Chapter 6 – Free like that

“Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission.” Anonymous
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Viktor E. Frankl

After many nights awake reading I understood that for decades the years of decadence and self-centred living have finally taken their toll. I had spoken about it and rapped about it. The years of compromise had finally had their effect and like a snake lying in wait for their prey have finally bitten back. And now we have reached the moment of truth, the tipping point: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming irrelevant to those who need us most. Even with the great technological advances we can so easily become a generation that repeats the mistakes of the previous generation. That is why this is a call to all rhymers to all those who desire to have a voice to stand up. I was a father and rhymes about material possessions and killing, or girls were of no interest.

It was all about bringing wisdom. Since the early 1960s until today, divorce has not decreased it has only increased. Teen suicide has exploded and the age of those who have accepted this as a viable option is getting younger. Now some are even making online pacts and have organised suicide groups. That is why the ‘Message’ by Melle Mel has even more relevance to this generation, ‘it’s like a jungle sometimes.’ How sad that some children feel the world is better off without them. We all miss out, as their potential is never realised. We now have cyber bullies and cyber predators trying to exploit the vulnerable online. Violent crime has gone through the roof, the prison population has out grown the prisons, the percentage of babies born without stability has risen, and the end is not in sight. We have more families living in poverty and that is not acceptable or comfortable as I write this. The last generation’s rebellion has become our generation’s curse, what was unthinkable thirty years ago today we live with and we have the daytime talk shows to prove it. We are desensitised too so much that would cause past generations to respond in protest and uproar. I have witnessed the innocence of children lost at lower ages at each governmental change. Now they want to teach relationships to juniors that are from eight years old.

We live in the age of self, with self-help books flooding the market; we are encouraged to go it alone. I started rapping to bring worlds together now I was seeing next door neighbours so far apart it was frightening. In a time of mistrust, the wedge of division is driven further between communities. Since 9/11 and 7/7 we have a new group to target our mistrust. In the 70’s and 80’s it was the black communities. In the 90’s it was the Asian community, now it’s Muslims who are the target of our mistrust.

We cannot fall into the trap of acting as if we are the centre of the world. Just because we exist in separate bodies, with our own private thoughts and our own private feelings that nobody else can hear or sense. Just because this causes indifference in us to the needs and feelings of others, we can’t remain like this without recognizing the connection we have with each other. It’s the butterfly effect, a butterfly moving its wings in Brazil cause a reaction that leads to an event on the other side of the planet. What we do affects others and when we pursue our dreams it strengthens others. I wasn’t built to exist on my own; I have always felt the need to be a part of something.

My style, language and culture has often been described as street. It is where I found belonging and a sense of purpose. Hip hop gave me somewhere to go, something to do and we had pioneers to show us the way. But now my identity was on the line, my purpose, I needed something to live for. I have seen enough death, of aspirations which leads to a loss of life. All I wanted was to be accepted for who I was. Society didn’t recognise me, but the streets did. Hip hop gave me the GPS coordinates to navigate my way through. I watched as friends chased after street recognition in other ways. Some found belonging and validation in gangs. They found the stability and safety they weren’t getting at home. They would protect their new-found family by any means. We felt the disaffection of the national curriculum, the aspiration killer. If we couldn’t run fast, sing, rap, deejay or kick a ball you felt compelled to become a street player. Hollywood glamourised it and rappers rapped about it, it seemed like a viable option to get paid. With no support or return to a formal lifestyle, the informal lifestyle appealed and suddenly those who have been limited their whole lives felt powerful. We became the stereotype that an institutionally racist society feared. When they stop and searched us it made us feel more justified and entrenched within this mindset. The line was drawn, this was who I was, it is what I identified with. This darkness cultivated my anger. Too many were in and out of prison. Live fast and die young seemed like a great way to go. I hated the system because I believed the system hated me. I was headed nowhere fast and I wanted out. We all desire to know who we are, what giftings we have and what we can contribute. Within a system that desires control we stifle the very freewill that sets us apart from all of creation.

If my experience is to be defined by loneliness and separation, then I have failed in what I set out to achieve. That would mean my impact was incomplete, unsettled and unfulfilled, this could lead me to try and fill the holes in my life. This need may produce feelings of insecurity, and the desire to fill that hole with whatever will put an end to the pain. Some will try to silence the pain with whatever numbing agent is close at hand, alcohol or drugs, non-stop work, or, a pattern of controlled behaviour. Others choose religion, it can be a very vulnerable time, you have to be aware of being exploited. I had to realise that there was more going on than what I consciously recognised. Could this be the eternal struggle taking place? Was there a bigger picture and if so what was it?

When I studied slavery, it led me on a journey. A journey at times I didn’t want to be on, one that I knew would impact me deeply. The injustice and ferocity of the greed struck at my heart. Why did this happen? Why am I still facing the worldview that somehow, I am lesser due to my cultural heritage?

The national Front had a chant, ‘There ain’t no black in the union jack.’ Black men and women were the subject of vile abuse. I remember my mum telling me. She was on her way to work, a man asked her the time. Before she could respond, he said, ‘time to go home darky.’ Football players were lambasted for doing their jobs, bananas were thrown onto the pitch, monkey chants from the stands. Cyril Regis was sent a bullet on his England call up. I took their hate and it fired me up. I wrote a track called ‘The dancefloor Shakes.’ The chorus was ‘Their ain’t no black in the union jack, their ain’t no black in the union jack, their ain’t no black in the union jack, so their ain’t no way I’ll stand under that.

All my experiences were coming together in a painful crescendo. I launched myself into reading as much as I could. It shaped my understanding. In the beginning it fuelled my anger, slowly it drove me towards the truth. I was inspired by the strength of the slaves. How they maintained their dignity in the most horrendous of conditions. In all what was done to them, they held onto their freewill to choose. I have no excuse; true freedom is knowing regardless of my circumstance I can choose my response, it is my power to choose.

“Violence is already active here; it is built into the very structure of the existing society. If we seek a world in which men do the least possible violence to each other (which is to state just the negative of it), then we are committed not simply to try to avoid violence ourselves, but to try to destroy patterns of violence which already exist.”

Barbara Deming

I have always wanted the truth and now was no different. Sometimes I had to remind myself of the impact my rhymes have made to give extra fuel to go on. I would find encouragement like everyone through positive words. For me, I feel blessed that what started in my heart has now translated into an innumerable amount of hearts. Reaching further than a sole voice could travel, across the country and around the globe.

“Like a bird in the sky I’m free like that.
Uniquely created I be like that.
20 20 vision, I see like that.
Cause I’m free like that, so I live like that.
Loving money is more addictive than crack.
Loving things are more seductive than lack.
We love things that don’t love back.
Desire runs deep and it’s like that.
Name brands, so many fast cars.
Big ballers, ghetto superstars.
Add a strap to desire like that.
No ways to make a raise, kids gonna react.
We been telling you for years bout that.
You choose to ignore it, while it stays black.
I done tell you that I roll like that.
I speak like that, cause I’m free like that”.

There seems to be a strategy to lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of fight is gone. It is seeking to lure us into a form of living that has no power, it is more like existing. Fear cannot and should not stop us; fear cannot stop us singing that song that is burning in our hearts. If we don’t take a stand now, if we don’t rise and speak and act now, then instead of being liberated we will see more innocent lives destroyed. Our society is deteriorating all around us the question I ask is why? It’s because we have been side-tracked and distracted by the love of materialism at the expense of our youth. As a result, we have not impacted our generation. We have fallen asleep, and we have lost the capacity to use our God given gifts. Rather than making a difference in our world, rather than being free we are trapped. Rather than making a difference we have become indifferent and the world has made us different.

Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random; we are not here, that we may go to bed at night, and get up in the morning, work for our bread, eat and drink, laugh and joke, sin when we want, repent when we are tired of sinning, raise a family and die. God sees every one of us; He creates every soul for a purpose.

, John Henry Newman.

“So, keep your anger in check and control that.
Daddies not around man he bailed like that.
Never follow in his footsteps or replay that.
Be a father to yours and man it up like that.
It takes a man to raise a man kid I understand that.
Respect to the mothers who stand like that.
They tuff it out in the ends and cover upl the cracks.
And still they get the blame for what the yout man lacks.
So many wanna blame us for the music.
Take a look on the streets what’s abusive.
I see the anger in the youth dem hittin this.
So many missin this, youts dem resistin this.
When truth hits your heart, you’ll be dissin this.
Make you wonder what the Free world mission is.
Can’t you see that I roll like that?
I speak like that, cause I’m free like that”.

What else should we do? Our presence must be felt? Shouldn’t we make a difference? Are we not the writers of history? This is our moment this is our time. If we free ourselves from the things that hold us back, from our lusts, addictions, and our obsessions and give ourselves over to the purposes of God, we can shake this nation. We are the history makers and world shakers, we who are prepared to rise above the status quo. The fire starters need to spark the flame. The revolution began when people said, “something is missing. Something is wrong. There must be something more than this.” There must be something more than eating and drinking, working and sleeping. There must be something more than simply getting a good education so that you can find a good job and have a good family so that your kids can get a good education and find a good job and have a good family so that their kids can get a good education. There must be something more than the education taught to keep us dumb. This was the spark that caused me to find my voice.

“Create something out of nothing and that’s a fact.
Able to act at will and I do that.
Stay free of all restraints how you liking that.
Freedom is a state where still finding that.
We need to live the truth, I believe in that.
Not popular opinion we can’t do that.
Political correctness, what is that.
Treat a man like a man don’t patronize like that.
So many stories that never get told.
Government promises never hit road.
They always flip the script like that.
Vote for freaks like that, that lie like that.
Success we gotta plan like that.
If you aim at nothing you’re gonna hit that.
I be what I believe like that.
For real like that, where free like that”.

What is it to be free? Free from the opinions of others. Free from the limitations they place on you. Free from the expectations that people set and assume you can’t go beyond. Free to be yourself without the fear of being ridiculed because you don’t conform to their preconceived idea. Free from the stereotypes that have been enforced on us to keep us back. Free to be the best I can be. Within Hip Hop I experienced a real sense of belonging. The restrictions that society placed on me were removed. It sparked a desire within me.

The spiritual path – is simply the journey of living our lives. Everyone is on a spiritual path; most people just don’t know it.

Marianne Williamson

We are all on a journey, knowing or unknowing. Some are walking at a slow pace, others a little faster, and some are even running. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you make progress. And you are making progress, as you keep on moving. Everything is a lesson and every lesson helps you take another step on your spiritual journey.