The Good Life (Fakin)


“We started from the bottom. Now, we here!”

So goes the tag line of a very popular song from Toronto-born rapper, Drake.  The song is not one of his most creative projects, but has become wildly popular in no time, especially among many of the urban youth that I serve. Like a lot of other rappers, Drake will profit handsomely because he was able to create an anthem for an army of young people who are unhappy with their current station in life (the bottom) and want to do something about it! Drake and his partners in the hip hop industry have successfully been able to tap into this yearning that many young people have for “the Good Life.”  They’ve been able to dangle a carrot before these kids and lead them in circles chasing an ever-evaporating sense of fulfillment.  Shoes. Jeans. Headphones. Tattoos. Gangs. Hustling. They’re all desirable because, at some point, someone has said to these kids, “___ is the key to the “Good Life. Get ___ and get the good life!”
Think back to Kanye’s hit, “The Good Life.”  The lyrics are not PC, so be warned:

 

Welcome to the Good Life
Where niggas that sell D
Won’t even get pulled over in they new V.
The good life, let’s go on a livin’ spree,
Shit, they say the best things in life are free.
The good life, it feel like Atlanta
It feel like L.A., it feel like Miami
It feel like N.Y., Summertime CHI, ahh
Now throw your hand up in the sky…
 
In Kanye’s estimation, the good life is about dealing drugs without fear of being caught, lavish living, and a general party atmosphere. Throughout the rest of the song, he paints this elaborate picture of the good life as jet setting, having sex on planes, stacking piles of money, all sorts of other irresponsible behaviors. To call it ridiculous is being nice!
My immediate concern, though, is the effect that these messages have on impressionable youth like the ones in cities like Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston. Far too many of these kids find themselves at “the bottom” based on family of origin, broken school systems, and multigenerational poverty. By the age of 12, many of these kids have seen more pain, dysfunction, abuse, and struggle than any one person should have to endure.  They look at their environment and often see no immediate cause for hope.  So, they REACH…looking for hope wherever it can be found!  Unfortunately, it is often found wrapped up in the thumping beat of a song and a music video.  With kids cramming as much as 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media into their day according to recent studies, the messaging of the good life and the “bottom to the top” narrative grows deep, deep roots. I could give examples of 10-15 students, male & female, who have gambled and lost big time in their pursuit of “the good life.”
 
What can be done? Is the fate of urban youth set in stone? What would it take to address this threat and make a tangible difference?
Here are a few of the ways that I choose to respond:
  • See the Need: I pray regularly that God would open my eyes to see the needs of the young people around me.  Many are written off, ignored, and overlooked. I cannot personally reconcile serving global needs of children while children in my own county suffer silently.
  • Lend a Voice: I have committed to raising awareness about the plight of urban youth.  Whether it be speaking about the challenges of urban life, presenting on the effects of fatherlessness, or creating blog posts like this one, I’ve decided to leverage my voice for the good of others.
  • Lend a Hand – Beyond raising awareness, I have committed to get to work, getting to know and serving urban youth through the work of The Sanctuary Covenant Church and through partnerships with organizations like the YMCA, Mpls YoungLife, Urban Ventures, Samaritan’s Feet, and the world’s greatest fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi!
I give hip-hop artists a hard time and they deserve it in most cases! My biggest beef with the industry is that it sells illusions to our kids.  Many kids do not have a clue that after the video shoot, the jewelry and the cars go back to the rental companies.  Kids often don’t realize that the houses are leased for the day and the girls are hired actresses.  If it were not for the number of kids that get misled by their lies, I’d actually feel sorry for the rappers. Check this out:

 

4 comments

  1. Great post! I really enjoyed it. Growing up, I never interpreted music/movies as reality, it was always entertainment to me. However, I know so many of my friends who did feel the need to follow the words in the songs they were listening too. I’m assuming it was the guidance of my parents and values that they instilled in me at a young age which allowed me to differeniate between the two. I hope that I’m able to do the same with my kids and I’m glad to hear about you reaching out and trying to do the same with other children who are routinely classified as “lost”. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the response, Rob! I would absolutely agree that the family is essential to instill values and override the negative images that we come across in society. Strong families are the core of strong communities!

  2. thanks for your analysis. i need your voice to help me as i think about what our young folks are experiencing.

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