Doc Gooden was laughing at me. From across the space-time continuum—1986, to be exact—and the back of a 12-inch single, Dwight "Dr. K" Gooden was chortling as my jaw hit the floor. With his short-cropped Jheri curl and his gold-crowned tooth, decked out in thematically appropriate scrubs and leaning against some primitive medical equipment, you could tell that the Mets' ace knew something I didn't. And then Lloyd "Shaker" Moseby (outfielder, Blue Jay) in his cable-knit v-neck and gold chains, surrounded by fawning children, chimed in, chuckling as my mind reeled. I'd spent years constructing a narrative about the birth and evolution of Nashville's long-underappreciated hip-hop scene—and as it turned out, these two ballplayers held the distinction of making Music City's first two rap records.
It was a dark, overcast January day. You know the ones, the really depressing days right before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, before hope springs anew. I was killing time in Cool Stuff, Weird Things, a barely heated junk shop on the west side of Nashville. It never sold anything particularly weird or cool—it's the type of place that charges eight clams for a beat-up Loverboy album and manages to stay in business by selling overpriced "vintage" clothing. (Fifty bucks for an I.O.U. varsity jacket? For real?) The same block had better thrift shops, but I had already drained them of 99-cent Italo-disco records and mid-century dentistry textbooks. Cool Stuff, Weird Things was just a placeholder to keep my brain busy between writing rap reviews and picking up my wife from work.