It’s increasingly more difficult to care about anything in 2019. Thanks to social media, we are inundated with information overload, and atrocities against humanity, inequality, and bigotry are so pervasive we’ve become desensitized. When the big picture is daunting and intimidating, the refuge of apathy or nihilism starts to look appealing. We all have our reasons for tuning out. Trying to balance caring and staying sane has become a daily challenge.
But I care, a lot.
Since childhood, I’ve struggled with anxiety, which has always made it hard to turn off my mind once I’ve decided to care about an issue. This has led me to be more passive on issues I care about when it comes to direct action; I’ve spoken out rather than engaged.
But talk is cheap. I learned that growing up in New York City. I also learned that people who don’t look like me don’t get the same opportunities. I watched the school to prison pipeline take down people who I grew up with. I watched mental health and drug issues toxify people who I love. I watched fear and bigotry lead our nation. I studied and learned about the context of all this poison; a context of oppression, hatred, and white supremacy upon which our country was founded. I spoke some, but mostly, I watched.
What does speaking out look like in 2019? With the rise of social media, talk is cheaper than ever; anyone can speak on anything, at any time, in any way. And while I’m not saying there’s no power in using your digital voice, or that words can’t sometimes serve as taking action, now more than ever, we are truly defined by what we do rather than just what we say or think. We are not the sum of our thoughts, we are the sum of our actions.
When I stopped to reflect on my personal and career growth over the past few years and then thought about my days and how I spend them and what I actually do, I was like damn, I ain’t really doing shit. I could do a lot more, even if it’s only by doing a little.
“Do The Work,” my new single, is a song about the internal and external work of combating inequality as a person of privilege, told through a first-person lens. It’s a critique of a mindset. I wrote it from the perspective of a character that embodies parts of me but also parts of others I see and hear around me in my generation and beyond.
It might be about you, too, and that’s alright. The inequity of our world is systemic and vast and intimidating as fuck. That might make apathy appealing, but it doesn’t make it acceptable, because we make a lot of small choices every day with how we spend our time, and we could choose to make our small decisions impactful ones.
I initially wrote “Do The Work” because I was fed up with my friend’s social media posts and watching internet arguments and hearing judgmental chatter at parties from fake liberals who treat social justice like white college girls treat Kylie Jenner’s makeup line. The truth is if a Trump supporter and a Bernie supporter both live in the same town, eat at the same McDonald’s, work for the same corporation, and only tweet about political issues from two polarized perspectives, then their net impact on the progression of the world is very close to being the same.
But again, since talk is cheap, I decided to flip the record on myself. I felt challenged to think about how I could be less like the character I created in the song. So I decided to build relationships with three dope non-profits that are actually out here doing the work I care about, collaborating on a week of events (called “WorkWeek”) during the first week of April that catered to their needs.
Sad Girls Club is an online platform and real-life community created to bring girls together who are battling mental illness, ignite conversation, combat stigma, and provide services. Together, we’re working on “Behind the Scene,” a discussion based event centered around creating a dialogue about big stories in hip-hop through the lens of mental health and expanding the mental health conversation to men in a meaningful way.
Building Beats runs after-school music production classes in 30-plus public schools across NYC. Together, we will connect their kids with GRAMMY award-winning producer !llmind, and other industry veterans, who will explain how to take a passion for music and turn it into real-world opportunity.
The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) provides free legal aid to 75,000 New Yorkers a year who need help but can’t afford it. Together, we are throwing a music industry event to create awareness about their work, connect them with potential supporters and partners, and give some of their clients a platform to tell their stories.
None of these events are saving the world. I know that. It’s my hope that a sustained relationship with these organizations will carry into the future; work means most when sustained. But even so, I’m just a broke up-and-coming rapper from Hell’s Kitchen. I’m not about to cure mental health issues, fix public schools, or repair a broken justice system. But I’m tryna do something, and we all gotta start somewhere.
If what we do helps a couple of people then, shit—hopefully we can help five more the next time, and maybe we’ll all learn how to be better in some small ways that can scratch at the boulder of fucked-up-ness in our world. Maybe we’ll be part of making a crack in it one day.
This year my team and I started a movement and lifestyle brand called OUR.S. It’s about the idea that our music, our time, and our future all belong to us—the people. It’s about being empowered to make decisions, ingest culture, and spend dollars in ways that are reflective of the world we want to see. It’s about doing our best to see ourselves as an individual member of a global community. It’s about every person being just as important, regardless of the size of their platform.
All of the “WorkWeek” initiatives are collaborations between the OUR.S movement and the respective organizations. This isn’t about Marlon Craft. I ain’t got the answers, Sway. It’s about issues that we all care about and maybe just aren’t sure how to start working on.
I hope to see you at an event in April, or at a show, or at wherever you’re comfortable being a part of OUR.movement. It really is ours. Time to do some work.
For more information on Marlon Craft's "WorkWeek" events, click here.