Who’s Laughing At Who?
A philosophical discussion about perspective, rappers, and shitty memes.
by Sean Powers
Anyone who’s ever spent a significant amount of time around me is acutely aware of the fact that when it comes to other people’s opinions- I very seldom give anything even resembling a fuck. Political leanings, social issues, religious beliefs- try as one may, in hopes that we may engage in a little back and forth, I simply do not have the capability to give a shit about every opinion that differs from mine. It is for this exact reason why I don’t spend time advocating a series of beliefs on social media platforms. Sure, every now and again, I’ll make an offhand comment when a situation reaches a level of absurdity that removes any chance for a “two sided” argument. But by and large, I am perfectly fine with letting everyone go about their merry way, boastfully spouting misinformation like a three year old child explaining the intricacies of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The way I see it, the universe will “reward” many of society’s most inept cheerleaders on its own, in due time. As the old saying goes, “Never argue with a fool- onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
That all being said, every once in a while, something will catch my attention on a deeper level. In my eyes, there are certain outstanding moments; specific incidents where a small item of note can speak to a much larger issue. Oftentimes, these eye-opening instances stem from something seemingly trivial and unrelated to anything more significant. Today, I would like to discuss one such example, via the internet and the magic of memes.
A couple of years ago, a meme crossed my eyes for the first time in what would become a seemingly monthly reoccurrence. Initially, as is often the case with memes, it elicited a slight chuckle when I saw it. Perhaps you are also familiar with this meme; the accompanying image varies from source to source, but the text essentially reads, “No matter how bad things get, remember- Someone you went to high school with is still trying to make it as a rapper.”
Again, if you know me at all, you are aware that i make rap music. It’s something I’ve done, on some level, since I was a teenager. At times, it was a serious career pursuit; at other times- a hobby meant to relieve stress. Most importantly, it has always been a healthy creative outlet, and one that over time has allowed me to develop many skills that have use and value in other areas of my life.
Conversely, one thing that making rap music has never been, for me, is a wildly successful financial endeavor. So, is the reason the aforementioned meme perked my ears up because “the truth hurts bro”? No, actually; that couldn’t be further from the truth. It struck me that this meme is a perfect example of one of the biggest problems our society currently has. The problem isn’t memes, or rappers, although both can be quite appalling in their own right. The problem we have as a society is one of “Perspective”. Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” and that always stuck with me as solid advice. So, I’d like to take a moment here to discuss this meme, and the resulting ways different perspectives manifest people’s actual lives and experiences.
“No matter how bad things get- remember, someone you went to high school with is…” Immediately, I’m struck by the need to compare misery/unhappiness with someone else in order to make one’s own life more palatable. This is the opposite of being grateful, which I consider to be among the most important principles of a healthy and happy life. I feel that if someone needs to look at someone else’s life through a judgmental lens in order to appreciate their own, they are missing the point entirely. Of course, that same judgmental inner monologue about others will also invariably turn on itself, resulting in an overall vibe of misery being omnipresent in said person’s life.
“…. still trying to be a rapper”
Here’s where the real unpacking needs to happen, though. First of all, in life, you are either “doing” something or you are “not doing” something. If you spend time writing a book, you are a writer- you aren’t trying to be a writer. The unfortunate implication that someone is “trying to be a rapper” is based off the belief that validation needs to come from an external place; the person isn’t a
rapper, they’re “trying to be a rapper”. This says more about the person making the comment (or sharing the meme), as it indicates a belief that without financial reward or large scale recognition from others, anything they might decide to do is pointless and a failure. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, this is the wrong way to look at life; this perspective is only held by people who are unfulfilled
and unhappy. Further, the arrogance of the entire statement reveals an even emptier understanding of modern art, in general. Since the advent of the internet, many artists, coming from a wide range of mediums, have found ways to cultivate and connect with audiences without the added baggage of becoming a celebrity or public persona. The outdated cliché of “waiting for a big break” only remains in the minds of the uninformed. As is often the case in our current society, sadly, the uninformed are typically the first and loudest to speak with an air of expertise on any given subject. For that have been
paying attention, though, it is widely understood that consistency and craftsmanship are the markers of the successful artist. Fame is a fleeting concept, one that is completely unrelated to the pursuits of the creative mind; if it has a place in the artist’s view, it is that of an obstacle to be navigated cautiously, or avoided altogether.
The premise of this specific meme is essentially that there is nothing more embarrassing than making rap music years after graduating high school, with little to no money to show for it. However, I would argue the exact opposite is true. As I see it, there is a strong passion and life force in someone who continues to create art, regardless of the response others may give it. There is a fulfillment found in someone who continues to carve out time in their life to continue mastering a chosen craft.
In my case, I am about to release my third official project, and as of this writing, there are probably about fifty people who give a shit about it. Truth told, I am very grateful for anyone who digs my work- I spend a lot of time working out details many would consider inconsequential, so when those details are recognized and appreciated, it truly touches my soul. I operate completely independently with full ownership of anything I release, so this allows me complete creative freedom. It also limits my reach and capabilities, minus any of the tremendous exposure and promotion one is afforded when signed to a deal of some sort. However, in a year that I spent recovering from a series of surgeries necessitated by a bad car accident, the feelings of pride and fulfillment upon completing this album cannot be overstated. The album is definitely a success. I know that to be a fact, as I am the only one who can decide how I view my art. I know if I could have done better, or tried harder. Those are my markers of failure. None of those feelings are present with this piece of work. My feelings will not change based upon how the music is received, for good or bad. I am proud of the work I did, and the journey taken to create it has added more texture to my perspective. That added texture is certain to benefit me in all areas of life- relationships with others and with myself, included.
Someone who only follows their creative instincts in order to chase fame/wealth is not someone to admire. Any success gained through that lens will ultimately be empty. The value of cultivating our own creative energy is not in some potential windfall, it is in the fulfillment that comes from bringing your mind’s vision into existence. The value is the empowerment that comes from within, not from around us. These are the things that really happen when someone “is still trying to be a rapper”, and I do not consider anything about that to be shameful or embarrassing. At least, nowhere near as embarrassing as thinking this meme is some sort of “zinger” for anyone other than the empty soul posting it.
Fuck You Very Nicely,