Death is the enemy that only knows how to take. He will take the lives of the weak and the strong, the bad and the good, but it’s when he takes someone that we all look upon with eyes of admiration, a walking monument of excellence, magic personified, the world unites to weep.
When A$AP Yams died, Twitter was flooded with 140 characters of tears. The news crumbled hearts and souls, it was a slow, heavy and sad downpour of feelings, the result of group mourning. Seeing so many people bear that much pain made me realize just how much he brought to the world beyond the success of A$AP Rocky. There was one less heartbeat that touched the culture and those that he did touch couldn’t help but express their grief together.
Retchy P said it should’ve been Flo Rida, it should’ve been Roscoe Dash, it should’ve been Wale. No one can tell you how to deal with death, but to express a want to swap living souls for a dead friend is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. There was no response from Roscoe, no response from Flo Rida, but when Wale responded their back and forth made headlines. A confrontation that has had a strange lasting impact.
Each time a notable name in music passes, there’s a string of, “Should’ve been” tweets. It’s a meme, one guaranteed to gets laughs and retweets, which is why it continues. Tyga, the entire clan of Kardashians, almost anyone that the internet collectively hates and loathes has their name thrown in. Especially Wale. Searching his name next to anyone that has died is eye-opening. The internet is a jungle, there’s no rules or restrictions, no laws or lines that won’t be crossed, no one is safe from the slander or Jordan’s crying face. Even in death, there’s no mercy.
Wale is a celebrity that is always on Twitter, he’s aware of what is being said about him at all times, the good and the bad. He cares, more than most. A gift and a curse to be openly vulnerable in a space where your money and celebrity is supposed to make you invincible.
Lucas sent me a tweet the day Prince died. It was a RT that was deleted within moments of the posting. The tweet said, “If Wale dies today, Legend.” Wale’s response, “Thank u. Y’all have contributed to a lot of my issues. Here’s ur RT. It’ll happen soon.”
I believe the tweet was trying to articulate that death would immortalize Wale as a legend too, but after having his mentions flooded with “It should’ve been Wale” in light of Prince’s death, just like every death before that, he didn’t see it that way. All he saw was another tweet from a faceless stranger who was wishing death upon him. It made me realize how harsh it must be to see that every time someone passes away. How can you grieve about Prince with the world when your mentions are a campsite of people expressing their wish that it was you? Prince, Bank Roll Fresh, Phife Dawg, and Sean Price, with each passing idol, he had to face them once again.
Sure, Wale could cut off his phone, delete his Twitter, count his money and move on with his life. Have you given up the internet? It's easy to say when you aren’t staring down the barrel, having to wonder why you were selected for the torrent of negativity. You can put a steak on a black eye, but what’s the remedy for your brain when being haunted by the comments of faceless strangers?
I once read a comment that stuck with me, long after I closed my computer and logged out of my phone, I couldn’t wash away the words, it felt emblazoned on my flesh. So imagine being famous, trying to escape those thoughts. Especially when those thoughts are about putting you in a casket to take someone else out. If another writer died tomorrow and I had to scroll through 20 or 30 mentions of “It should've been Yoh,” I'd like to believe I could shake off. If another writer dies and then another and then another, scrolling through those 20 or 30 mentions every time, I would crumple.
In 2016, the keyboard is mightier than the sword. 140 characters can make a man feel like a God or an ant. We all need thicker skin to survive in this jungle. I also believe that we should treat each other better. We forget that these words are being read by real people. I don't think the intent is malicious, it's more like a thoughtless joke that has gone too far. Any harm that's done isn't seen, so it's as if there's no harm done at all. I remember when Wale spoke about suicide on The Breakfast Club and because Meek Mill was upset about a comment he made, he took that very serious confession and made an insensitive remark. Any weakness online is ammunition.
I’m not trying to police what’s said online. I’ve been insensitive and callous, I’ve laughed at some very cruel and mean jokes. We’re human, there isn’t anyone among us that wears the halo of a saint. Yet there has to be a point where we look in the mirror and realize not everything has to be turned into a meme. Death is the most powerful force in our lives, which is why we feel so compelled to laugh it off, minimize it with humor. As an isolated joke it's perhaps not harmful, but when repeated thousands of times, from thousands of people, month after month after month, how could it not make a man crack?
Words are the only weapon that matter in cyberspace, wield yours wisely.