Operation: WordSoundVision
Code Word: Crooked

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Mentol Nomad

by S.H. Fernando Jr.

Basketball and rap represent two legitimate routes out of the ghetto. But for every Michael Jordan and Puff Daddy, there are millions of youths living below the poverty line, who will never make it--largely due to to circumstances beyond their control. Sensational, a member of this nameless, faceless multitude is determind not to end up as a statistic. He is strong-willed, confident, and charismatic, and makes some the most innovative and original music ever heard. His dream--really his sole aim in life--is to break into the music industry and become a rap star. But trouble follows him like a shadow.

Crooked presents the real-life story of Sensational, who pursues his dreams despite harrowing odds, facing numerous trials and tribulations along the way. It is not the typical urban tale of another thug or drug dealer, but of a true artist and eccentric trying to fit into a mainstream world of commerce and mass culture. In this crooked world where cash rules, hype prevails over truth, illusion over reality, and loyalty and trust are precious commodities.

Sensational's aspirations are given a tremendous boost early on when he meets Xane at an open-mic competition in Brooklyn. A Hispanic kid from the 'hood who made good and went to an Ivy league college, Xane combines street smarts with worldliness and social savvy. He is also heavily into deejaying and music, but works as a marijuana delivery man while trying to figure out his calling in life. One of Xane's customers turns out to be Brad Lombardi, a former collegemate and typical Trustafundian, whose well-connected father set him up with a cushy A&R position at a major label, Reaction Records. It is also at Reaction where Xane meets and falls for Mo, a Dominican beauty who works as a publicist there.

When Xane almost gets busted by an undercover cop on the subway while carrying his deliveries, he decides it's time for a career change, and resolves to become Sensational's manager. Planning to pursue a traditional record deal with Brad, Xane also works on putting out Sensational's music independently, on a label he hopes to start.

Sensational suffers a major setback when he is evicted from his apartment, and finds himself living a hand-to-mouth existence on the streets. He winds up spending the night in jail for selling marijuana to an undercover cop. In a desperate attempt to make money, Sensational, with the aid of Sachs, a computer hacker buddy of Xane's, concocts a scheme to counterfeit money. They are successful, and Sensational goes on a huge shopping spree, only to alert the feds with his reckless and excessive spending.

At a Reaction Records party, Xane introduces Sensational to Brad, securing a meeting with Brad to play him Sensational's demo. Sensational, who has some crack cocaine that a friend gave him to sell, ends up giving it to Brad, a serious cokehead, to curry favor. Later, at the meeting, Brad seems to be more interested in Sensational's drug connections than his music. Ever the opportunist, Sensational offers to help Brad get a kilo of cocaine in exchange for some free studio time to finish his demo. When Xane discovers Sensational's plans they have a falling out. Xane also splits with Mo after he discovers that she and Brad have been involved with each other.

Meanwhile, Sensational convinces Sachs to help him counterfeit one more batch of money. He substitutes the fake money for Brad's real money, and uses it to pay for the coke in a deal that goes down at the Brooklyn Navy yard. With money in his pockets and a week of free studio time to complete his demo, Sensational's dream finally appears to be within reach. But with the feds on the case and an angry drug-dealer, who finds out he's been cheated, everything is far from straight.