Blues for Albert ‘Prodigy’ Johnson & Carl ‘Haystee’ Samuel

By Kayo Chingonyi

Another scribe of black trauma has passed
from this life into the spirit world
or nothingness depending on how much
store you set by Nietzsche –
apt that the arch-laureate of nihilism
comes to mind when I think
of Prodigy, old before his time,
as I was old before mine.


We passed a zoot
rolled with torcedor finesse
round a circle in Barking
(before it had a health spa).

One of our number was confined,
these times, to his room by shame,
a death of some kind,

because, lying under a sky
pockmarked with stars, he asked
his girlfriend why she was so quiet.


When Haystee walked
or fell in front of the lorry
did he pass away
if I can still hear him
going back to back
with Kaystar and Rapsz
if I think of him
standing shoulder to shoulder
with Prodigy, in a circle
of dead emcees,
screwing up his face

                            Listen up, I’m so raw-ah
                            you know I’m MC Haystee
                            and I’m on tour-ah
                            when I spit my lyrics
                            dem a shout more-ah
                            and when I give you more
                            the people dem will be so sore-ah?


In the year of our lord
two double oh three
Toks was still passing
himself off
as Little Dizzee
though Toks
was by then
closer in height to Jamakabi.

After Lord of the Mics dropped
the gas was such
it just took a younger
bussin’ a half-decent
beatbox for the clash
to start. Everyone played
their part – from the hypemen
spitting lines back

like a space echo
to those standing
outside the cypher
but close enough
to cuss the vanquished
when a gap opened for him
to walk in the unforgiving
light of mediocrity.

This was before anyone
in our circle had been
stabbed or shifted.
Some had shouldered
a wooden box
but none of us understood
the cost of the shanks
and skengs in our lyrics.

If we knew those days as halcyon
is hard to say.
The mind is some next ends;
we wouldn’t have been caught dead
slipping – convinced
as we were the patch of grass
beside The Golden Fish
was big enough to constitute a world.


Directed by Matthew Thompson.

Text of "Blues for Albert 'Prodigy' Johnson & Carl 'Haystee' Samuel" taken from A Blood Condition by Kayo Chingonyi published by Chatto and Windus. Copyright © Kayo Chingonyi, 2021. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Limited.