The ring of his cell phone—long, long, short, short, long, like a beauty queen's wave—pierced Quasimoto's slumber. The midmorning light, though diffused by drawn curtains, stung his reddened eyes. Musty scents lingered in the humid air: fried chicken, sticky green bud, a top note of air freshener.
"May I speak to Quasimoto, please?" inquired a shrill party. That voice, so high-pitched yet not feminine, sounded all too familiar. Memories of Saturday mornings spent parked in front of the TV, catatonic from too many Froot Loops, came rushing up at him.
"Alvin?" he blurted out, fumbling for the bong as he climbed out of bed. "Is this Alvin of the Chipmunks?' He tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder, sparked up the remains of the half-spent bowl, and inhaled deeply. Smoke bubbled up through the murky water.
"Thank Christ somebody remembers us!" squealed the voice, before quickly regaining composure. "So you're familiar with our work. That's good. Let me start by saying, Quasi, that my associates Simon and Theodore, as well as myself, are big fans of your work. We've been enjoying your LP . . . excuse me, compact disc, The Unseen, for many months. It's delightful to hear a timbre as distinctive as yours making its voice heard in the rap world."
Quasimoto shook his head, trying to unscramble his thoughts. Was he still asleep, or was he truly accepting compliments on his screwed-up pipes from a gopher? "What do you want from me, man?" he asked, coughing.
Alvin was off like a shot, chattering a mile a minute. The Chipmunks, quite simply, were in a dilly of a pickle, explained the aging entertainment icon. Their 40th anniversary in show business had come and gone, and nobody cared. Now their ersatz manager—son of their original mentor, who'd passed on back in '72—had embroiled them in a $100 million lawsuit with Universal, making them industry pariahs.
Quasimoto chugged down the flat remains of a two-liter Mountain Dew as he perused the legal documents Alvin faxed through to illustrate the trio's predicament. Ross Bagdasarian Jr., alias "David Seville," alleged that Universal "undertook the systematic destruction of a family-owned and operated business, which took 40 years of the family's dedicated efforts to create and enhance into what has become an American icon, beloved the world over by children and adults alike."
Reading further, Quasimoto learned how "instead of adopting the Chipmunks into the Universal family and building them a nurturing home in its motion picture, television, merchandising, video, theme park, and new media divisions (as repeatedly promised), Universal treated the Chipmunks like a poor, unwanted stepchild who must be hidden away from public view."
The last phrase sent a sharp pang of recognition shooting through Quasimoto; his own hideous countenance ensured he rarely ventured forth from his crib save under cover of night. He knew all too well the pain of being cut off from others. He had to help these pathetic little otters regain control of their career.
"First of all," squeaked the diminutive rapper, "Y'all squirrels gotta ditch this Ross character and start minding the store for yourself." Quit worrying about T-shirts, theme parks, and feature films, he continued. Leave all that shameless licensing to Mickey Mouse, and get back to the music.
"Did you know that we started off in 1958 with a No. 1 hit?" interrupted Alvin, noting that they'd had half a dozen successful singles since.
"But y'all lost touch with your roots," Quasimoto reiterated. Sure, 1980's Chipmunk Punk had been a slap in the industry's face, leaving an angry red pawprint across the collective mug of the suits who'd pigeonholed the trio as a novelty act. But they'd wasted the renewed lease on life with cheap cash-ins like Urban Chipmunk. "And nothing fucks up your street cred like working with Billy Ray Cyrus—that mullet-wearin' freak!"
"That was all Ross Jr.'s idea," moaned Alvin. "All he cared about was the bling-bling. You should've taken a whiff of the shit we turned down! 'Munkz In Da Hood, my striped ass. Chipmunk Goth . . . A Chipmunk Kwanza . . . don't get me started!"
Suddenly Quasimoto heard a commotion on the other end of the line. "Alvin!" cried an approaching voice. "Put on your dress sweater and get your furry butt down here! We're due in court in 20 minutes!"
"I have to go now," sputtered Alvin as he hung up. "Thanks, bro."
Quasimoto threw his phone on the pillow and loaded up the bong again. Poor ferrets, he thought, bopping his head up and down as he recalled the steel-trap hook of "The Chipmunk Song." "Christmas don't be late," he crooned as thick smoke billowed back out of his mouth and nose. Maybe he'd ask the little hamsters to rhyme on a track for his next album.
The Unseen, the debut full-length from Quasimoto, is out now on Stones Throw Records.