American Hustle


I’m giving you the blueprint to get it out here and you don’t wanna do what it takes. You wanna stay on your Instagram all day. Taking mothaf—in’ selfies and you ain’t hustling hard. Hustle harder!”

– P Diddy, 2015

My name is Socrates Alueitius Jones and I compete.

Culturally, the synonym in use in my close circles is hustle.
It’s more appropriate than the word compete; has more muscle.
Compete connotes fair play, respect, a certain nobility.
Whereas, hustle is,  a winner-take-all mentality.

I was raised, using the more popular parlance of the day, in the hood.  Moms in from the job; me from school; she preached and I understood.  Growing up, I hustled in the sports and academic games.  So no available time to make a name in the drug game.

I can remember coming home from hooping in a tournament.  Barely introduced to middle school concerns, when my dude was called nigg– on the court.  Not to be mistaken for a brotherly embrace, even if the terminology is still a bit misplaced.  No, no wagons were circled that day.  But the significance is lost on me by the death of my cousin who’d been killed not three blocks away — for a hat.
No tears need to be shed.
No welling up of emotions.
I’m not a victim.
Instead I hustle.

I’ll out hustle you to get mine …and yours.
You see, I understand the game.
Cuz if I leave it you’ll take it for sure.
I’ll out hustle you for the money, for the lifestyle.
Monk like discipline, never unhinged and buck wild.
On the grind to put clean water, clean air, and energy on lock.
I’ll out hustle your nation, your region -beast your block.

But it was just yesterday, when I was speaking to this older lady in college and the word nigg– was laced throughout her language. The moment was lost on me though, ‘cuz a friend of mine, she was killed accidentally, by a stray shot at a party. But the word victim is not in my vocabulary. Instead I pumped those feelings into the hustle I carry.

So hustle harder!

Never thirsty. Forever first see.   My seven day work ethic is godly.  “You don’t hustle! You don’t eat!” – Yeah, Diddy.  The epitome of excellence!  Never in doubt or suspense. My game is credible.  My traps always full. I hustle harder to stay ahead of it all.

Imagine if all the street entrepreneurs came off the corners and into the office. Now that would be a sight to see… But back to me.

I’ll out hustle you to eat better. To eat on rooftops and not in drive-thrus.
To drive the newest whips; be American royalty; the chosen few.
The terminology of the religion is spoken easily,
By many who don’t understand it’s weight,
It’s gravity:
“upward mobility,”
“captain of industry,”
“making good money,”
“the American Dream.”

I remember, vividly, the day I came to understand the hustle and its universality. I was at the job explaining the company’s political hierarchy to a newer employee. I pointed to an up and coming middle manager and said, “He’s been made. That guy right there. His family’s fed.”

He’s a made guy? A made guy.
Right. Like the mob.
Hard bottoms shiny, lapels fly.
A career over a job.
Fellas hustling corners or the corner office.
Chasin’ that paper, is what I get.
It’s a different laxative, but always the same shit.

No matter what game you hustle, it’s the same savior, different denomination.
He hustles sports, her politics, we hustle patriotism. Whatever your motivation.
Money is the unifying denomination.
Feeding and watering your seed?
We are all locked into the machinery
Operating under the illusion of free.

You are either hustling to get or hustling to keep.
Because the hustle only exists to feed the hustle.
Self awareness or not, you’re in deep.
Anyone stopping to rest on the way up, gets to watch the bottom approach on their way down – a crack up.
You can mean-mug all day — throwing sideways glances and dirty frowns.
Or Wake up!
I’m not here to shake you out of the matrix. Cynical though it sounds, it’s true.
I’m here to tell you to hustle harder until death comes for you.

Now I’m not condoning illegal business, but it’s interesting to see how blurry the lines can be.
In as much, we are all Americans in the hustle, finally finding equality?
So next Thanksgiving, bow your head to say grace and give thanks,
For the hustle that was brought to these Atlantic shores and Mississippi banks.

“My (dude) got shot robbing a video store and died poor. Wanted the newest whip, order champagne, and highest floors, the lowest taxes, vanity killed our sanity.”

– Elzhi, Slum Village, “Time Travel”

by malakhai jones
© Copyright 2016

image: Norman Rockwell, “Freedom from Want”
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