Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?


I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.


Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

Inspiration 101: Chance the Rapper

Photo Credit: Spin

Photo Credit: Spin

Some time ago, I remember hearing of some kid from Chicago going by the name Chance the Rapper.

I also remember thinking that his name is fairly self-explanatory. I appreciate that.

As a music aficionado who delves deep into hip hop, I figured I’d give him a shot despite my waning interest in the genre. I gave a half-hearted listen to one of his songs back in 2013 (sadly, I can’t remember which) and I was immediately turned off by Chance’s kinda-sorta off-key voice.

It was March of 2014 when I finally decided to give the Chicago-bred emcee another listen. It was all due to stumbling across his video for “Juice,” an infectious, care-free tune sprinkled with psychedelic references.

Well, this was right up my alley! I was (and still am) at a place in my life where I’m a sucker for feel-good music. I’m not talking about some syrupy sweet, bubblegum pop music. No way. I’m talking about music that makes you feel light.

If that makes any sense.

With a more open mind and a set of open ears, I dove into his two available mixtapes. What I discovered was an eccentric young artist with a bit of genius bubbling underneath the surface of his limited musical offerings. I got the same feeling from him that I got from Kanye West when I first heard the beats he produced for Talib Kweli back on his album Quality. This wasn’t just a rapper. This was an artist.

I swear, there’s something in the water in Chicago.

Strangely enough, the rapper known as Chance seems to have a clarity that Kanye lacks. Where Kanye is always fighting for respect and acknowledgement, Chance the Rapper feels more freeform and willing to explore both himself and music. He plays with lyrical wizardry, cadence, and melody, tiptoeing deftly from one to another. Sure, he has his hiccups, but other than Kendrick Lamar, he’s the most exciting thing in hip hop in my opinion.

I never thought one person could inspire me musically to the degree Chance the Rapper has. The last time I was this inspired was probably (once again) the first time I discovered Kanye, questionable douchebaggery aside. I can, after all, separate the artist from the art as long as there are no Stephen Collins-style shenanigans afoot.

After listening to Chance and some other non-hip hop acts like Broken Bells, I rethought how I was making music. I began toying with singing more (I’m not a great singer, but I have a tight range where I’m listenable), I explored deep, abstract topics, and my verses became less about a strict cadence and more about the flow of the song as a whole.

Anyway, I know Chance’s offering aren’t for everyone. As a matter of fact, my fiancé hates his voice and though I no longer agree with that sentiment, I also understand that particular cup of tea isn’t her ideal. Still, give the guy a chance…

Har, har, har

…and listen to what he’s putting out there. He’s been releasing some songs with The Social Experiment via Soundcloud, but I REALLY recommend his mixtape, Acid Rap. There’s some quality work there. And who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired too.

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/chancetherapper
Acid Rap: http://www.datpiff.com/Chance-The-Rapper-Acid-Rap-mixtape.483826.html
10 Day: http://www.datpiff.com/Chance-The-Rapper-10-Day-mixtape.337986.html

Peace out, party people.