Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
Machine-raging rap artist
“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
“If I was black I’d put gold in my teeth so if you think I’m broke you would know when I speak.”
Benji has always been on the larger side of things. He’s tall and borderline “stocky,” though no one within his reach would ever dare say that to his face. They’d bandy words like “powerfully built” and “large framed.” There’s no denying the strength in his limbs when he flexes hard enough to rip through tailored shirts, and he’s broken the spine of at least one lick who got on his bad side. He was Embraced with short hair and a full beard and doesn’t bother changing the style. He either likes it or he’s come to terms with it. The only difference between him and the black guy next to him is the gold in his teeth: each of his fangs is decorated in gold and diamonds that glint when he smiles or feeds.
Name: Benjamin Matthew Morris
Alias: Benji, Benny, Jamin, Benny-Jam, Macbeth
Date of Birth: August 13th, 1988 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Date of Embrace: January 22nd, 2013 (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Apparent Age: Mid-20s
Actual Age: Approx. 30
Weight: 230 lbs (fat as well as muscle)
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Complexion: Coffee with a splash of cream
His momma had dreams.
She liked to remind him of that when he was a kid, that she had dreams and he killed them. She wanted to go to Hollywood. She wanted to pay her dues and work in the clubs and act on the screen. “Helluva voice, that’s what my pappy used to say, voice that’d get me a record deal and a movie deal and you’d hear me in every house.”
Helluva voice indeed. She used to sing to him when he was a kid. Soft lullabies and loud hymns when she took him to church and made up words to the songs on granddaddy’s old record albums, filling their house with warmth and love.
At least when he was younger.
By the time he hit grade school and her pappy died, forcing them to move into a smaller apartment because she couldn’t afford the rent at her daddy’s house, she stopped singing as much. No whistling in the kitchen while she made fried okra and gumbo and battered fresh chicken. Soon the only mac and cheese she made was out of a box on their two-burner stove with powdered cheese and milk close enough to the expiration date that it added its own little unique tang. She was too tired from her job, then her second job, then the occasional “date” to bother with any freshly cooked meals, and all the happiness they shared at grandpa’s house became a thing of the past.
“I had dreams,” she’d say, staring at him with a cigarette dangling from between her lips. “I had dreams and you killed them. You ungrateful little bastard.”
Benji knew better than to talk back when she was in one of her moods. She’d use whatever was closest to her when she thought he was showing disrespect, be it a wooden spoon or rolling pin or belt. She’d whup him good. More than once she’d think whatever lesson she was trying to teach hadn’t sunk in enough so she’d put her lit cigarette out on his arm or back while he screamed and flailed and eventually learned to quietly endure. It got worse the older he got. She’d bring home her man of the hour and let them take their rage out on him, too. She started drinking and he stopped showing his face in the common areas of the house more often than not, sticking to his room or roaming the streets until well after she’d be passed out.
“Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.”
Things got both better and worse for Benji when he hit high school. Better, since the storm hit and forced them all out and his momma took him to her momma’s house up in Atlanta. The old woman didn’t have much more to offer than their normal house, but the school they put him in for a year introduced him to an English teacher with a passion that shone through her eyes. Rather than mock his lack of comprehension and stunted intellectual growth (the public schools in New Orleans are notoriously awful), she took him under her wing. She was a little white lady whose spirit had yet to be broken by the unfair rules of the system and she had a handful of “difficult students” that she pulled aside to ensure that they were able to put their best foot forward in life. She didn’t treat him like another failure because he was reading on a sixth grade level. She listened to him when he spoke, gave him the same respect she gave the Straight A, 4.0 white girl, considered his views just as valid.
Halfway through the year, when they reached the dreaded poetry unit, Benji felt something finally click. He didn’t need to write an essay on someone else’s words. He didn’t need to dissect the meaning of the sentence and why the shades were blue and carpet gray. He only needed to create. To pour his soul onto the page. To revel in his anger, his grief, his lack of understanding. Benji didn’t just share his story: he roared it. The words came alive on page. The utterance of his poems during class discussion and feedback led to teary eyes and quiet sniffles, led to snapping fingers and sharper whistles; he laid down the beat, he laid himself bare, he made the whole class freeze, ensnared by images of loneliness, images of isolation, images of a young boy and his adoration for a drifting mother. She never stood a chance. Not with the world against her. Not with her momma against her. Not with her pappy payin’ her bills and a kid at her heels and every single one of these rich folk thinking that she’s nothing, that she’s a nobody, that hell itself froze over because she decided to keep her baby.
He put it on the page.
And once he picked up that pen he ain’t never look back. He learned how to spit, he learned how to rap, he put his words to the beat and he laid down the track. Had the whole world at his fingertips, didn’t matter that he was black.
He was tired of bein’ nothing. He was tired of bein’ nobody.
He took a new name when he got back to LA, called himself Macbeth on every record he made. Started at the bottom but got to climbing the ladder—then he met the wrong girl and now none of it matters.
Death of a Poet
New Orleans was regularly in the news after the hurricane devastated the city: not only to show the obscene loss of life and property, but also to show all the feel-good rebuilding stories. Martin Borges was one of those names and faces that kept popping up whenever people talked about the city. The state senator and Public Service Commissioner who was doing so much to help his city rebuild.
“Load of shit,” his momma used to say when she saw him on TV. “Soul black as sin, I tell you.”
Benji didn’t understand why until his grandma told him the story one day: his momma had worked as a mail room girl for a lawyer or small-time politician or something and had slept with him. Only she’d wound up pregnant and Martin hadn’t wanted anything to do with her after that. Apparently he had a whole bouquet of these little bastards running around and hadn’t wanted to care for any of them.
Suddenly Benji’s childhood made a lot more sense.
He moved back to NOLA after he finished high school in Atlanta. His momma had taken up with a new boo and didn’t want her bastard son around polluting the relationship when she planned on giving this new man beautiful half-breed babies, so Benji went back to the place he knew. His old friends were still kicking rocks at their same haunts and he was quick to rejoin the boys. Only this time he didn’t settle for the petty dime bag slinging they got up to. This time he kept writing, started making music, and finally got signed to a record label.
He was on his way to somewhere fast.
But that’s the thing about speeding cars—they crash more often than not. So, too, did Benji’s rising star when he caught the attention of the wrong sort of backer.
Like most Caitiff, Benji has no idea who gave him the Blood—or at least that’s what he says. There are no ties to link the clanless together like there are with the real monsters that prowl the night. While Benji came to terms with his vampiric nature quickly enough, he soon found out that he was once more on the bottom shelf.
It didn’t take long for Benji to realize that the Anarchs were the perfect place for him. He was above the kine, sure, but every other covenant wanted to put him back on his knees for being poor or black or Caitiff, and he wasn’t about to sit back and take more of the same shit they’d shoveled at him during his mortal life. He’d fight the power as best he knew how. He was already on swell terms with some of Savoy’s folk prior to the 2015 split, and the falling out after the Matheson bullshit just made his decision to jump ship that much easier.
Benji’s got a fondness for anyone else who rages against the machine and fights the power that is, be they black or poor or Caitiff. He’s glad that there are at least still some thin-bloods and ghouls to look down on, though he’s rather put out with the idea of eternity at the bottom.
Despite his clanless blood even the roses have to admit that when he’s not “making that dreadful music” he has a decent singing voice. If he wrote about anything else half as well as he writes about rebellion maybe he’ll eventually make something of himself in Apollo.
Benji didn’t take long to integrate himself into the local Anarch scene after his Embrace. While he certainly wasn’t rubbing elbows with Duquette or Opal, he made a name for himself among the other neonates after deciding to fight twice as hard to prove he’s worth more than his (lack of) clan. Within months of joining The Movement he showed up his “betters” at the oft-held games, unflinching in the face of burning cars (his Beast hates fire just as much as any lick but the Man is used to the feel of sizzling flesh) and becoming one of the most adept at “kidnapping hostages” for Six-Nines. The more vocal of the younglings like his musical style and message, and even the older ones appreciate how hot his passion blazes. (Anarch Status •)
Despite his relative youth, Benji threw his weight behind Savoy the moment that Veronica led the sea of Anarchs from one ship to another. While he’s not what some would call “religious,” he grew up going to church with his mom (mostly so she could sing in the choirs) and picked up a fair few Bible sayings along the way. More than that, though, he’s a firm defender of Savoy’s turf and makes sure that no one “uninvited” lingers overlong in the parish. He’s earned himself a modest haunt on Canal. It’s not Bourbon St, but it ain’t Rampart either. (Bourbon Status •)
It could have been the music that brought them together, or it could have been their attitude about life, but Andi and Benji became fast friends shortly after meeting. Some say that Andi was behind the Caitiff’s Embrace, even that she’s the one who sired him, and point to his appearance on one of her records as proof. Regardless of when and how they met, Andi tapped Benji to join OXR with her and he quickly became the “missing jock” a Toreador once pointed out. (OXR Status ••)
Most fans and local artists know Benji as “Macbeth,” his stage and rap name. He’s officially signed with 25 to Life and releases plenty of content online, though his charisma at local shows allows him to shine that much more than he does through recorded tracks. He’s built a loyal following for himself on his MeVid and Decibel pages, and while some say that his music is still “underground,” Benji himself has collabed with plenty of bigger names in the business and has no doubt he’ll get to where it wants in time. (Fame ••)
Jade texted Benji to let him know to bring a particularly car-adept ghoul with him to Savoy’s party when she was tipped off that there would be a race that evening.
The following evening Jade texted Benji again for some help after things went pear-shaped at her spa. Benji brought two ghouls with him to help move a body and took the Toreador with him back to their krewe’s haven. Jade offered him a handful of rewards for the assistance and he claimed the first of them when he sank his fangs into her neck.
Unfortunately for Benji, Jade was a suspect in the disappearance of Reynaldo Gui and a newcomer to the Quarter named Draco, and he was apprehended with her when a handful of ghouls broke into their haven in the middle of the day. The staked licks were delivered to the Evergreen for questioning.
• Unknown sire (e. unknown)
• Benjamin Moore (e. early 21st century)
Like many Caitiff, Benji’s sire is unknown. Benji never speaks of them. Maybe he doesn’t know, or maybe he just plays coy, but the most common rumors speculate that he’s a Toreador by-blow. Some other rumors suggest that he’s the illicit childe of Andromeda Brooks, since she signed him to her label and has taken him on the occasional tour with her. Some, however, recall that he’d once been managed by Arthur Duchamps, and suggest that the Toreador had him Embraced by someone who wouldn’t turn him into thin-blood trash (somebody who knew somebody swears they once saw him with Jade Kalani shortly after his Embrace and think that she’s the somebody Duchamps paid off, only her childe turned out to be trash). Others suggest that whoever had Embraced him had done so in jealousy, to keep any real talent out of the Duchamp’s hands. If Benji knows, he’s not saying.
Because Benji doesn’t know his sire, it’s possible that he has a handful of broodmates or none at all.