Chocolate Elvis

By admin


The unlikely origin of Issa Ibrahim as The Black Beetle

The songs just pour out of me. Sometimes I cannot stop it. I would lie awake at night, after another long day of ennui, where I might have written two to three decent songs, and I will jump out of bed to begin another one. I have re-invented myself as a mentally ill singer/songwriter emphasizing my checkered past. My songs have recurring themes of isolation, institutionalization, and loss of stature and self. My output is a reflection of my hard knock life.

For as long as I can remember I have always wished to be someone else. As a child I was always intrigued by and swept away into the mythology of the masked man. I wanted an alter ego so badly I could taste it in the back of my throat, like Dr. Jekyll’s elixir and touch it in my hands like the hot wax of a burning candle, and with those glazed fingertips I could erase, for a short time at least, my identity. Then my imagination would fly and I could become the many other people I imagined I could be, any one but me. Now, as a grown man, I am an outcast. Not too different from the life I know as a black man but more extreme and direct. In no uncertain terms I am jarred, labeled, and put on the high shelf of society, complete with a skull and crossbones reading, “DANGER!” If there were ever a time for assuming an alter ego it is now. While in an asylum I put on a new face, becoming a wandering troubadour, a minstrel .

My minstrel is a post-modern throwback to the dark days of institutionalized racist America where talented Negroes had to go undercover as clowns in blackface in order to make money in performance for black and white audiences. As an African American weaned on popular music and British Invasion rock the ironic juxtaposition is not lost on me, imagining myself a black man pretending to be a white man pretending to be black. Playing in an idiom most would ignorantly assume was created and is now dominated by whites I feel it is my right to take the music back. My offering is a beacon to all who will listen and give a damn about me, an insanity plea patient. The material helps me as I struggle with sin, redemption, and frustration, with my life inside the asylums and inside myself.

On the dole, with no viable means of support I have to hold on to what few clothes I can, recycling season to season being key, often haunting the thrift shops and parting with cash if the garment warrants. I obtain bits of this and that, just enough to represent the flavor of the rock and roll ragamuffin, a derelict with an artistic flair struggling to maintain his dignity. When done up in second-hand, ill-fitting clothes and the defiant, tragic-comic mask of a man surviving his life yet dying inside, I am channeling some force greater than myself. I am broadcasting on God’s radio, performing from a playlist that only the Heavenly cherubim could program. I am merely a vessel, effectively becoming the Greek chorus to my own life, chronicling with cribbed chords and twisted rhyme my existence as a zombie savant. Neither the vilified, medicated numbskull, nor the enlightened sophisticate, I am a synthesis of the two, becoming an average guy just trying to get by.

As a diagnosed schizophrenic I am never alone. I have my florid imagination and various colorful creations to populate my world. Fragile and friendly folks like myself, casualties of the late 80s drug war that ravaged my neighborhood and my mind. Kindred spirits and lost souls from the graveyard of dashed suburban dreams that is my hometown Jamaica, Queens New York, the ashen remains of a once glorious now tarnished legacy of legends and luminaries living among the common people. Former home of African American greats including but not limited to Fats Waller, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Jackie Robinson and James Brown. While these dimmed but never forgotten flames burn bright in my heart I yearn to honor their memory, in addition to the lesser-known but equally essential sidemen who lived there, of which my father and his friends could be counted.

I see myself going back to the old neighborhood with guitar in hand, sitting on the anonymous stoop of a once familiar but now forgotten street corner forever changed by urban decay. There I am re-acquainted with the schoolyard chums and hangout buddies I never had. We share a laugh, harmonize, and in the halcyon hallucinatory haze I can see my sidemen, sometime psychotic street corner serenaders searching for a song, rocking romantics right out of rehab, three like-minded individuals of similarly sparse ability but blessed with plenty of raw talent and drive that will not die.

I am C.P. Elvis, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, long thought dead and freshly resurrected. I am Ebon E. Whiteman, the lead guitarist, working one string for all it’s worth. I am twin brothers Castor and Pollux Jimenez, rounding out the rhythm section on bass and drums respectively. And I thrive on the grace and magic imbued in the memory of Magda Corazon and her husband, Gladstone the pixie.

That Billy Preston, perhaps the only person besides producer George Martin and Stu Sutcliffe who can legitimately claim the title as “the fifth Beatle” was himself a one-time black prodigy and later coke fiend meeting his untimely demise due to drug complications, I figure he would make a fitting Godfather to the Black Beetle.


Heartfelt appreciation goes out to Susan Spangenberg for her nurturing love, Timothy Noe for the little cup of truth, Mary Beth Pepe whom I met in a town without pity and the following, without whom this musical endeavor would not have been possible: Granny Naomi, Napoleon Dynamite, Malcolm X, Brian Wilson, Ed Norton, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Way-Outs, Barney Fife, The Dukes of Strasosphear, all members of DSM5 past, present and future, The Caped Crusader, the theme from ‘Shaft,’ The Spongetones, Lennon & McCartney, Difford & Tilbrook, crime & punishment, and of course Mom & Dad.


Crack is wack.

Just say no.

Keep off the grass.