If you are a tenured reader like me, you're well versed with K'wan and his extensive catalog. He's dabbled in Urban Lit and now is well known for his Crime Fiction books. Throughout his evolution, his characters have evolved as well. One of my favorites is Animal. Readers like me have practically grew up with Animal. K'wan is currently working on Animal 5, so what better way to get caught up while waiting than taking a trip down memory lane.
We first meet Animal in the third installment of The Hood Rat series. When he is first mentioned it's almost as if he's the Boogey Man. "He lay one of us and the Animal is gonna come for his ass, everybody know that." When we are finally introduced to Animal, he's technically a kid, but the streets have made him a grown man. "Though Animal did grown-man things, he was still technically a child, and sometimes the traits showed. Animal was in the streets like the rest of them, but he wasn't like them. He had layers to his character, and untold potential, but Animal was hardheaded." Just as Tech took Animal under his wing, Animal had a crew of dogs that are always down to ride for him. Brasco, Nefertti and Ashanti are the members of Animal's crew or should I say family. "We several bodies, but we share one heart. We kill and we die as one."
Animal also gets hooked up with Don B. in this installment. "I'm gonna give you fifty thousand as an advance. We'll get you on some mixtapes and doing features for some of the artists we already got on deck. Once we get your beak wet, we'll see if we can get you thirsty enough for the life to join the team." Animal also meets the love of his life, Gucci. "You show me a lady, and I'll show you a gentleman. Show me a bitch and I'll show you a G; not saying that you fall in to either category, of course." One of the most crucial moments in Animal's life was Tech's death. "He'd always known he would go out how he lived; he just wished it hadn't been so soon." Tech was Animal's big brother and mentor. His death changed the dynamics of his evolution.
The Leak is actually a flash back or an elaboration of a dream that takes place in Section 8. When we first meet Animal in The Leak, he's a wild haired boy that Tech easily becomes fascinated with. "His long hair was a nice texture, but it was matted and dirty, much like his clothes. From his sunken eyes to his drawn in cheeks you could tell it had been a while since he'd had a good meal. The more Tech stared at him he realized that he knew the boy. He was the little brother of a kid name Justice whom Tech knew by association through the Harlem underworld." When Tech asked the young boy his name he replied, "'These days they call me Animal.' He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve, 'Though I can't imagine why," he said sarcastically." This statement comes directly after Animal bites a guy that was attempting to rob Tech.
This book also gives the preface of the idea of Animal becoming a rapper. "Blood, you need to roll with me to see this nigga Don B. and let him hear what you got. There's a lot of money in this rap shit, Animal, an you ain't gotta worry about the police running up on you while you're doing it. Give it some thought." Animal is a street kid, born and raised in the concrete jungle, so the idea of him becoming a rapper and making it out of the hood is far-fetched to him. In addition to being propositioned with becoming a rapper, he's also introduced to being a hit man for hire. Animal realizes early on that he's not cut out to be a drug dealer. So, when Swan propositions Tech, Animal jumps in and quickly accepts the offer. "No, I'm seventeen. How old I am ain't got nothing to do with nothing. What matters is that you have a problem and I'm offering to get rid of the problem." This was the beginning to an epic storyline.
In this book Animal's Big Dawg career is in full swing. "She recognized the cut from a new mix tape that Big Dawg Entertainment had released called 'Welcome to the Jungle,' featuring Don B. and his newest artist The Animal." What I loved about Animal was the fact that he was a well-known rapper and still was in the hood being the Grim Reaper. "Animal's face is plastered in every rap magazine in the country yet he comes at us in a public place, knowing that he was likely going to his death or a very long prison term. This tells us that he's past the point of logic and ain't gonna rest until this score is settled." Animal spends most of this book being a rap celebrity, avenging Tech's death and avoiding the law at all costs. His fidelity to Gucci is tested as well, but his love for her never waivers. "Let me tell you something, blood. Two things you ain't never gotta question are my willingness to push a nigga off this planet if the paper is right and my loyalty to Gucci. Don't read too deep into what you hear," Animal told him." Animal let his thirst for revenge consume him which eventually led to his demise. His demise being him going to jail.
For the first portion of this book readers are left wondering what happened to Animal. On his way to jail he was abducted and just vanished into thin air. His crew was left wondering if he was dead or alive. The only one that didn't give up on him was Ashanti. We later find out that K-Dawg was the one who abducted Animal and is keeping him in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. "At first glance Animal had thought them to be his enemies who had come to settle up for the lives he had taken throughout his underworld career, but he soon learned different. Lying in a pool of blood and glass, Animal looked up into the green eyes of his abductor and knew the truth: they were not angels but demons who had been sent by the devil himself, K-Dawg." Here is where Animal is reunited with his brother, Justice. Their relationship is strained considering the time they have spent apart. Animal doesn't know if he stays in San Juan is him being held as a prisoner are him being kept safe. With the temptation of Red Sonja, I doubt if safe is the word I would use for his excursion.
Animal is a soldier by nature, so of course his time in San Juan is filled with him adding numbers to his body count. When Animal learns of Gucci being shot in New York it's nothing and no one that can stop him from leaving San Juan. "'I can't do that, Jus. you know what's happened, so you know I gotta go,' Animal said." The fight between Animal and Justice leaves us wondering if he's dead or alive.
This short story holds us over until we can get to Animal's series. He's alive, but I'm not sure if we can consider him well. Red Sonja helps him escape Puerto Rico and he ends up in Miami. "He was a man who had fallen from grace and landed in exile. It was love that had brought him back and gunplay was the order of business." Animal will stop at nothing to avenge the shooting of Gucci.
In Miami Animal is under the care of Diamonds, King of the Miami underworld. Diamonds has information on who shot Gucci, but he needs a favor from Animal in return, he needs to utilize Animal's murder game. There isn't a story with Animal in where bodies aren't dropped, so of course Animal obliges. Like the invincible soldier he is, Animal completes his mission, but not without wreaking havoc in Miami. "They told me you were cursed. They said that whatever you touch dies, but I didn't listen. I just had to be next to you. Now you've brought death to my doorstep too." Animal gets the name of Gucci's shooter and I get butterflies waiting to read about all the bloodshed that will happen in the next book.
This book was released in the middle of the Animal series, but it gives us the beginning of Animal's life. Animal, who's government name is Tayshawn, literally is born clawing into the world. "So, you're the lil' thing that was clawing out my damn insides." Tayshawn has a fight early in the book and is promptly given the name Animal. "You crazy little muthafucka. You don't only smell like an animal, but you act like one, too. From now on your name ain't Tayshawn; it's Animal!" His entire childhood Animal was treated like an animal, so it was only right that he brought the alter ego to fruition. Reading this book prior to the actual series will give you foresight on a lot of stuff going on in the subsequent books and will give you a better understanding of Animal.
This installment picks up right where Eviction Notice leaves off. There are bodies dropping everywhere and the NYPD feels the killings are all a part of a message being sent. Everybody still thinks Animal is dead and his name is still being whispered in the streets as if he's the Boogey Man. "They were killers with baby faces, and the most ruthless of their crew was Animal. That was the first man I've ever met whose eyes were just empty. It was like somebody had just cut the lights off out in his soul. All y'all li'l chicks know the rapper, but I know the demon who live where a young man's soul used to reside." Animal returns to New York to settle a score and will stop at nothing until Gucci's shooting has been avenged. "Love is a double-edged sword. It can be a gift from God or a curse from the devil, all depending on how you chose to wield it." His presence in streets is equivalent to The Grim Reaper and has Shai Clark shook. Animal's loyalty and love for Gucci earns him his second fake death but also helps him find out who is father is.
Animal is back in hiding and this time he's with his father, Priest. Animal is finally given the back story on some of early childhood, revealing his father and introducing him to his sister. Once again everyone thinks he is dead. Instead of dodging the police, he's dodging Shai Clark and his gang. Bodies are still dropping but it's no longer in the name of love, there's a hood war going on and nobody is safe. When Animal and Ashanti are reunited it's equivalent to Craig being reunited with Day Day. Just as fast as Animal earned a father, is almost just as swiftly as he lost him. But before Priest's demise he gives Animal an escape route that clears his name and he no longer have to live in hiding. Even though Priest was absent from Animal's life, he did try to make up for it by helping him be a better man. "In this world, the only person you can depend on to be stand-up at all time is you." If you are thinking Animal is going to get a happy ending, you are sadly mistaken. Animal and Gucci do get to live a moment of bliss with the newest member to their family, TJ. That moment is short lived as well when Red Sonja shows up with Celeste, the child that she's conceived with Animal during his time in Puerto Rico.
Animal is finally free! No more hiding, no more running. He can finally be a family man, or so we think. "Nah the killer in me is alive and well, I'm just better at establishing who is in control." With Red Sonja and her unexpected child comes a mission, a deal so to speak. Red Sonja's father's new love interest is coming for Celeste, Red Sonja and Animal's daughter, and she needs his help to keep her safe. Animal accepts the mission against Gucci's wishes. "'Staying at home with his family would've been the right thing,' Gucci fired back." Animal's mission is filled with bloodshed, I mean that's the only way Animal rolls. But when his mission overlaps with the Black Lotus's mission things get tricky. At the end of this story the readers and Animal take a major loss. If you thought Gucci getting shot caused the city to bleed, how much blood do you think will be shed when Animal learns of her death?
Here is where the storyline goes full-fledged Crime Fiction. The story starts off with Animal grieving. Of course, that is to be expected when one loses the love of their life and their children is missing. Animal is in a catatonic state, until he receives a visit from Priest in his dreams. "Not just those men, you will kill them all... mothers, father, brothers, sisters. Their entire bloodline must be extinguished." And with those encouraging words, Animal set out to paint the city red with blood. A lot of bodies are dropped, some from Animal's enemies and some from his own team, but that isn't an unusual occurrence for Animal. When Animal finds out it's a possibility that Red Sonja could've possibly double crossed him it's as if a new fire is set off in him. "From the time you showed up on my doorstep you've been jerking my strings, I was just too blinded by my love for that little girl to see through it. You knew how deep this rabbit hole with Lilith went and you let me crawl into it blindly anyhow." By the end of this story Animal still hasn't been reunited with his kids and he's uncovered more mysteries than he's solved. But by the end of the story every reader has a keen understanding of who Animal really is. "I am the broken dreams of a man who only wanted better, the sobs of a murdered lover as she took her last breaths. I am the bastard child of a man who served the devil and called it God's work and the last thing you'll ever see before you leave this world."