groans reverberated through the crowd.

“But we gonna send you off with somethin’ you ain’t never gonna forget!”

On cue, Tumble launched into their number one hit. Analog crackle permeated the air. The thumping 808 kickdrum seemed to envelop them all like a warm, smothering hug.





Hundreds of years after its invention, the famous Roland drum machine sample was still a staple, though highly regulated. Because it was a low frequency sine wave that could cause structural damage if left unchecked, every sample was automatically run against a cryptographic hash function to ensure it didn’t exceed Federation parameters on auditory tones (Section XVII, subsection 12, paragraph c, subparagraph iv of Federation Statutes on Audio and Visual Performances).

A dreamy, distant saxophone loop rode on top of the beat.

“Who…. wants… to rumble?”

Ruff held the mic out over the audience.

We do! We do!

“I said, who… wants… to rumble?”

We do! We do!

The music stopped. The crowd hushed.

“Ha ha. Yo…”

A brief pause.

“…you know you can’t mess with Ruff and Tumble.”

A sonic assault of blistering breakbeats was unleashed. Ruff watched as a mad intensity swept through the crowd until they became one pulsating mass. He used the opportunity to bend down behind a speaker cabinet and take a quick swig from his hydration bottle. The next verse was a long one. As he lowered himself, he felt a little twinge in his back and so he slowed himself. He shook his head. This is a young man’s game, he thought. He and Tumble had only been halfway through the first track before he began looking forward to getting back on the ship, taking a shower, and picking up where he left off on Grandmaster Bash’s thought-provoking The Rise and Decline and Re-rise of Hip Hop – An Historical Introspection – 1979 to 2133.

Of course, that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. There would be the impromptu autograph sessions on the way out of the venue. Kids trying to upload their tracks directly to his ID cube in the vain hope of securing their own record deal. And then Tumble would want to invite some of the better looking groupies into the dressing room, partying until who knows how late.

These were only a few of the thoughts racing through his mind when the music halted and the lights went out. The roar of the crowd turned into a few moans of confusion.

Ruff looked back at Tumble, but couldn’t see anything but a vague outline standing still with his hands to his giant earphones.

Damn it. This facility can’t keep their act together long enough for us to finish the show?

He had barely peeked his head out over the Mars Shell speaker cabinet to see what was happening when something bright and red flew by his face, tickling the right side of his head. He instantly smelled burnt hair.

“The fuck?” he said.

No sooner had the words emptied from his mouth then he felt a body fall on top of him and press him painfully into the ground. If his back wasn’t already going to be sore tomorrow, that about guaranteed it.

“Clear a path! Set up a perimeter!”

The voice was loud and clear even through his earplugs. Ruff didn’t know what was happening, but he was relieved that he recognized the voice as belonging to Nizumi, his head of security. Otherwise, he would have jammed an elbow into the busta’s face and fought his way back onto his feet. He hadn’t been back to the neighborhood he grew up in for many years, neither physically nor mentally, but the street-smart instincts were still burned into his nerves.

“What’s goin’ on?” he asked.

Nizumi ignored him. “Metsk, verify the back entrance. Dado, you got Tumble? And Sanchez, tell this shit venue’s so-called security team that they need to get the crowd out of here.”

Ruff heard no reply. Nizumi was likely using her nanoset to communicate. He thought it best to wait. Sounds of chaos were still evident in the crowd, though it seemed to grow quieter.

After countless curses and a few “good”s, Nizumi finished with, “Okay, I’m bringing him through.”

The lights were still out but by now, Ruff’s eyes had adjusted. “You want to tell me what’s up?”

“Other than the fact that someone tried to shoot your face off, I’ll let you know as soon as I find out,” she said.

The red light. A laser weapon.

“Shoot me? For real?”

“For real.”

Ruff took a deep breath. The rap game was getting dangerous again these days.

Nizumi picked up Ruff like he was made of paper and rushed him along toward the back of the stage. Phase pistol in hand, she shielded him every step of the way. They wound their way through a narrow hallway and made it to the dressing room. Inside, they paused for moment. Tumble was standing in front of the mirror in which they had meticulously checked their fly outfits only an hour earlier. The DJ seemed shaken up, but that only meant his eyes were a little less glazed over than normal. Dado, Nizumi’s unassuming, yet dangerous cousin, stood beside him, his eyes focused on the door through which they just entered.

“You cool?” Ruff asked Tumble.

“Yeah,” Tumble said. The disappointment was evident in his voice. No groupies tonight.

Metsk was peaking out the rear door. His enormous back was to them. He was a big man–half Samoan, half German–nearly seven-feet tall with a dark brown ponytail reaching his waist. The constant odor of spam followed him around like a lost puppy.

“We’re clear,” he said.

“Sanchez,” Nizumi said into her nanoset, “we’re headed back to The Fly Honey. Stick around and find out what you can. We’ll pick you up in a couple of hours.”

Ruff and Tumble were ushered outside under Meridia 7’s dim green sky and shoved onto their transport. They collapsed onto a pair of opposite-facing couches lining the insides. The propulsion drives kicked in and they were on their way back to their ship.

“Keep an eye out,” Nizumi said to Dado. He manned the navigational controls instead of relying on autopilot.

Then she turned to Ruff.

“You’re welcome.”

Ruff smiled graciously and nodded. She could have this one. He had debated bringing the full security detail with them. It took away some of the intimacy of the small club shows, but Nizumi had managed to convince him otherwise. He insisted she do something fun for the night, maybe even, you know, relax, but she insisted right back that nothing could be more fun than security and there was no way she could relax knowing he and Tumble were playing Chubb’s without their own eyes and ears.

At least tonight, he was glad for her stubbornness.

If you’d like to finish reading this story, along with many others, I’d be ecstatic if you’d consider purchasing one of my books.

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