I have always relied on music to dictate my moods and tell the story of what is going on in my life. I love creating playlists for all of my life’s events. I feel like I am always the designated car DJ when riding with friends and I’m not ashamed to admit that I have active subscriptions to Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music like they all don’t offer the same thing. I feel that music plays one of the more vital roles in making everything click. Even when it has nothing to do with the actual music itself, but the message that is behind it.
In 2017, Drake dropped his “playlist” More Life to great reviews and it’s a good and cohesive listen from top to bottom (hence the word playlist instead of “mixtape” or “album”). Passionfruit is just one of those records that does not make sense to listen to while you are in the middle of artic weather in DC due to its summer island vibes. The wave that comes over you when you hear the flutes and the bass kick on the Travis Scott and Quavo-assisted Portland is undeniably satisfying. But I am not here to talk about More Life, Drake or even how one of his records sound for that matter.
It’s the advice from his mom at the end of track 17’s Can’t Have Everything that grabbed my attention. Drake added a voicemail from his mother who was not only concerned from a mental health standpoint, but offered what is needed to achieve future goals for the sake of his own personal sanity. It is not only insightful, but as someone who experiences mood swings from anxiety disorder, gives you the kick in the ass that only a mother who loves their child can give.
If you have never heard the song or the particular voicemail, here is the transcript of what she said:
“You know, hun, I'm a bit concerned about this negative tone that I'm hearing in your voice these days. I can appreciate where your uncertainty stems from and you have reason to question your anxieties and how disillusioned you feel, as well as feeling skeptical about who you believe you can trust. But that attitude will just hold you back in this life, and you're going to continue to feel alienated. Give some thought to this, because I’m confident in you, and I know you can reach your desired destination and accomplish your goals much more quickly without this confrontation I'm hearing in your tone these days. When others go low, we go high.”
This voicemail registers with me for a number of reasons. First, I know that I can be the king of negativity and having a negative tone. From dealing with past trauma and coming to grips with how I talk and deal with people, it’s easy just to keep them on the outside looking in and express myself in a way that brings other people down. It’s a coping mechanism and not understanding that my voice carries weight whether I would like to think so or not.
My anxieties, disillusions and internal skepticism has been well documented here and elsewhere. I stick to an extremely tight circle and privatize my life the best I can, because nine times out of ten, I don’t trust you. And once you prove you cannot be trusted, you will forever be on the outside looking in when it comes to getting to know me.
My personal disillusions has more to do with being an African American in a space where African Americans are not designed to win, achieve and be the best that we can be. When I was younger and living in Lynchburg where everything was overwhelmingly white, conservative and one-sided, you learn to be more of a fly on the wall when it comes to dealing with people who look nothing like you.
I refused to be whitewashed, but at the same there was a level of uneasiness knowing that many people out there (even today) do not see all people as their equal. Even with this current political landscape, many people (that aren’t black) have found a way to make themselves believe that they are oppressed in an effort take America back to what it once was or “Make America Great Again.”
This level of constant and negative thoughts when it comes to dealing with people is exhausting and not healthy. It took a lot of time, therapy and being around people that understood my personal goals in order to get me to be more comfortable with the idea of creating more for myself and opening up my past, present and future. Just like what Ms. Graham said to her son when he was questionably going through a tough time navigating his career and personal relationships, those negative attitudes only hold us back in life. By allowing myself to only be a fly on the wall in certain situations, I was only alienating myself and making things more difficult instead of creating a solution for myself and possibly others.
My family, friends and collaborators in business have the confidence that we can change the landscape when it comes to helping people, changing the conversation on tough topics and at the same time provide for ourselves and our families. It will be a tough battle, but also an exciting and creative one. Having people like Drake’s mom who have that level of understanding of what is needed to push past mental barriers and accomplishing goals, will only improve the likelihood that that you will get to where you want to be.