This past Sunday evening could have been likened to Christmas Eve for rap music fans. For months, the highly anticipated collaborative album from Jay-Z and Kanye West was largely shrouded in secrecy (possibly becoming the first album not to leak on the internet prior to it’s release date since the invention of Napster) A little before the stroke of midnight, the internet hype was on a million…and if we base it solely on the exorbitance of the lyrical content, Watch The Throne lives up to the expectations. It’s a grandiose tribute to the lifestyle that Shawn Corey Carter and Kanye Omari West have become accustomed to; complete with $1000 bottles of champagne, $30,000 Rolex time pieces, and luxurious overseas excursions on private jets. By all accounts…they’re living a life free of the worries average Americans are facing due to the instability of their finances.
Critics, however, have not been too pleased. As a matter of fact, many have been outright disgusted with the album’s lyrical content, primarily because of the economic climate in which it was released. Last month only 117,000 jobs were added to the economy. Last week, the United States credit rating was reduced to AA+ (for the first time since Standard & Poor’s began rating the credit-worthiness of railroad bonds in 1860,) after we narrowly escaped an impending default. Yesterday, stocks plummeted a massive 600+ points to close below 11,000. People’s 401K’s and Social Security checks are are shrinking. Funding for education is being cut left and right. There is no doubt that we are in trouble as a country. That doesn’t, however, mean that everyone is struggling individually…which brings me back to Jay and Ye.
If you’re familiar with their stories, you know that they both came from situations that were less than desirable (Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects, and Chicago’s South Side respectively) and made their way up to the millionaire status that they enjoy today. After YEARS of hard work, set backs, and struggles, these two have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labor, especially when each of them have been champions for philanthropy. Music, in it’s purest essence is an art form, and a tool for unbridled self-expression. For that reason, it baffles me that people expect to hear artists rap something that they’re not living. You have no business discussing “the hood” or it’s happenings if that is not your reality. Otherwise, you’re not being authentic. You can’t be Big Meech or Larry Hoover, if you’re a corrections officer. It doesn’t work…unless you’re content with living a lie. That being said, there is a certain level of connection and relatabilty that a listener must have with a song in order for them to enjoy it over an extended period of time. Some people can’t relate to exorbitant amounts of money, but others can. That’s a fact. Everything in life will not be fair, and you can deal with it, do something about it, or forever be in denial.
Being mad at someone for achieving their goals and attaining success just because you’re not content with your current circumstances is counterproductive. At some point, we have to take responsibility for our own raggedy financial habits. Many argue that our country is in it’s current state because our government is living and spending beyond its means. That same cancerous behavior trickles down to states, then cities, and into individual households. Consistently, Americans (especially the youngest ones,) get caught up in an attempt to keep up with the Jones’. Prime example:
And yes, that actually came out of someone’s mouth.
With misplaced priorities, we consistently ignore responsibility for tangible, trendy fodder…all while living check to check. If we’re honest, we’ve all been guilty of fiscal irresponsibility and impulse spending at one time or another, and if not, we’ve all had days when we could have done more to get to the places that we dream about being.
In his highly successful book The Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that to attain success in any field, one must practice a specific task for upwards of 10,000 hours. That requires a commitment and investment in yourself and your success. Ask yourself if your dreams are worth it, and if they are…don’t get let your current situation affect where you’re going, or what you’re capable of. Life is full of choices. If you choose to listen to Watch The Throne, use it as a motivational and aspirational tool rather than looking at it as a slap in the face. If you can’t do that…well…find some good middle class music, and keep it moving. Either way…the choice is yours.