Music Blessings?

When I was twelve I hated going to school. The only day I found tolerable was Wednesday. On this glorious day I got to leave school to alternatively, volunteer at the nursing home or attend religious classes. Unsurprisingly, the church’s school was not a place I grew to enjoy. My unending questions perturbed the nuns and the priests revolted at my suggestion that they confess to me for a change. The experience was salvaged by the pageantry of the confirmation service.  With pressed hair, a new pretty white wedding lite dress and a party I survived the experience. The classes were almost worth it for that young girl.

The brand of Christianity I grew-up in, Catholicism, was not empowering, certainly not for people of color, not for women, not for anyone. The church for me was a meditative experience. Zoning out during mass was my norm. The teachings endorse a brand of blind faith and dependency I could not align with my independent spirit.

In college and in my early twenties I visited many other faiths: Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Agape, Seven Day Adventist, new age…The only thing I committed to on my spiritual journey was the music. Hymnals, devotionals, spirituals, urban, contemporary, worship, punk… I remember making religious mix-tapes!

The summer of 1993 I fell in love with the musical genius of Kirk Franklin. Standing in line for his concert, I surveyed the crowd. It spanned the religious rainbow, from fervent to fanatical to Easter Sunday Church Goers and atheists. They had all come for “Silver and Gold.” The song called for us to question our need for fame and fortune over Jesus. The catchy tune belied the weight of the song. I wondered how many were truly looking for a best friend, savior in Jesus. Beyond saving our soul Jesus is supposed to safely hold and contend with all the troubles in our lifes. If we ascribe to this, then what responsibility do we have?

I am not areligious. I am no atheist. I believe in a higher power, a supreme being, a making of heaven and hell, God. But I do pause at the messages we hear on a loop in our music. We whip, nae nae, dab, do the running man and catch the holy spirit with the drop of a beat to lyrics we would not agree with in conversation or writing. This includes gospel music. I love “Amazing Grace”, “We Fall Down”, “I Surrender”, “O Happy Day”, He’s Able”… BUT, well do I just sit in prayer waiting for change?

The Black Lives Matter Movement has single-handedly raised black consciousness. Our Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs language is peppered with discontent with respectability politics, pandering politicians and manipulative preachers. Yet, that funky beat drops and we still nod and sway with singers, and rappers espousing blind faith and dependency in lieu of hard work. I really like Kirk Franklin’s 2015 “Wanna Be Happy” but I had to remove it from my playlist as I reconsider and attempt to reconcile with the religious message of dependency it reinforces. It negates the importance of hard work and introspection in addressing and resolving problems small and big especially, addiction, depression, illness, poverty, etc… In the chorus Franklin shares the most overused Christian cliché, Jesus take the wheel. This is not empowering. I agree prayer is a wonderfully meditative experience, calming and focusing. However, when prayer is the sum total of the answer, the problem will likely persist. Miracles are real! Prayer is Powerful! Hard work is required! How much cognitive dissonance can we realistically manage before the walls between the incongruent ideas shamble?

Music can be many things. It is perhaps the greatest influencer, even more so than television. It can help us navigate this difficult world. It is important that we understand the world as bigger than us, that we identify with a source bigger than us, that we not only acknowledge the importance of hard work, but see that we are blessed. Big Sean’s 2015 “Blessings” does this beautifully. In the first verse he extols the virtues of hard work, “I live the life I deserve, bless. Fuck a vacay I feel better at work…Blessings on blessings on blessings…This is that late night workin’ after three.” In the second verse Drake explains why he feels blessed, “Stop worryin’ about whoever’s next. I am just worried about my mama worryin’ less. I think I am famous enough. I don’ need anymore press.” Kanye ends the song in his grandiose style.

Just did a couple laps in my home pool
And my daughter right there gettin’ homeschooled
I’m blessed, and I was thinkin’ ’bout startin’ up my own school
A montessori, and the hallway lookin’ like a monastery
Oh yes I’m way up, I feel blessed

This song, “Blessings” is as religious as it is commercial, as personal as it is political. In it, respectability politics is shunned. Hard work is glamorized. Favor is acknowledged. They said, I feel blessed. Not I am lucky.

What messages are we endorsing or co-signing while we shake our thing on the dance floor or in the pulpit?

“Silver And Gold” Album Kirk Franklin and Family, 1993

Silver and gold
Silver and gold
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold
No fame or fortune
Nor riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold

Don’t give me a mansion
on top of the hill
Don’t give me the world
with a shallow thrill
But just give me a saviour
My life He can hold
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold

I woke up this morning
Feeling kind of down
I called on my best friend
She could not be found
But I called on Jesus
My life He can hold
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold

For unto us a child is born
A son is given
I’d rather have Jesus
What profits a man to gain the whole world and lose His soul
I’d rather have Jesus
For there’s no other name given under heaven
Whereby we must be saved
I’d rather have Jesus
He’s the only one that can save you
I’d rather have Jesus than silver and gold

“Wanna Be Happy?” Album Losing my Religion, 2015

The truth can hurt you
Or the truth can change you
What would truth do to you

I just wanna be happy
But if I keep on doing the things
That keep on bringing me pain
There’s no one else I can blame
If I’m not happy
Wasted time but now I can see
The biggest enemy, it was me
So I’m not happy

Cry yourself to sleep
Shout and raise your hands
It won’t change a thing child
Until you understand
(Preach)

If you’re tired of being the same
If you’re tired of things not changing
It’s time for you to get out the way
Don’t get stuck in how you feel
Say Jesus take the wheel
He knows the road that you need to take
(But it only works if)
If you wanna be happy
(Look at yourself and say)
Don’t you wanna be happy
I just wanna be happy

But if I keep on giving my heart
For people to tear apart
The healing will never start
So I can be happy
Will I ever be happy

Cry yourself to sleep
Shout and raise your hands
It won’t change a thing child
Until you understand

(If I’m talking to you now say)
If you’re tired of being the same
If you’re tired of things not changing
It’s time for you to get out the way
(You been down too long)
Don’t get stuck in how you feel
Say Jesus take the wheel
He knows the road that you need to take
(I feel different right here)
It’s so easy to complain
Addicted to the pain
You give your heart, they push it away
(But I got good news for ya)
Jesus knows just how you feel
Just let Him take the wheel
The love you need, He already gave
(But the question is)
Do you wanna be happy
(If you’re tired of you then say)
I just wanna be happy
(Now if you really mean that, open up your heart and say it)

Let me hear you say yeah
Yeah yeah
(If you’re tired of going in circles)
Let me hear you say yeah
Yeah yeah
(Tired of making the same mistakes)
Let me hear you say yeah
Yeah yeah
(But now’s your chance)
Let me hear you say yeah
(Say yeah)
Yeah yeah

If you’re tired of being the same
If you’re tired of things not changing
It’s time for you to get out the way
(Are you ready, come on)
Don’t get stuck in how you feel
Say Jesus take the wheel
(Won’t He do it)
He knows the road that you need to take
(So easy to complain)
It’s so easy to complain
(Come on)
Addicted to the pain
You give your heart, they push it away
(There’s somebody that’ll never leave ya)
Jesus knows just how you feel
Just let Him take the wheel
The love you need, He already gave
(But the question is)
Do you wanna be happy
(Took a long time but I’m ready)
I just wanna be happy
(Thank you Lord, every day ask yourself)
Do you wanna be happy
(Yes, pull over, let him drive)
I just wanna be happy

“Blessings” Big Sean (feat. Drake & Kanye West) Dark Sky Paradise” (2015)

[Intro:]
Look, I feel blessed
Way up I feel blessed, way up I feel blessed
Straight up

[Verse 1 – Big Sean:]
I live the life I deserve, bless
Fuck a vacay I feel better at work
I mean whatever it’s worth
I give whatever I’m worth
For my niggas who gonna go to Hell and back for me
I’m a give em Heaven on Earth for a hell of a check
Yeah whichever come first
Blessings on blessings on blessings
Look at my life man that’s lessons on lessons on lessons
I treat the beat like it’s a reverend
I tell the truth like father forgive me these are all my confessions
Man this wasn’t luck it was destined
I done lost homies who been with me since Ed, Edd, and Eddy
Who flip like confetti and then when you back they back to call you dog
That shit get get petty, bitch don’t give no dap to me nigga
Funny thing about talkin’ behind my back
Is that it just keep comin’ back to me nigga
Was all for a sec now it’s back to me nigga
You mad at me, this ain’t what I want man this what it had to be
This is that late night workin’ after three
Man this why my old girl was mad at me
This why I’m your majesty
Man, the clique is the tightest, the pussy’s the tightest
The drinks are the coldest, the future the brightest
The feat not divided, the love is divided
And I just gotta, thank God that we got it, blessed
I don’t know what I would do without it
Crew look like we robbed a bank, but all we make is deposits
Your profit we profit, oh God

[Hook – Drake:]
I’m here for a good time not a long time, you know I
I haven’t had a good time in a long time, you know I
I’m way up I feel blessed, way up I feel blessed (straight up)
I’m way up I feel blessed (straight up, straight up), way up I feel blessed

[Verse 2 – Drake:]
Look, I ain’t gonna say that we back or nothin’
Cause that implies that we’re back from somethin’
If we’re back from somethin’ it’s some checks you owe us
I expect that payment, nothin’ less or over
I don’t need them favors that you ask me for
I could give two fucks bout’ where the Grammy’s go
I just gave out Grammy’s on my Instagram
Them OVO boys the business man
It is what it is, trust me you get what you give
You gotta come to my side and see how we live
I cannot see Heaven bein’ much better than this
Blessings on blessings from me and my niggas from the Six
Look at what we did
Be quiet I’m doin’ a toast
For niggas that don’t really do shit I swear y’all be doin’ the most
Stop worryin’ about whoever’s next
I am just worried about my mama worryin’ less
I think I’m famous enough, I don’t need anymore press
I am convinced I’m the only one left that’s still doin’ this shit man

[Hook – Drake]

[Verse 3 – Big Sean:]
My grandma just died I’m the man of the house
So every mornin’ I’m up cause I can’t let them down (down)
Always down for the cause, never down for the count
I guess when your stars align you do like the solar system and plan it out
So I’m goin’ overtime on the overtime
Yeah I’m not invested but you can’t attest it
Million dollar goals, man it’s to manifest it
The family never goin’ anorexic
I pay my mortgage and electric
Never goin’ under even with anesthetics
At the top of the rap game and progressin’
Check after check, checkin’ off my check list
Try and blow my cake just know that’s a death wish
No mistakes in life ever, it’s only lessons
Shit feel like Shaq and Penny got back together
You tore the game apart who put it back together

[Hook – Drake]

[Verse 4 – Kanye West:]
Since the truth keep niggas traumatized
They tryna compromise my condom size
So I snapchat that whole shit
Tryin’ see titties, tryna show dick
And I swear to God I hope they post it, I’m blessed
Even though I get slammed with lawsuits like car doors
C3POs like Star Wars
They want me by the road holdin’ up cardboard
So I go extra hard on the hard floor
Right now callin’ you from my home gym
Right after that, nigga I’m gon’ swim
Just did a couple laps in my home pool
And my daughter right there gettin’ homeschooled
I’m blessed, and I was thinkin’ ’bout startin’ up my own school
A montessori, and the hallway lookin’ like a monastery
Oh yes I’m way up, I feel blessed

 

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