Here’s something that very few people know (or would be able to guess) about me. Based on my leanings on pretty much everything else in life, my musical interests should fall somewhere between Chopin, Frank Sinatra and a jazz standard– refined, smooth and classic. But if we’re being honest on what’s truly blaring out of my headphones on an everyday basis, in reality they they fall more between Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross and John Legend – yes, friends, I am a rap and r&b music aficionado.
While many people who find this out about me are initially very confused by the juxtaposition of refined living and hardcore rap, over the years I’ve come to learn that there is lots of overlap between the two – other than both having a love of large diamonds. If you take out the references to gratuitous violence and the sailor-worthy curse words, there are some truly spectacular lyrics and life lessons buried in the ballads that are worth a listen – and I think rappers are, for the most part, very well-versed modern poets. Oh, and the other thing I’ve learned? I love it and that is really all that matters.
Still not sure? Let me share with you today 10 life lessons I learned through rap music to try and illustrate my point.
“We front row at fashion shows as well as Sunday morning service” – Got Your Back, T.I.
One of the seemingly very few songs that talks about the joys of being faithful and dedicated to one person, Got Your Back is a ballad T.I. wrote about his wife and how, no matter the circumstances, they would have each other’s back. Isn’t that in and of itself a good life lesson? But going beyond that, this specific line of the song is a tip of the hat to something that many people have forgotten in a world obsessed with the social media humblebrag – you can be front row at a fashion show or on any other trendy area of your life, but you also have to balance that with time for your community and family – be it your religion as is specifically mentioned here, or whatever other spiritual endeavours you may follow.
“You should take 4 beats and think before you %$#@ with little Skateboard P” – Drop it like it’s Hot, Snoop Dogg & Pharrell
Long before he was winning Grammy awards for Happy songs, Pharell was collaborating with Snoop Dogg on one of my favorite songs. This line is really stressing the importance of pausing and taking a breath before making an impulsive decision. I am the Queen of Impulse decisions and hurried actions, O I try to constantly stop and think before blurting something out or making an impromptu decision – be it a hasty purchase or a nasty word to someone in line at the grocery store arguing over the 30 cent coupon on her bread being expired. I bet that many of the world’s problems could be drastically improved if everyone had a cool head before whipping out a finger or demeaning remark.
“Everyday I’m hustlin’” – Hustlin’, Rick Ross
For those of you not up to my level of rap speak, hustlin’ is getting out and working hard to get ahead- in whatever area you choose. To me, it’s getting your name and brand out there to get ahead in your career or personal life. Life is short and if you’re not giving it your best every single day, is it really worth it? Ricky Rosé and I think not.
“See I don’t live for the glam and I don’t live for the fame – I’m in it for the love of the game” – I Made It, Kevin Rudolph
Secret confession #2 of this article – this is my secret power song, the song I sing in my head when I walk into a meeting room before a big meeting. The song is about taking the time to look around and realize that you have “made it” to a certain point in your life – and that is something that I often forget to do as I rush to try and get to the next level of wherever I want to be… And there will always be something else. This particular line speaks to me because no matter what you do or where you’re going in life, it’s truly most important to love what you do. If you’re only doing something for the fame/trappings/glamour of it, you will likely never make it to the top and have truly “made it”.
“Be good or be good at it” – No Love, Eminem feat Lil’ Wayne
Ok, so this is maybe a little more “bad boy” than the rest of the quotes, but this one is one of my all-time favorite lines. While Lil’ Weezy (we’re close, I can call him that) likely means to be good or do it well enough to not get caught by the police – I took it as meaning something slightly less illegal. To me, this quote means that if you are good at something in life, you can afford yourself a little room to color outside of the lines. This means legal things like making sure you’ve squirrelled away some money in your savings account before buying another pair of Manolos.
“She aint’ got a man, but she’s not alone. Miss Independent, yeah she got her own” – Bedrock, Young Money
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge fan of receiving diamonds and presents. But I’m also a fan of being able to afford my own living accommodations, food and life necessities without needing any man – or woman, for that matter – to pay for me. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was how to not be jealous and envious of friends who got more given to them than I had, and it’s still something I’m working on. But what I can do is work hard (refer to “Everyday I’m hustlin’, above) and pay my own way so that I am i.n.d.e.p.e.n.d.e.n.t. Bonus points if you can name the other rap song reference made there.
“Real friends never hear it from me, fake friends write the wrong answers on the mirror for me. That’s why I pick and choose – I got a small circle, I’m not with different crews“– Right Above It, Lil’ Wayne feat. Drake
One of the things in life I am most set in my ways about. I know people who have hundreds of friends on Facebook, thousands on Twitter… But who have no one they could call in the middle of the night who would drop everything to come if they needed it. I have many friendly acquaintances – but I have an extremely small number of really, really good friends. They tell it to me straight, comfort me when shit hits the fan and most importantly, always have my back.
“The hardest part about the %$#%ing business is minding your own” – Deuces (remix) – Chris Brown feat Drake, TI, Kanye West, Fabolous & Andrew 3000
I have this quote written on a post-it note sticking on my laptop in the office. One of the most important lessons I ever learned was the art of knowing when to mind your own business. When I was just starting out in my career, I heard a rumour about my boss and an alleged passionate affair with a VP which I salaciously repeated to all kinds of people at a lunch event – not thinking about the audience that I was sharing the information with. Lo and behold, the information not only got back to that boss, but to the other person involved in the rumour. My boss came into my office that afternoon to tell me that not only was it incorrect, but it had damaged that working relationship between us due to my inability to mind my own business – irregardless of the information being right or wrong. Now this isn’t to say that I don’t know what’s going on and don’t get involved in workplace drama from time to time, but the hard part is knowing when to stay out of it.
“Shop ‘til you drop, or ‘til it makes you psychotic” – What Them Girls Like, Ludacris
Ah, Luda. One of my favourite rappers loves to normally talk about his secual prowess, but took a couple of lines in this song to talk about what girls like other than his sexual prowess. Turns out, girls like girly stereotypical things like massages and bubble baths – but we also really like to shop. Since I don’t disagree with Mr. Bridges (his real name, look it up) I thought it very astute for him to know that at some point, no matter how much you love to shop, how much money or empty closet space you have – shopping will drive you insane. Always good to have a healthy reminder to step back before you lose it.
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go” – Lose Yourself, Eminem
It’s so easy to get tied up on your smartphone, at work, in a fight with a friend, in bingewatching Netflix… People, myself included, have forgotten how to live in the moment. And really, life is all about those little moments – whether the soundtrack is with a hip-hop beat or not. But if you do want to check out some of my favourites, here’s a playlist for you: