“We’re being turned into a noun, when the aliveness is in staying a verb” — Mark Nepo
Life is happening. Life has happened, and the goal is to not have my soul sold in the process.
Nostalgia acts as a souvenir , reminding me of who I was and what I felt —through a particular, joyous time period. Who am I to forestall the flow — to repeat chapters of life? Detaching myself from past work is a challenge. My fear is growing up, with no way of reaching levels of excellence that I’ve achieved once before.
I’ve accumulated many attempts of being everyone other than who I am; consider it an identity crisis. “Everyone,” for me, means embodying every version of myself except
Preventing evolution should be a crime. I can look back at past material and spot growth—for better or worse—for the sake of growing in other realms. Typing sentences, I compare the feeling and setting to how I felt when I did it, let’s say, a year ago. Through reflection, I inhibit my growth and attempt to bring back parts of me that have expanded into a deeper purpose.
Drake, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Wale, Kanye West and Kid Cudi, are a handful of artists constantly finding the change in their music. Drake once said this in an interview with Elliott Wilson:
“Do I have to get back to sounding like that? Or, was that a time marker in your life, when you were in college dating this girl and you got that mixtape and nobody knew about Drake… and you want that moment back. I can’t give you that moment anymore. I can keep giving you great music, we can keep growing, we can keep understanding each other; it’s tough for me to go back there.”
Above all, artists are human beings who experience life every day. The aforementioned people are reflective in their writing, continue to evolve, and have their own lives to live. The battleground of fan entitlement is dangerous — believing a creative person must obey their needs.
The gift of sharing art appreciated by others. The curse of sharing art cherished by people, they begin craving ownership of another’s creations — holding onto specific time periods. This isn’t a sitcom and reboots are not necessary, if you choose today over yesterday — an evolution over hindrance.
DJBooth’s Yoh Phillips wrote about artists creating outside of the bubble.
“Does Aubrey know he can make an album without considering what it means to be Drake? Does T.I. understand the trap isn’t his only stomping ground?,” Yoh Wrote. “Does Nicki Minaj know she can embrace an identity not linked to royal hierarchy and Barbie dolls? Is Kanye West aware that he doesn’t have to always be the genius in the room?”
Identity confusion can bring hindrance to growth. Fans shouldn’t dictate an artist’s stride. Doing so will bring harm, no matter the dollar amount. An empty soul isn’t worth the gold. What you live for, is what you’ll die for; don’t live for their acceptance.
Wale’s Free Lunch EP is a confident artist embracing uncertainty, the present moment and reflecting on a journey that will not be repeated —because of growth. He’s grabbed ahold of the mic during a Go-Go show. He’s put the DMV in a different position. He’s made Ambition, More About Nothing, Gifted. His fans bombard his mentions on social media, stating their concerns about his music. In the same sentence, they’ll state what they currently enjoy about his music. If growth was 100% perfect, I could do without such promotion. It’s a journey and it’s not always going to appear pretty. Looking from the outside, it took experiences merging with unfiltered growth for Wale to put together a song like “Right Here.” He’s reflective in the song, but there’s no yearn for what he’s already accomplished.
In a new chapter of his career, with his daughter, Wale‘s movements have shifted. Passionate about his craft, he does still respond to people and their nostalgic requests; the gift and curse of creating these moments that people wish they could bring back. Standing at his doorstep, many attempts to tell him how he should decorate his living room — never had seen the inside of his house–yet suggesting internal processes for external development.
Drake can’t recreate what emotions went into Take Care. Kanye will never make another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. J. Cole isn’t close to the creative mindset of making another Warm Up. It’s selfish to ask this of others, even ourselves. Great times don’t need to be recreated. You can introduce a new moon and stars to your atmosphere and fear not in what your journey may hold.
My fanbase lives in my head. My fans make me question my ability and progress. My fans are the reason it took me months to put this piece of writing together. My fans try to take me back to a point in time that no longer exists for me. My fans are my biggest but worse supporters. That is the gift and curse of nostalgia.
I fell out of love with the writing process and delivered from a place of external confidence — what I thought everyone would enjoy reading. I thought everyone else would enjoy; I fell in love with validation. The external and internal fanbase altered my approach. I fell in love with other parts of me.
My discovery process was not easy. Much like my peers, I don’t like change. Finding other activities and goals made me feel distant from writing — attaching guilt to my growth — adding insecurity to my season of change.
My confidence was bulletproof. I fell in love with the process of creating and I did it all my way. During transitions, I find reflection healthy, but there are hindering factors in play when consumption of past creations fill my mind; I’m competing with my past self, only — the gift and the curse.