By Jose Mujica
June 29, 2018
If you grew up in the Charlotte region in the early 2000s, you grew up knowing what “blankin’” meant. When your high school running back ran for 60 yards to score a touchdown, he blanked. If a classmate lost his temper and started cussing out the teacher, he was blankin’. When there was the freestyle cypher in the lunchroom and people be beat on tables and someone rode the beat perfectly and had everyone’s heads nodding, they blanked on that sh*t.
Buzz City native, Elevator Jay understands what “blankin’” means to those of us who grew up with it. It’s not one of the many slang terms originating in New York, LA or Atlanta, but it was one that was our very own. And, with his trademark hometown pride, Elevator Jay represents for Charlotte heavily in his latest “Blank” (Remix) featuring Lute and III.
“I’d be lying if I said that I knew the person who said it first, but to my knowledge, the term ‘blank’ started as an expression,” Jay said. “It explained how hard you were going at something, good or bad.” A very appropriate term for the song, where Elevator Jay’s southern drawl is in full effect as he bounces on the beat and reminisces about his younger days in the Queen City. “My earliest memory of blankin’ was in middle school. It was around the late ‘90s/early 2000s when I first caught on.” Since then it’s just been a normal part of the Charlotte rapper’s vernacular.
“I been blankin’ in the club.
I been blankin’ at the parties
I been blankin’ as a person.
I been blankin’ as an artist. (Charlotte!)”
Of course no proper bop is complete without the accompanying dance, and this one has its origin in yet another Charlotte area tradition: skating rinks. Skating rinks were the middle school equivalent to nightclubs back in the day. I grew up in Union County and everyone used to go to Kate’s skating to stunt on their classmates, take prospective partners out on dates, handle beefs, etc. Part of the celebrations included dancing the latest crazes, one of which was “blankin’.” Jay remembered his early experience with the dance style: “The first time I saw someone blank was in middle school. The second time it was at a skating rink we used to have called Tradewinds. There were locations on Old Pineville and Central. Time went by and people were blankin’ all the way up to 2006 and 2007.”
Now, a decade later, Elevator Jay has enlisted the help of two other notable Charlotte emcees, Lute and Numeral III to help remind people about Charlotte’s history. Lute, who grew up around Beatties Ford in Charlotte, made waves when he became one of the most recent signees to J. Cole’s Dreamville label. He flexed his Buzz City bonafides on the track as he mentions Tradewinds skating rink and recalls getting fresh to go visit the now-defunct Eastland Mall.
Numeral III, a rapper out of North Charlotte with a distinctive and charismatic southern twang spits about his childhood stealing coins out of the piggy bank to go cop some dank. After landing his first record deal at age 18, Numeral III’s chance at success was jeopardized when he was shot six times during an attempted robbery. He lost the deal and ended up losing another deal shortly thereafter due to a label merger. It was the rapper’s determination and tenacity that helped him power through those hard times as he stated in an interview with The Grio, “One thing I never did in my career is give up. Out of all the adversity I faced, I never gave up. So people will hear that through my music. They’ll hear the pain, the scars…There’s always a way through. You just have to keep on grinding. Keep at it.” That persistence paid off. He was eventually invited to appear on BET’s reality show One Shot and finished first place winning $100,000 and a third record deal.
Numeral III’s authenticity is apparent in his music, which is also laced with some socio-political commentary. “I believe in Black Lives Matter and I stand up for that. I want us to be equal as a whole,” he said. He displays his street prophet persona in the “Blank” (Remix) showing respect for those in struggle, encouraging people who “don’t have a pot to piss in” and those “who just got out of prison” to BLANK! along with the rest of us. His album 333 dropped earlier this year in January and is another testament of the talent bursting at the seams in our very own Charlotte.
When asked why he chose these artists for the remix, Jay explained that “… this song could be an anthem for the city. This song speaks from a native point of view, so it was only right to immediately remix it with artists who could give you the real Charlotte.”
We wouldn’t expect anything less. Elevator Jay makes no qualms and has no reservations about his hometown pride, “I feel like there’s a lot of Charlotte’s culture that’s been torn down and stripped away before anybody new would be able to experience it. My goal was always to preserve as much of Charlotte’s culture as I can. It’s the only way that we’ll have an identity. I’m born and raised so I fly the flag all day every day.”
And, if his goal was to create a catch earworm anthem for the Hornet’s Nest, it’s safe to say he blanked.