January ‘93

The Divine Sinner Chronicles – A Novel (Excerpt) by Marcus Smalls

This mixtape memory is an excerpt from my manuscript The Divine Chronicles. It is literally a mixtape. I use lyrics within the manuscript to transmit ideas so the reader can follow threads. In the same way we would make mixtapes with certain songs to convey to the listener a particular message. In this case, it’s ultimately a love story. So it’s Donte’s mixtape to Autumn. It’s a 90s mixtape. In a book.

“I woke up early on my born day; I’m 20, It’s a blessin’
The essence of adolescence leaves my body, now I’m fresh and
My physical frame celebrated ‘cause I made it
One quarter through life, some godly-like thing created.
Nas. “Life’s a Bitch.” Illmatic
. 1994.

I walked out of his office mad excited about my job switch, frustrated by his cryptic pep talk and crunchy I had to audition for a ministry like we was in Fame and shit.  The room couldn’t wait to hear about, Ortega.  My room had nine dudes stuffed in captivated by Corey from Patterson’s tales from the road.  Dude was good people.  My very first morning in the breakfast line this big ass, light-skinned, six-two-dude stepped into my face and stuck his hand out.

Pictured: Marcus Smalls and friends

“You know, you know we had the baddest motherfuckin unit back in the days, kid!
You know that, you know what I’m sayin?
I miss all my ni**az, though, believe me
And I’ll never forget none of them.”
Raekwon. “Knowledge God.” Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. 1995

“What up, I’m Corey from Patterson.  I know your dad he did a lot for me.”  

I’m not gonna front I was a little shook.  He caught me off guard and it took me a minute.  Somehow this dude got cool with my Pops.  

Meanwhile my whole stay I received one phone call from my mother.  I completely gave up on mail call and only had $12.97 on my books bi-weekly, which came from welfare.  

Redemptive Living kept the rest as room and board.  Corey bounced from Patterson a young solder and blew up in Pittsburg, true story.  Got caught up on some, G-Money shit though before he gave his life to Christ.  He was like an older brother to the young wild ones.  He was a staff intern, so he drove the van for the walk-a-thon, which helped him keep the contraband game on smash. Corey stood with his back against the desk and his arms wide open.

“Where you been, boy?  Got a ni**a waiting for your slow ass.”  

He gave me a real hug before the pound and half hug.  

“Ortega, my dude.”  

He walked over from the desk and looked out the door in both directions.  

“He gets the gas face.  But it’s good to see you, son.”  

“Thanks, Corey.  What brings you back to the slums?”  

“Money.  Son got another ill mixtape connect.  I’m about to flood this spot, have all this commissary money.  Got the new price point and everything, four for one tape and two for ten, straight money so might as well buy two.  Your money’s no good though, Baxter.  I was all in the flesh right there though, right?  Slid those grave clothes back on for a minute.  You know it’s a fight to keep them off.”  

I thumbed through the tapes in his bag.  Blessed by the irony of my father’s connection to the creation of goodwill in Corey towards me.  I was so blessed that I decided to keep my opinions about that lame-ass grave clothes concept to myself.

“Nah, man a hustler’s gonna hustle.  What you got?  Like, can I place an order and shit?  Cuz if you can, I most def want Doo Wop & The Bounce Squad.  That’s the shit I’m on right now.  Whatever that ni**a got out I want.  And Ron G and Kid Capri.  I want Kid Capri everything.”

I slid the bag back over to him and he handed me two tapes.

“Take these joints for now, Baxter and I’ll see what we can do about the rest of your order.”  

Corey reached back into the bag twice.  I came off with a fat mix of two Double R’s, one DJ S&S and three Ron G mixtapes. I was set.

@MarcusSmalls is a writer who uses his lifelong love of hip-hop to moderate creative environments around spirituality and identity. He has been a writer in residence at Teachers & Writers Collaborative and a fellow at Bronx Council on the Arts and is the recipient of the 2021 St. Luke’s Alumni Artistic Achievement Award.  Marcus has workshopped with award winning authors, M. Evelina Galang at VONA/Voices in 2015 and A. Naomi Jackson in Catapult’s Master Class in 2017.  Marcus is a Teaching Artist for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and is currently querying Literary Agents for his debut novel, The Divine Sinner Chronicles.


  1. Donald Rhymer says:

    Excellent article I’ve known Marcus Smalls for years he has a brilliant mind and an excellent writer and I can hardly wait to hear the rest of his work that he’s going to develop over time.
    This is awesome and I’m very happy for him

  2. Love this piece and I can’t wait to see more. Marcus has always been an ill writer and I’ve been blessed to learn from him from a few of his workshops. I’m so happy for him!

  3. Connie Pertuz-Meza says:

    Marcus is a lyrical writer and his writing is infused with beats, beats of humanity and the rhythmic beat of life!

  4. This is an amazing and creative way to bring music and literature together. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from this book. Marcus is a very talented writer!

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