Lauryn Hill, Nas & Dave: Why We Need Art During Times Of Crisis

Updated: Feb 20

Yesterday I watched a clip of Afghani people at an airport escaping towards a Plane that is taking off after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan & the American military was leaving the nation. Many of them tried hanging onto the landing gear of a US military plane, I watched as human bodies plummeted to the concrete from the air, all instantly presumed dead. I could come here & give you a well informed partusan speech about how the democrats fumbled or the republicans started it, I could give you my thoughts on US involvement in the middle east, or Soviet involvement, I could sit here, intellectualize this matter & pretend to be a political pundit like Bill Maher or something, but I would be lying to you.


I have never in my life seen human bodies hanging off the wing of a plane & falling from the sky, outside of the movies. I could not conceptualize the anticipated living conditions that would lead someone to that level of fear, that they would hold on to the wing of a plane in order to escape the nation, to get to a foreign land they've never seen. I have gone through a vast array of emotions about what I have seen & none of them are political. That video has seemingly been branded on my brain with an iron, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. Particularly because I was just on a flight a few weeks back.


The cabin crew did all of the necessary take off procedures, they told us about the locations of the masks in case their was turbulence, they flashed the seatbelt sign, we were told in case of an emergency to wear our masks first before helping someone else, we watched a soothing video that showed us all of the nearest exits on the plane, & then suddenly the pilot came on the P.A. system. They would not let us leave because the baggage on our flight belonged to passengers that didn’t make the flight. So there was a 45 minute delay, until the baggage was safely taken off the plane & given back to its rightful owners who happened to sleep in late that day. That was how much consideration the pilot gave for the bags on the plane.


Where was that level of consideration for human life? Why did the pilot take off? There are so many ways to prevent a pileup of humanity. Stadiums are able to control hundreds of thousands of people, why couldn't the American military contain them? Where was the humanity? The pilot treated them like he was a kid with a magnifying glass & they were ants. It was disturbing to say the least. That’s why I can’t give you a political opinion, I don’t see this as a bipartisan political issue. Those were human beings, entire stories, aspirations & ambitions, peoples brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, & children. I see this as a continuation of an incorrect way of being.


When there is turmoil in the world, I often seek solace in the arts. Politics & corporate media will try to intellectualize & politicize human life, & turn human lives into political games, but the arts are where we go to hear truth, empathy & how things feel.


Nas' Kings Disease II album did not disappoint in my pursuit of solace in the arts, it contained as much substance as you can expect from a Nas album. Nas did his thing but Lauryn Hills verse on the album was the most accurate analysis of a problem that truly reflects the times we live in. The duo performed their song 'Nobody' & truly showed what Hip Hop was originally made for over the smoothest instrumental. Lauryn Hill said “there’s so much crisis in this world because you reap what you sow” It’s a biblical proverb that truly represents the times.


I don’t believe bipartisan politics is going to solve the perils we face as mankind. That's why we need true artists. Art-making and viewing art allows us to process our experiences. Art helps us to express and to understand the world around us. Lauryn Hills verse states that people have disregarded life & nature, they've disregarded science, they've disregarded empathy, they've disregarded beauty, they've devalued human beings, & certain people have been greedy, self serving & selfish on a societal scale, in all facets of life, for far too long & unfortunately, you reap what you sow.


Lauryn Hill emphasizes the way of the future as harmonizing with the way of being. It's really the only way to survive. Individual greed, colonialism, barbarism & an unsophisticated understanding of beauty & luxury, have created the modern broken world. You can either follow the correct way of being, or you can keep fighting & sinking like quicksand, holding on to old models & standards of thinking & being.


Certain business interests have created clearly avoidable problems our modern world faces because they were being selfish, with souls like that pilots, which are so clearly bankrupt of any sophisticated sense of morality, beauty, empathy or humanity. It's savage. Only a sociopath could take this beautiful planet & go out of their way to make it ugly for their own gain. In the same way only a sociopath would prevent an entire gender from educating themselves & bettering their societies, because these people want to exert force over other people, its the same inclination across the board.


If America's radicalization of the Taliban represents someone doing wrong & having it backfire against them, Lauryn Hill's story is the perfect representation of how an individual can do good & stand in truth, inside of a corrupt system, regardless of what your society's value systems are, & ultimately having it work out because through time, the truth always prevails.


Lauryn Hill was told to abort her child by a corrupt entertainment industry, told to strip & become a parody of herself, for an industry that would then start off the infamous me-too movement, full of rapists & pedophiles. But originally, society looked at Lauryn Hill as crazy, why wouldn’t she just put herself in predicaments she was uncomfortable with for large sums of money. They went through decades of media smear campaigns against Lauryn Hill, countless lawsuits, but ultimately, the truth prevailed. Many of the executives that were around at that time have been Me-Too'd & fired, and she's working on her own pace, making music that stands amongst her greatest, which is truly saying something. She didn't need to sacrifice her morals & become a caricature of herself, and she's telling us we don't have to either. This verse showed growth & experience. What was wrong was wrong, & the person who was right prevailed in the end.


"All my time has been focused on my freedom now

Why would I join 'em when I know that I can beat 'em now?

They put their words on me, and they can eat 'em now

That's probably why they keep on tellin' me I'm needed now

They tried to box me out while takin' what they want from me

I spent too many years living too uncomfortably

Making room for people who didn't like the labor

Or wanted the spoils, greedy, selfish behavior

Now let me give it to you balanced and with clarity

I don't need to turn myself into a parody

I don't, I don't do the shit you do for popularity

They clearly didn't understand when I said "I Get Out" apparently

My awareness like Keanu in The Matrix

I'm savin' souls and y'all complainin' 'bout my lateness

Now it's illegal for someone to walk in greatness

They want the same shh, but they don't take risks

Now the world will get to see it's own reflection

And the anointed can pursue their own direction

And if you're wrong and you're too proud to hear correction

Walk into the hole you dug yourself, fuck a projection

See me in my freedom taking all my land back

They sent a lot against me thinking I'd just stand back

I got my legs beneath me, I got my hands back

A lot of people sabotaged, they couldn't stand that

I turned the other cheek, I took blow after blow

There's so much crisis in the world 'cause you reap what you sow

When you keep what you know is meant for someone else

The ditch you dig for them, you might just end up in yourself

I'm in the secret place, I keep a sacred space

They keep showin' their hands, but keep hidin' their face

If I'm a messenger, you block me then you block the message

So aggressive, the world you made is what you're left with

Pride and ego over love and truth is fucking reckless

Y'all niggas got a death wish, the stupid leaves me breathless"


Lauryn is telling us how the issues she went through in her personal life represent a bigger monster, that is our system as it exists today & all of the problems that are presenting themselves now, have always been there & they're etched deep in the pillars holding this system up. You can’t tell someone to abort their child to get on TV so they can be more marketable, in the same way that you can't ship human bodies from another country to use them as beasts of burden, & you can't commit a genocide on the members of a land & then attempt to brainwash them & eradicate them for generations. There’s just a wrong way of being & you’ll only get away with it for so long, the foundation can't stand because it's built on feet of clay.


You can’t take what's not yours, you can’t dig holes for people, you’ll end up falling in it yourself. You can't manipulate, enslave, brainwash & subjugate people. Lauryn Hill's verse is a reminder to the whole system, that is powered by individuals fueled by greed, that there is a correct way of being & you’ll only get away with being incorrect for so long before the whole system collapses on you.


As a generation that is what this pandemic is teaching us. You can only get away with being exploitative, selfish, greedy & barbaric for so long, that does not create a lasting peace. You plant as many seeds as you require, you give back to the land, you feed the soil, it’s a whole cycle & process of being that we’ve disregarded since industrializing that’s coming back to haunt us.


You can’t just destroy ecosystems, you can't just disregard life, you can’t just make habitats ugly, you can’t just kill people & take what’s not yours, you can't enslave & oppress people, you can’t just litter & throw your waste in the water. You have to give back, you can’t just take, you need to build in harmony with the environment, the social environment as well as the broader nature. In the end the people will rise up & nature will repair itself. Ultimately, those are the forces that will prevail.


Not everyone in the military is morally bankrupt, not everyone in the police is soulless, not everyone that works in an oil rig is trying to destroy the planet, but that Pilot specifically was definitely morally bankrupt & soulless, that was subhuman reptilian behaviour, same as Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyds neck. At the root of it all, that is what we're fighting. These people with these warped perceptions of reality, these Patrick Bateman types that inhabit every nook & cranny of this planet, whether they're world leaders, Terrorist militias, abusive supervisors at factories, policemen or pilots, they disregard human life, they've never experienced beauty, they've never felt love, & they're driven by the least sophisticated, least noble, least moral, & basest of animalistic impulses. They are to be pitied, they have a false understanding of what it means to be human. Whatever demons that pilot is dealing with are much bigger than that moment, they inhabit his life.


Dictators are individuals, they present themselves across all spectrums of society. Another piece of art that gave me solace during this time and perfectly encapsulates this point is Dave's album 'We're All Alone in This Together.' The album is a heavy listen, Dave dives into his war torn mother nation Nigeria, the broader issues happening in Africa, being a part of the diaspora, having a mother who was a refugee and her experience, & the totality of the struggle of politically oppressed peoples around the world.


I was in Paris for a week & my Apple Music wouldn't play anything but this album, I am also a member of the African diaspora with a nation currently going through a civil war & I was surrounded by so many other members of the Parisian African diaspora whose journey was mirrored on this project, so this album truly hit home, & I was given plenty of time to digest this album. The album delves into some heavy topics, one of them being how the inclination to be a dictator is a trait within individuals that needs to be tamed.


The second verse on the 5th track, 'Three River' was one of the most poignant points made in a deep & at times surprisingly fun album filled with many talented MCs. Dave has never shied from making political points but this was talking about the struggle of all oppressed people, & people who migrate to other nations in order to avoid a totalitarian regime, but ending up that same oppressive regime within their own homes, because they were that same dictator all along. The dictator is within individuals, it's in the abusive husband or wife, the manipulative executive, the controlling narcissistic employers, disregard for humanity, empathy & care presents itself in all facets of life & the inclination is much bigger & more sophisticated than one bad guy, or a group of bad guys owning a nation.


"Look, imagine a world that's flawed and full of evil

Where dictators and leaders are persecutin' your people

The bodies of the innocents are pilin' to the steeples

The ironic part is they're preyin' on the feeble

That's life in the 90s, you're Eastern European

And you're seein' people dyin' 'cause they're fightin' for their freedom

They show you violence for havin' a voice

You move out with your kids in hope of havin' a choice

Life throws you a spanner, you can't handle the pain

So you gamble and you drink and then you gamble again

You argue with your wife and then you sleep on the couch

You hit your children and start freezin' 'em out

You try and work things out, but it's never the same

All the women in your household are livin' afraid

When you look into the mirror you're reminded again

That you've become the dictator you were fightin' against"


The dictator inclination is in the individual who disregards life and wants to subjugate others, these people exert force over people, so they can control & manipulate people. That inclination is wrong, dangerous & needs to be fought if we see it manifesting within ourselves. Life should be regarded as the highest value, empathy should be rewarded, the goal should be harmony. We should not want to exert force over each other, we should not want leaders that exert their force over us, the wellbeing of human beings should be at the top of whatever value system you abide by. We are meant to work in harmony with each other & with nature, from an individual basis, to a communal level, to the workplace, to our nations, to our urban design, agricultural systems, political systems, educational systems, systems of governance, & armed forces, the system should work for the betterment & wellbeing of all people, of all backgrounds, in harmony with nature, not the destruction of nature for the subjugation of people & the benefit of the few.


Totalitarianism always backfires, & it's an instinct that we have to fight in ourselves. The Earth is just fixing itself & its our job to adapt with it, not to fight it. Those in power who refuse to change will perish, but those that will remain will have to adapt. Nature is not our enemy, the Western Canon is driven by the Man vs Nature Moby Dick story, but Nature can’t have us as opponents if we’re a part of it. We exist as part of it, it’s like the mud thinking it's battling nature. It’s a ridiculous premise. You can’t get away with living incorrectly, it’s never been more evident. You can't design oppressive experiences for humans & expect it not to eventually backfire. Greedy & selfish totalitarians may look like they're momentarily winning but they never win. The only way to be is to, on an individual level, avoid bankrupting our own individual soul, always having empathy for human beings, appreciating & valuing human beings, appreciating beauty, nature & culture. That has to be our main mode of being if we're going to exist on this planet, any other way only leads back to chaos & its evident.


What good is having a mansion on hills that are burning? Keep it real, maintain equanimity, adapt as necessary, seek & create beauty & love, on an individual level, take as much as you need & always give back, live in harmony with humans & nature. Never get to a point where you're the pilot that takes off with human bodies on the wing of your plane.


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