I wrote this in 2016 for a series that asked participants to pick a particular song in a time in your life where it was the most meaningful. Unfortunately that series didn’t come to light, and I tumbled upon it while going through cleaning up my laptop. Enjoy, share, soak it in, whatever it may be. Thanks in advance.
Music is an integral part of one’s life because it triggers memories (good & bad), but at the same time while living in the present tense, it can help you get through a lot of tough times, which for many people means life & death. I am fortunate to not have had to gone to that extreme where music had to physically save me, but on an emotional and psychological level, music has helped me through a lot of tough times, and one time in particular that I’d like to share is when it came to be my personal coming-of-age in a drastic attempt to really get myself together and pursue what would now be currently my career path, and it’s very unorthodox on how I approached it, but at the same time it isn’t uncommon. I could have picked songs like Drake’s Fear, Chopin’s Raindrops Prelude piece, or even Lupe’s The Coolest, but it was at that period of time where I found myself listening to a lot of Ab-Soul. It was 2012, and his (best) album Control System had came out in May, so I was stuck on that for a while until I decided to really get into his older stuff, which was primarily the Longterm series. Longterm: Mentality was the dominant one in my iTunes, but it came to be Longterm 2: Lifestyles of the Broke and Almost Famous that would impact me the most, with Be A Man being the song that would resonate with me the strongest.
23-years-old, living at home with my mother, had been graduated from Mohawk College for 2 years, and still working in retail. That’s where I was at up until August 26th, 2012. That day is when everything changed for me, and where I experienced some of my lowest points, but it was also a time where I started to find myself, and also where I collectively got my foot in the door for my career. Television Post Production is where I wanted to be, because being a Video Editor is my choice of career, and with that comes a lot of variables in how to really approach it. Freelancing is the main way to establish yourself, and going through a make-shift corporate ladder is not how many people would ideally go about making that happen, but I did feel like I was limited in my resources. I really did want to make television or at least be part of that world, despite how glaringly White it was and the fact that I’d stick out like no one’s business, but that wasn’t my only concern, I was still 23-years-old living at home with my mother with student loan debt and tension since the expectation was to move out by 21, and I claimed that 23 would be the maximum age that I’d move out (spoiler alert: I moved out at 25). Quitting my retail job which was my only source of income which also served as my owing in Rent, really wasn’t the most ideal situation for myself & my mother, but I had to put my foot down and do something about my life, and a lot that Ab-Soul talks about in Be A Man was what I was going through when I got my internship at Triangle Post, which is a Post Production Services company that I’d known about in high school.
Unpaid internships are a rite of passage into the working world, although that has changed because modern-day society figured out (along with the vocal Millennials that we are) that working for free is idiotic just to not be sure that we’ll be hired after the internship is up – I believe there’s a word for working for free, but let’s not spark any controversy here. You know what it is already. Eight hours a day for three days a week over the course of 7 months is not an easy feat to deal with, but those commutes (all 45-60 minutes of them) to and from Triangle were important to me, because I was focused on something bigger than just what my current circumstance was. It was about getting to that point where I could do something that I loved, and much like how Ab-Soul was trying to make his music career his main priority, I was doing the same with being an Editor.
“All this commotion goes in one ear, out the other
I’m still gonna make it, one way or the other”
“It’s a man’s world, how you suppose to feed your fam
You need to act more like an adult, pull up your pants
I know you do music but what’s your plan B man?”
“Always have a Plan B,” is what my Mom drilled into my head to the point where I did in fact lose some focus during my internship and applied for another retail job, because of the stress of reverting back to just her paying the bills and rent (which is completely understandable). Did I feel bad? Absolutely I did, but did I feel even worse applying for another retail job? 100%. I really said to myself “what was the point of quitting my old job if I’m just gonna go back?” That’s when it really hit me that I had to focus on moving forward instead of putting a small Band-Aid on a large gash. That wouldn’t solve anything.
The sample that TaeBeast used to produce this song is James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World,” and it really set the tone for what Soul was speaking to – ironically it was my soul. It’s always about something bigger that other people don’t see. A great line from Donald Glover’s Atlanta show put it into perspective why people without money don’t have the patience to wait for money to come later.
“Poor people don’t have time for investments because poor people are too busy trying not to be poor” – Earnest
It’s not that we were poor, but no one wants to struggle, and I definitely had struggled mightily in my short life to that point where I didn’t want to go back to that dark place – it wasn’t fun. This song helped me get the message in my head that if I kept through my passion and continued to go through the shit storm that was the unpaid internship, there would be a brighter light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what I was hoping for at least.
“It’s like real difficult to articulate it
It’s like you got your goals. You got your aspirations
Your dreams, and you chasing that, you pursuing that
But in-turn it cost for you to sacrifice a lot of your availability to go out there and get this paper, nah mean?
It’s hard to say you a man still and livin at your momma house..”
There’s this thing about being a man that if you live with your mother at a certain age, you’re looked at as a freeloader and you’re not doing anything with your life. Where that may be the case for people who have no ambition and they see to it that they live relatively rent-free for as long as they can (which is obviously an ideal situation if you’re saving money for something bigger), it’s also a cultural thing that varies as to when you need to leave and make something for yourself. It’ll happen eventually, but the pressure for many are much greater than others. I definitely felt that pressure, but it wasn’t always because of my Mom. She raised me to be independent and my time living on & off campus in a different city prepared me for it. I just wanted to have that freedom again, but I didn’t have the money or job to do it, and that’s why I felt the way I felt. I did feel a little less of myself because I couldn’t exactly be all the way independent, so that played a part in my hustle to do what it took to leave.
Why is this song important to me? Although I haven’t had the urge or need to listen to the song in quite some time, it’s a constant reminder of that period in time that I came from to understand that the journey is hard, but your personal will can overcome many obstacles to push yourself further as you grow as an individual. What makes a Man isn’t solely dependent on your living conditions, but the mentality you bring to the table to be able to support yourself when things get hard, and what you do to push through. Do you find the easy exit to get a little leg up, or do you risk it all to inch closer to your goal? That’s the test that I went through, and many people have to do it with much more to sacrifice, but this song was certainly the soundtrack to my life and helped me get over that important hurdle in my life.