Saturday, June 25, 2005

A World We Can't Understand

As I was driving to school I switched on the radio when I came across the lyrics to a recently released song. As I listened to the words of 'Hate it or Love it', a new song by The Game and 50 Cent, I heard a particular phrase by The Game that greatly caught my attention. It came out so clear through the speakers, "...thinking how they spend 30 million dollars on airplanes when there's kids starving..." At first the words meant nothing to me, but then as time passed I really began to think. I began to think what The Game was really saying was that the life he had lived is something so many of us can not even comprehend. As each day of my life progresses I become more and more appreciative of the life I have been forunate to live. For so many years of my life I was oblivious to incredible amounts of homeless and poor people across the world. Someone like myself has been so forunate time in and time out throughout my life. My parents have given me the opportunity to succeed to my fullest. I was given the ability to go to a great school like St. John's Jesuit and experiance events so many miss out on.
In the United States it has come apparent to me that one either loves rap music or he hates it. Various people who are against it think the music is much too violent. Sure the lyrics have vast amounts of profanity, but that is really a mask over the world these music individuals have survived through.
One individual music icon who has lived through some harsh childhood conditions is Eminem. Marshall Mathers, the birth name of Eminem, was born and lived his childhood in Detroit, Michigan on an infamous rundown street known as 8 Mile Road. Just like many children growing up in the ghetto, Marshall grew up fatherless. Eminem grew up in a drug infested society where crime ran the streets. It did not help that his own mother, the one who was given the duty of raising him, was addicted to drugs. For one to criticize an individual like Eminem, first understand where he has come from. He has survived living in the streets of one of the most crime infested areas of America: 8 Mile Road. So many have failed in the world he grew up in, his success is nothing short of remarkable. For some people success many be an over exaggeration for Mr. Mathers. Individuals are convinced that how can his lifestyle of explicit lyrics and vulgar images be successful. Well let me ask you this, how is he not a walking miracle considering he has a stable job, lots of money, and the ability to give his children the money they need to vear away from living the childhood he once did? Think about it.
For the South, one of the most dangerous areas is that of the New Orleans projects. These government housing projects are for the homeless and poverty-level people of the Big Easy. Two individuals who were able to fight against the forces of this rundown area were Byron Thomas, and Brian Williams. These names are not familar until it is realized that these two men are actually Mannie Fresh and Baby, the infamous Big Tymers. I for one have shown great anger at these two because of their continuous explict, vulgar lyrics. Yet, my mindset changed when I looked at what these gentlemen came from. Ice T, a notorious rapper, was quoting as saying why Big Tymers look like devilish creatures who only care about money. " Baby and Manny want to sing about lots of things, but they got all this money." Baby and Manny's family incomes were deeply low and for them to all of a sudden be floating in millions is trully a blessing. For lots of people they just see these men setting terrible examples for the youth of the world. That may be true, but take it from their perspective. No longer do Byron and Brian have to search for food like they did when they grew up. No longer do they have to steal in order to satisfy basic needs. These gentlemen can go to sleep and night realizing that their poor childhood is nothing, but a distant memory.
The final person who has grown up in the toughest neighborhoods is an individual many claim to be a rapper, poet, philosopher, and freedom fighter. This man goes by the name of Tupac Shakur. Tupac in my eyes is the most perfect example on why we should never judge what we only see. At a glance Tupac many look like something that could be tagged as the "Son of the Satan." He has tattoos of automatic weapons along with phrases such as "Thug Life." In order to really judge this person you must get to know him. I have never met this revolutionary rap artist. He died in September of 1996 and my interest in him only started in the summer of 2004. Even though we have never conversed I can see the type of person Tupac is through his meaningful music. All of his songs deal with this miserable habitat he grew up in. Most rappers seem to write music about why their lives are amazing. Tupac takes a different approach, he raps about the very diffcult lifestyle he lived. As a youngster, Tupac had moved around numerous times. He stayed in Baltimore for a few years. It was here where his love of writing poetry slowly started to come out. Having grown up fatherless, Tupac was raised by his strong mother Afeni Shakur. Yet, even she was not always there. If anything Tupac raised himself. From Tupac's music I have come to learn just how bad some parts of America's cities really are. You can quickly make the assumption that Tupac is terrible individual, for he has killed many people. He defends this by stating that the society he grew up in was a place where it's 'every man for himself.' You had to protect yourself and a gun was your only way. It was either that or you were dead. Tupac realizes the awful deeds he has done. In one of his songs, Thugz Mansion, Tupac Shakur asks God to save a place for him in heaven. "Just think of all the people that you knew in the past, that passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last/Picture a place that they exist, together/There has to be a place better than this, in heaven/So right before I sleep, dear God, what I'm askin/Remember this face, save me a place, in thug's mansion..." Powerful words said by a powerful speaker. Thugz Mansion is not 'one of a kind' song. A great majority of Tupac's songs deal with issues in he has seen in his life. "Keep Your Head Up" is a song released by Tupac that encourages all those women who have suffered abuse to not give up and continue to thrive in the difficult world they live in. "The Good Die Young" is a song about all the young children who are killed in the ghetto at such a young age. In this song Tupac and his fellow musicians say a special prayer for all those who were killed by the shootings at Columbine High School. Of all the songs ever composed by Tupac Shakur, the one that seems to send the most powerful message is Changes. "I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, Is life worth living? Should I blast myself? I'm tired of bein' poor and even worse I'm black. My stomach hurts, so I'm lookin' for a purse to snatch. Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a n****, he's a hero. Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare...." It's in this song Tupac really attacks the crime in the rundown areas of America. He urges kids and adults to do something and change the crime-infested world they live in. He pleads people to stop selling drugs, to stop killing each other, but rather be the people that God sent them on this Earth to be. It's a sad song for one can truthfully see the world that so many grow up in everyday. I hope now that you see Tupac as a person you had never seen before. Not the killer, Satan-like creature he may come across as, but rather the man he really is. A man who has seen the worst of the worst. A man who grew up in a beat down area, in a home without a father, and a crack addicted mother. A world where without protection your life would flash right before you.
The purpose of three stories is not for people to rejoice and parade in love for rap music, but rather for a certain understanding to be gained. Hopefully from this article people can now have knowledge of the harsh, poverty-level world so many people grow up in each and everyday of their lives. So the next time you hear a rap song on the air, try and look past and what is being said. Just think of where the song's musicians are coming from. Just think of all the hard times they had growing up. All the times they went to bed with an empty stomach, all those times someone was shot and they sat there and watched them die. Just think and realize that the world we live in is something at times we have all taken for granted.


Anonymous said...

Heya, I like what you write and most of it is true. Theres a lot of heavy reality to this subject, but thats a start. I am from what Unicef has called the worst poverty in the entire world, its not in the States but it is in the North and West hemispheres. And yet Tupac still has my full endorsement.
Not too many rappers are from Detroit or New Orleans though, or even outside of NY and LA. wonder why. maybe because theyre the real deal, and the govt dont want That on record. one bit where you could improve your article is with this reality: the rappers you hear today, all of them are fake. all the popular ones. the most fake of all are 50 cent and Puff Daddy. (p diddy). anyone who talks about "bling" or "if you aint got money take your broke ass home" is a Nazi against the poor, and forget Eminem, theyre a Vanilla Ice wannabe. I miss the days when someone like that was chastised and disgraced. these days every rapper you hear is just another middle class rich kid hiding behind their black skin. things have changed.
everything is fake. and by the way, it means nothing to claim theyre from brooklyn any more. brooklyn is a rather chique and up-market place these days, and rappers use its 1960s and 70s image, even though most of them were barely even alive then. My advice: stay the **** away from hip-hop.

The Real Deal said...

Anonymous, I completely agree with your assessment that today's hip hop is pure garbage. It's a shame it has come to that.