As I get older, I find myself understanding things that were unclear to me as a child. On That 70’s show, they weren’t just hanging out at a table in the basement being goofy, but smoking marijuana (who knew?). NEXT’s song “Too Close” is about pure filth, not the seemingly innocent song that they performed on an episode of Sister Sister*. Reverend Dr. Reuben Gregory from Amen was a narcissistic jerk who I doubt ever loved Thelma Frye. The list of things I perceived differently as an adult is endless, however, one stands out the most.
Recently, I had an experience where I understood a song. Not in a basic, comprehension way, but in a “Hey that’s my life” way. I was shuffling through a few of my old favorites when I stumbled across Kanye West’s best album, The College Dropout. When “All Falls Down” ft. Syleena Johnson came on, my heart dropped:
“Man I promise, she’s so self-conscious
She has no idea what she’s doing in college
That major that she majored in don’t make no money
But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny
Now, tell me that ain’t insecure
The concept of school seems so secure
Sophomore three years ain’t picked a career
She like f**K it, I’ll just stay down here and do hair
Cause that’s enough money to buy her a few pairs of new Airs”
My face flushed with embarrassment as I hit “Rewind.” I’d heard this song numerous times over the years, but this was the first time I’d heard it. Did Kanye (I will NEVER call him “Yeezus”) really just say that? How does he know my life? Is it that obvious? Do I have a scarlet letter on my chest that only Kanye can see?
No, I am not arrogant enough to entertain the idea that this song was written just for me. Nor do I have any belief that Mr. West is remotely aware that a decade old song has any relevance today. When the song first came out, I was in middle school and the rap verses weren’t even my favorite part. I mainly listened to it to hear Syleena Johnson singing the hook (When it all, it all falls doooown, I’m telling you ooooooooooh it all falls dooooown). The actual subject matter of All Falls down wasn’t important to me at the time.
All Falls Down deals with the issues of materialism, consumer culture, societal expectations and how they work together to influence our self-image or reflect insecurity. All things of which I am currently familiar. Hearing a song once associated with my childhood connect with a lower point in my life was a jarring experience. It made me wonder what other songs I currently listen to will end up telling a part of my story.
Just as Kanye evolved out of his College Dropout phase, I too will hopefully leave this stage in life to enter another. There will be another book, song, movie or person that I will view differently as I continue to navigate life. As for now, I will continue to put on my headphones and nod my head as Kanye raps my life.
Has this happened to you? What are some childhood memories that you feel differently about as an adult?
*FYI: The complete series of Sister Sister will FINALLY be available for purchase in February 2016.
“All Falls Down” Lyrics.” KANYE WEST LYRICS. Accessed November 21, 2015. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kanyewest/allfallsdown.html.