Rap record company Strange Music has a strict code of conduct that forbids employees from stripping naked during the workday unless their clothes “are actually on fire.”

                     The Wall Street Journal


I was sitting in the offices of Proctoscope Records with BackWurdz, my rap sidekick since the late XXth century, looking over sales figures.  It wasn’t easy reading the Excel spreadsheet because our employees keep stealing numbers for their crazy names like 6Pack, L8Nite and IB4E, so sometimes the columns didn’t add up.

“Wurdz,” I said.

“Whut?” he replied.

“I think we need to revise our business model.”

“Whut U wunt 2 do dat 4?”

There he goes, or went again.  Always pushing the boundaries of literary convention in an effort to “make it new,” as that rapper-before-his-time Ezra Pound would say.

Pound:  “Can I get out of this post at the next paragraph break?”


“Wurdz,” I said, adopting my most business-like tone, “I think our readers would appreciate it if you would stifle the hip hop spelling for the time being while we discuss a serious topic.”

“We got readerz?”

“Not many, but still, we owe them the courtesy of standard American English.”

“All right,” he said, and down-shifted to a lower orthographic gear.


“It looks like our top-line revenue from 2016 will be flat, and with the rising cost of flame-retardant clothing, our profits are getting squeezed.”

“Let me see,” Wurdz said as he leaned over my shoulder.  “Ouch,” he said.  “I guess no bling at the office Yankee Gift Swap this year, huh?”

“I should say not.  Look at this industry-wide survey comparing our results to our peers.”

We flipped through the pie charts and the imposing columns of figures.  It was clear that Strange Music had out-performed us by every metric.  “How do they do it?” Wurdz asked, his mouth hanging open at the bottom-line profits the company continues to wring out of the dishrag of the music industry, whose revenues are down 60% from their 2000 peak.


“Didn’t you see the article in The Wall Street Journal?” I asked.

“The daily diary of the American Dream?”

“The same.”

“What did it say?”

“Strangely enough, Strange has succeeded by imposing a strict code of conduct.”

“I’m not much of rule-follower,” Wurdz said.  “It’s antithetical to the gangsta lifestyle that suburban white kids . . .”

” . . . our core demographic!”

” . . . seek to emulate when they buy our music!”  Wurdz and I are like that, feeding off each other in symbiotic style, like pilot fish and sharks.


“Anyway, Strange thinks its business is booming because of its ‘no-nonsense’ approach.”

“Like what are some of the rules?” Wurdz asked, a look of skeptical concern–or was it concerned skepticism?–moving across his face like an overhead cloud heralding a coming thunderstorm.

“Well, no smoking on the bus except in the jump seat while traveling at le....”

“Gosh–that’s harsh!” Wurdz exclaimed, almost involuntarily.

“It’s all about the Benjamins, my friend,” I said.

“What else?”

“Throwing water on security personnel or equipment is prohibited.”

Wurdz looked stunned, as if he’d walked into a low overhang.  “You’re kidding–right?”


“Sorry.  If you want to be the best, you can’t have wet security personnel.”

Wurdz didn’t look happy, but I got the sense that the business rationale for our new regimen was sinking in.

“Anything else?” he asked with a tone of grumpy resignation, like a toddler told to finish his peas if he wants dessert.

“Well, there’s one pretty big one,” I said.

“Hit me,” he replied, “it can’t get much worse than it already is.”

I gulped, unsure as to how he’d react.  I couldn’t have our biggest name walk off in a huff over some ticky-tacky, Mickey Mouse rule that would drive him into the arms of our competitors.

“It says they prohibit their employees from stripping naked during the workday, unless their clothes are actually on fire.”

His eyes narrowed to grim little slits, like Kanye’s when he hears that the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to somebody other than Beyoncé.  “THAT’s the last straw–I quit!” he said angrily as he stood up and started to walk out of my office.

“Wurdz, hold on–you forgot something!” I said.


“Your pants.”

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