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Thoughts On Rap Music

September 2, 2013

One of the top hits from a few years ago was Flo Rida’s The Club Can’t Handle Me.  He pulls up in front of the club in a Lamborghini, slowly stepping out of the vertical sliding doors in slow motion wearing designer sunglasses.  There’s a long line to get in but that’s not a problem for him.  He makes his way to the VIP entrance, throwing large wads of cash in air which rains down on all those waiting to enter.  Once he gets inside he’s got beautiful women on each arm as he pops open expensive champagne bottles.

He begins rapping.

You know I know how
To make em stop and stare as I zone out
The club can’t even handle me right now
Watchin’ you watchin’ me I go all out
The club can’t even handle me right now (yeah)
The club can’t even handle me right now (yeah)

– Flo Rida – Club Can’t Handle Me

Many of us find ourselves wondering why this music is so popular?  I honestly don’t know.  I’m not going to comment on the music’s aesthetic qualities either, but I want to say something about these rappers.  We may be tempted to talk about how empty and vain this sort of music is, how it objectifies women, promotes drug use, encourages gang violence, and so on.  But I want to argue that we’ve created people like Flo Rida.  We’re all to blame.  He’s a reflection of us and our society.

I’ve come to realize that what’s missing from the world is love, and when love is absent, stuff like this happens.  Take The Notorious B.I.G. and his song Juicy.

He begins like this,

“Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me
I’d never amount to nothin’, to all the people that lived above the
buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of that called the police on
me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughters,
and all the niggaz in the struggle, you know what I’m sayin’?”

– Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy

I don’t want to quote the entire song, but he goes on to tell how women had no interest in him when he was poor.  He lived in government housing and his mother struggled to pay the rent.  The landlord was always threatening to throw them out.  He dealt drugs to help earn money to take care of his daughter and mother.  He felt hopeless and unloved.  He was the reject of society.  A total loser.  But he had a dream.  If he could only be like those people on TV.  If he could make a hit record, he’d build a huge mansion and invite all of his friends from the ghetto to stay with him.  They’d live it up, enjoying the best life had to offer, and most of  all, they’d no longer be rejects.  They’d be the envy of the world, and reporters would visit them night and day, wanting to listen to what they had to say.

I doubt Flo Rida’s any different.  These people were unloved.  They were abandoned by a society that didn’t nourish them, educate them, or give them role models who they could look up to.   In our lust for profits, we’ve created these lies in our advertising, telling people they’ll be happy if only they own this and that product.  We’ve created this consumer dream.  You buy these things and they’ll make you feel happy.  You need the expensive handbag, the car, the big home.  If only you had money to travel and see all these exotic locations, then you’ll be happy.  Spiritual leaders have always been telling us that life doesn’t consist in the abundance of things we possess, but we don’t believe them.   We’ve instead created a fake world where people believe that if only they are beautiful, rich, and own all these things, then reporters will follow them around night and day, and people will care about them and what they’re doing.

But notice that last part.  Did you catch it?  Somebody would care what they had to say.  Somebody would listen.  Somebody would admire them.  Somebody would respect them.  Somebody would tell them they’re beautiful.  Somebody would tell them they’re talented.  That’s what it comes down to.

They want acceptance.  They want belonging.  They want to be loved.  The problem is we have no community.  As Alan Watts said in the video I posted the other day, people are isolated, staring at these fake electronic reproductions of life, lost in this passive contemplative world, dreaming of a life which offers more.

When I was younger, libertarian ideas appealed to me because they advocated the power of individual initiative to make things happen.  As an entrepreneur, I was all about the individual and overcoming adversity.  That’s all fine and good, but over the past year or so I’ve found myself reflecting on the importance of bonds between the people living around you.  Your neighbors, friends, and others who live nearby.  I think about our social institutions and social mobility.

People shouldn’t be alone in this adventure of life.  There should be mentors, teachers, and role models to help you get on your feet.  There should be institutions in place which value human dignity, working to get people to a place in life where they can earn a good living, overcome problems they’re having (addictions, etc), and where people can find others who identify with them and can help each other out.

I think a lot about spirituality and how people need quality moral instruction.  I’m not necessarily talking about religious type instruction, filled with guilt and shame, but moreso people willing to take the time to explain this life to others, and help them understand themselves, other people, and why different types of conflicts exist.  We need instructors who will tell you that certain life directions are empty, fruitless, and a waste of time.  They could use things like informal discussion, thoughtful stories, mythology, novels, and other methods to illustrate life lessons so you don’t have to learn everything by direct experience of your own failures.

People need each other.  A lot of these inner city ghettos need caring people to get in there and make a difference.  One person at a time, one life at a time.  Befriend people, especially the young, and guide them out of that mess. Instead of letting them fall into violence, gangs, and drugs, someone has to teach them the value of getting an education, encouraging them that they can be more than what they are now.  Someone needs to be there as a warning post telling them, “Don’t take the quick and easy road!”  Make them think about life, where good things come from, and how they can make their world better.  It’s not something that will be fixed by throwing money at it, though money is often needed as well.  But however we go about fixing things, it’s done by changing the hearts and minds of the people in that place with love, attention, and respect.

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