It was Valentine’s Day. I stood in the V.I.P. area, surrounded by joyous faces and ambitious strippers, my pockets filled with Washingtons. Celebrating the birthday of a woman I didn’t know, the cousin of a friend’s friend, but I was too sober to carelessly indulge in their festivities. The music was bad, the strippers were average, and I started to zone out.
Somehow I found myself thinking about how we would die. I looked at a stripper covered in fluorescent lights. She was rocking lime green stilettos with the body of a basketball mistress and doing the same acrobatics that killed Dick Grayson’s parents. She was beautiful, but the worms would feast on her one day. They will devour the man across from me buying the manufactured lust of a young woman with his old money. They will chew on the cigar smoking, suit wearing, drunk buffoon who keeps screaming “Turn up!” in my ear. While everyone threw their money, I sat in the rainstorm with death, wondering when wondering how and wondering why.
Hours after the club, five miles away from my home, my friend fell asleep behind the wheel. It was 4:30 A.M., we both were fatigued from a long night, and I was hoping my playlist of bouncy hits would keep us awake. We were on a bridge, the right side of the car ran up the concrete sidewalk. I freaked out, yelling his name, he awoke and swerved back onto the road, but not before a loud bang confirmed a tire was flat. The car could’ve flipped over. If another car was coming, it could have been a fatal collision. I could hear the laughter of hidden Gods.
When If You’re Reading This dropped, I stayed stuck on Drake's "Legend." It wasn’t riddled with bars, the singing wasn’t anything glorious, but Drake has a way of making the simplistic captivating. I played it again, and again, stuck on the fact that Aubrey Graham has death on the mind. Drake’s music is about ex-girlfriends, strippers, stripper ex-girlfriends, Toronto, Houston and stripper ex-girlfriends from Houston, but his music has never entertained the thought of death. He lives a life defined by carpe diem but “Legend” showed that mortality is weighing on his mind. Drake raps with sureness as if he’s cemented in the game, but there’s no way he can be sure about the moment after his last breath. Neither can I. Rapper, artist or construction worker, we all we fear the day we can’t predict. Maybe that’s why Drake is taking blades to see women, celebrating so hard with his woes. He even said it on “Now & Forever,” “I'm afraid I'mma die before I get where I'm going.” It’s unavoidable, no amount of money and celebrity will save you from an expiration date. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls Drake.
Biggie knew death, spoke of death, and slept with death. He dedicated both his album titles to the natural quietus. His lifestyle inspired his way of thinking, living and dying by the gun. If he goes, you got to go. Even before Pac’s death, it felt like he was riding shotgun with the reaper. Pac was ready, welcoming the mortal surprise around the corner. He had heart, guts—a man that didn’t fear the scythe. We glorify these two, they’re our heroes that left too soon. When they died, we mourned like the loss of family members. Both spent their careers with death next to them in the studio, shouting her out with their middle fingers up.
When I think about death I think about Kendrick Lamar. We know where he came from, an environment where the ground is soaked with blood, death is a cloud that doesn’t stop raining. A song like “Sing About Me,” that last verse, it’s truly chilling. He poses a question that sits on the rim of our thoughts. Will I be remembered? Am I worth remembering?
JAY Z doesn’t have this infatuation with death, Kanye only speaks of the deaths that surround him, not his own. How many of our favorite stars haven’t allowed death's bony hand into their music? Who wants to dwell on such a negative topic? Flying Lotus does. Flying Lo created an entire album centered on death, he dives into the river Styx, and truly captures an experience that is bone chilling. Combine instrumentals and various vocalists, he embarks on a journey to the otherworld from every angle. There are moments where you truly feel sadness, despair, enlightenment and then peace. It feels like what I imagine death will feel like.
I can’t imagine waking up to headlines of Drake’s death. The way Twitter kills celebrities, my first reaction would be disbelief. How would the world react? Who would attend his funeral? How many of his ex-girlfriends will come out the woodworks, confessing how great of a person he was? How would I react? I don't know. Drake has a line on the song “Fear” that I absolutely love, “I never cried when Pac died, but I probably will when Hov does." Only Drake would openly admit he will weep when Jay passes, but honestly, maybe I will too. It’s hard to fathom, dealing with death isn’t like a video game, there isn’t any reset button. These are our idols, but they aren’t immortal. Everyone is getting older, growing nearer to the inevitable. Death and art are intertwined—creation and destruction.
I’ve been writing full-time for a few years, supporting upcoming artists, but in my short history, I’ve only known one artist to pass away. He went by Avionadramida, an artist from Maryland who was in the Kool Klux Klan. We never met, barely tweeted each other, but I thought he had immense talent. I remember the day I saw the news on Twitter, I remember thinking it was a joke, and I remember the feeling of emptiness once I realized it was true. He had just turned 18 a few months before, too young to drink, old enough to die. I never thought there would be a day that I wouldn’t get a submission for a new mixtape, that I wouldn’t be posting his new single. He wasn’t killed in a drive by or stabbed in a bar fight, his life was taken by an epileptic seizure. It still feels unbelievable.
If I die I’m a…I wish I could answer that question. I’ve been in love with the idea of immorality since I started writing, that I would pen something that would outlive my limitations. Lately, I feel that I’m writing too much, that the pieces are paper cuts and not stab wounds. I want to lunge these words into your heart so that my sentences are repeated and regurgitated, passed down like sacred scriptures.
I want to be to writing what Mona Lisa is to art, what Pac is to rap, what Steve Jobs is to technology. Drake wants the same, success in the form of eternity. I’m almost certain the brown skin stripper with the lime green stilettos will outlive us both. She was a true artist. I should’ve tipped her more.
R.I.P Avion. 1032.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Bukowski, aka @Yoh31
Art Credit: HiddenMoves