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Finding Strength in Kendrick's "Mortal Man" After Barely Missing the Paris Attacks

Shortly after I left Paris the city was devastated but Kendrick's music has helped me cope.
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"Luckily you guys are home …"

It was a long awaited dream of mine to visit the city of Paris, a dream that was finally fulfilled on Friday, November 6. I traveled abroad along with my better half to visit old friends and make new ones, learn from people and culture, get inspired. Paris is seen as the worldwide epicenter for modern sophistication.

Many artists I admire have come to Paris for the same reason and took their art to never before seen levels. Appreciate Yeezus or not, but it was the one of a kind atmosphere of Paris that helped Kanye come up with his latest studio album, its unique layers can be heard all over the album. Pusha T went borderline insane when he first heard the final version of his own song, "Numbers On The Boards," and immediately wanted to shoot the video in Paris, hoping to add an extra type of flavor to an already densely atmospheric song. Even Kendrick Lamar stopped by to create something fittingly special for his visuals to "Backseat Freestyle." As I walked the streets of Paris I slowly understood why. A touch of art can be found everywhere, from a widespread local graffiti scene to the home of world class constructed art the Louvre and, of course, the wondrous Eiffel Tower.

I only stayed for three short days, but I left certain that this trip would change my approach on creative work. I traveled back home on Sunday ready to go back to conquering the world and leaving my stamp.

"Luckily you guys are home …"

That was the message I received from my mother-in-law last Friday, November 13. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of the text, I wasn't on my phone, instead relaxing and playing NBA 2K16 after a long day of office work and creative output. But minutes later my phone wouldn't stop vibrating with messages from friends asking if I was alright. And then I discovered why... 

As has been broadly reported, the city of Paris suffered multiple terror attacks and suicide bombings on that Friday night. Hundreds of people were murdered, several hundred more were injured and thousands experienced near death situations, which will change their lives forever. For the following hours my mind felt numb. My fingers were texting friends, both old and new, checking to see if everyone was fine, even sending out a short message to the world on Twitter. But my mind was numb.

The TV broadcast was supposed to talk about the outcome of the soccer match between France and Germany, but their tone changed quickly as broadcasters, along with the athletes, their staff and around 80,000 spectators in the crowd were locked into the Stade de France, slowly realizing what was happening outside of the stadium and not knowing how they would make it home that night.

A feeling of uncertainty was ever-present throughout the evening. Uncertainty of how, when and if countless people at various other locations throughout the entire city, most tragically at a hostage taking at the Bataclan Concert Hall that was hosting a show, would make it to safety. Uncertainty about who the attackers were and what the motive was behind these cruel acts of violence. And the uncertainty of millions of people watching from home, not knowing if they would ever hear another word from their loved ones as the entire phone grid in Paris went dead.

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I was watching from my couch, unscratched and not in danger, but still uncertain.

Just five days before the attacks I was walking through the same streets as many of the people who lost their lives on Friday. Just like them I was out to celebrate life on a weekend evening, seeing sights, having a good time among friends, sitting in a café and having interesting conversations in the presence of a truly wonderful city. Survivor’s guilt was spreading through my body. Why was I spared? How could I be so lucky to miss this historical wreck by only five days, when I could easily have scheduled my trip for one weekend later?

The next morning I was still in shock. More and more details had surfaced, the background of this picture becoming more and more clear, but as harsh as it might sound, life had to go on and I had to get to an appointment. I hopped into my car with a despondent attitude, I turned on the stereo and the song that began to play was Kendrick Lamar's "Mortal Man."

"Mortal Man" is a song that, just like the album that it closes, offers multiple meanings. To me the most fitting one has always been Kendrick's desire to leave a unique footprint on this world, realizing that we are not just aimlessly living, but rather making a significant impact on the people around us. Regardless of if we have a similar approach to life as Kendrick, actively wanting to change the world to make it a better place, working with high aspirations towards a better life in general, or just trying to get through a 9-5 to support our families, every single one of us defines and shapes this world.

At first it felt odd that the first song I would fully experience after this tragedy would be "Mortal Man." But its core message, questioning if our legacy will outlive our life, was too powerful for me to be ignore. Over one-hundred lives were abruptly taken; hundreds of individual legacies were ended.

We are all mortal men and women. Our time on this planet is limited, the starting shot was fired long ago, and the finish line can be around any corner waiting for us. What we make of this journey is in our hands – mostly, but unfortunately not at any given time. It's obvious and I know it sounds very clichéd, but there's a constant threat that every trip can be our last, every car drive might introduce us to the final seconds of our life, hell, even the next first step out of bed in the morning might be one too many.

Tragedies like the one that happened in Paris have once again awakened me out of my immortal dreams, falsely believing that unlimited time belongs to us. It breaks my heart that the people who passed cannot continue life the way they planned, cannot continue making an active difference for the people and worlds around them.

Higher powers have permitted me to continue chasing whatever dreams I set for myself, the ghost of my own legacy is permitted to keep growing. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to write, if I wanted to write anything at all. Eventually I decided to get this off my chest.

These words are dedicated to those souls the world lost, souls that were greeted by mortality this past Friday. May their voices forever become our earth and moons. 

[Kevin Taylor is an aspiring music writer and master of the killer crossover. This is his Twitter. Image via Instagram.]



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