Expressing my feelings to others has always felt onerous. Each admission of vulnerability serves as a temporary relief, but it also elicits the realization that another person now has to share the weight of my burden. That’s why I’ve always used music as an alternative to these conversations; time and time again, the work of artists like Saba, Kevin Abstract, and Kid Cudi have communicated my emotions more effectively than I ever could.
Yet in the past few months, I’ve started to open up more to those around me. This process has been trying and uncomfortable, but whenever I feel discouraged, I’m reminded of the unfortunate events—and the inspiring responses to them—in the hip-hop world recently, and I remember how necessary that kind of dialogue is.
Two weeks ago, rising artist Choker, fresh off releasing his impressive sophomore album Honeybloom, took to Twitter to reveal that his close friend had committed suicide just days before the release date. The heartfelt reflection that accompanied the sounds of his pained, Auto-Tuned wailing shed light on the toll the tragedy has taken on the Michigan singer personally:
“You can’t always relate and that’s OK,” Choker concludes. “Relating is not necessary when offering solace; discretion based on genuine concern is plenty. To my friend, I know you were tired. … To everyone out there that’s tired too, please stay.”
Choker’s message is amplified when viewed in the context of his record “St. Mary’s Street,” the closing track on his 2015 debut mixtape Die Slow. The track serves as a brief (yet powerful) journey through a tumultuous life.
“Holding grudges, I wonder why I even bother / Sometimes I hate it all / Sometimes I slip the punch and still catch a broken jaw / I don’t get it.”
And yet, despite it all, Choker is able to maintain a sense of self-assurance in the face of despondency. To end the song, as an empowering trumpet blares, he repeats one line over and over again: “I believe in myself.”
Man, I get it.
When I took a semester off from school in the spring of 2017, I intentionally sought isolation, in the hopes of attaining some semblance of inner peace. But even in such a state of seclusion, in the pursuit of self-betterment, nothing motivated me more than a simple text from a friend drawing me back into the world I left behind, telling me to carry on, or reminding me that I’m appreciated and missed. I now live each day with the aim of providing those around me with the same opportunity to experience the happiness that those messages once gave me.
When it all seems so bleak, I remind myself that I have the ability to look at what I’ve accomplished, from the articles I’ve published to the relationships I’ve fostered, that there are a variety of tangible reasons to believe in myself.
In the opening verse of “Screw Wave,” the ninth track on Honeybloom, Choker communicates his innate gratitude:
“I see myself and thank the spirits / He replies, ‘Don’t mention it’ / But how could I not? / If I could, why would I never?”
I recognize that I am part of the fortunate few. I have been able to turn a series of shortcomings into an appreciation for life. I have the opportunity to count my blessings, to acknowledge those around me who deserve not only to be thanked, but to be cherished.
So how could I not?
Similarly, I also recognize that there are still countless others who have not been able to complete this kind of valuable transformation. And I now have the chance to assume the responsibility that lies before me, to motivate and encourage others on the same path that I once wandered aimlessly along.
So how could I not?
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