Because I like to think I am more musically inclined than the average person, I decided to create a Spotify playlist to describe the complex feelings I have about my last semester and explain the significance of each song. Don’t we all like to feel special?
1. America, the Beautiful by Homeboy Sandman
“Think you the only file in they case load?/This is a crazed unsafe globe, case closed!”
It is no secret the United States of America is in shambles right now. I chose this song because it is an ironic anthem to American dysfunction. I am spending my last semester in a global pandemic that this country has not taken seriously. I am grappling with the brutal exposure of the American political system and how that will affect what my degree means. Homeboy Sandman lists all the rights we have here, saying we should be grateful, but when you think about it, there are always certain groups of people who don’t have some or all of those rights at any given point. I am privileged in ways, and I will be especially so after getting this diploma, but if this pandemic has shown me anything, it is that nothing can promise security.
2. You Can Have It All by George McCrae
“Take it, baby.”
I have been feeling boundless in my abilities. I bring an attitude of healthy entitlement into my semester. This pandemic has genuinely been a blessing for me; I’ve been able to sit down and take the time to understand myself. I have developed skills that make life a little easier for me. As a person suffering low self-worth for a minute, doing these things for myself has been vital. It means I will complete assignments, build skills, and achieve the goals I have been setting for myself.
3. FEAR. by Kendrick Lamar
“At 27 I grew accustomed to more fear.”
“How many accolades do I need to block denial?”
I will have to shed the identity of “student,” and that terrifies me. I fear not having spaces for learning with peers, I fear leaving my student club, I fear stepping out of the circles of support I’ve come to develop. I think my deepest fear is that I am not good enough to survive on my own. In college, there are discernable steps. You either succeed or fail, but you know how to do both, and you can expect one or the other. I fear that I will become a failure without those invisible, guiding hands. I really like the way Kendrick goes through the evolution of fear because it is formless, and it is learned.
4. Conception by Black Thought
“Security is just a whole ‘nother animal/I can’t assume Xanadu had a panic room.”
“No conception’s immaculate, man.”
Throughout my schooling, I’ve been obsessed with security, especially as someone with mediocre grades. When I receive a bad grade, though I expect them, the fear of becoming a “failure” mounts. As someone raised in relative poverty, I want me and my children to be more comfortable and less stressed than my parents had to be. This song reminds me that life is a journey from beginning to end, and everyone has these (frankly) useless worries. As the pandemic reminds us, nothing is secure, safe, or sacred. I am a far better student than I was in 2015, I am improving daily, and that is all I can put my faith into: progress, action, and love. When I listen to this song, I feel like I’m on the way to (see: song 9).
5. Rose in Harlem by Teyana Taylor
“Been through more than a lil’ bit.”
“Nah nah, I ain’t late/I don’t do due dates.”
“That’s just how I was raised/Had to get it out the soil.”
HARLEM WORLD! This song reminds me of the legacy I am honoring as I move through higher education. The women who raised me: my mother, maternal grandmother, and aunts never graduated from college. My maternal grandmother got her GED in her 40s, my mother is still going to school. As I see it, my grandmother toiled so my mother could live better, and my mother toiled so I could live better. Finishing school is a duty that is far bigger, wider, and deeper than my desire for a bachelor’s. I will use my degree to continue the elevation of my lineage, just as my foremothers intended.
6. I Feel a Change by Charles Bradley
“Change is to the bone/Don’t listen what people say.”
Staying true to myself will be a great challenge this semester. I’ve struggled with self-doubt, low self-worth, and imposter syndrome since middle school. For the past couple of years, I’ve been able to see myself without these burdens and live in my truth, albeit sporadically. This pandemic has allowed me to explore my authentic self, embody gratitude for myself, and accept changes in myself. Coming into myself has changed the dynamic in many of my relationships, including my relationship with the University. Back then, I used the University to measure my worth, which was near nothing. Now, I know exactly what I am worth, regardless of being a “bad” student. I knowI can do better because I believein my capabilities, not because I feel I shouldbe doing better to meet a standard.
7. Black Truck by Mareba
“Ooo, I’m not sorry/Stay sick ‘cause I follow my gut/They say I was pushing my luck/Imma push me a matte all-black truck.”
This semester, I will be listening to myself, following my gut, and expressing my artistry in bold, imaginative ways in the face of gut-wrenching fear. I’ve been the one to take the road less traveled, but I’ve also run to the beaten path out of fear. I’ve been called hardheaded; I’ve been described by a mentor as “a troubled child.” I am tired of apologizing for being a burden on parents, teachers, bosses, whomever. What I want from life is different than what is expected of me. It has always been difficult for me to do what my soul doesn’t speak to, but it has also been difficult to own my truth. The album this song is on is called “The Jungle Is the Only Way Out.” This semester, my last semester, I’m swinging on that vine. I know I got me with a certainty that can only be holy.
8. Final Form by Sampa the Great
“Great state I’m in/In all states I’m in/I might final form/In my melanin.”
“We’ve been here, reincarnated/Tryna finish what they started, and we made it!”
Woo, chile! It’s my final semester. I will be embarking on one of the most significant journeys of my life: adulthood—real adulthood and all that comes with it. The fear I have is real, but the excitement keeps bubbling up and drowning it out. This last song is my affirmation song. This song is the level of confidence I want to experience and exude. This song reminds me: CUNY student or not, I am the common thread throughout this life. The simple breaths I breathe are thousands of years old; they have passed through the lives of all my ancestors! All that to say: I know who I am, and she’s TOO lit.
Put Me Thru by Anderson .Paak: I really had to kick my own ass to get here.
TYAF by Nick Hakim: My mother is my foundation for improvement.
3 thoughts on “We All Live in a Music Video, Right?”
This was so dope. The idea, the execution – just dope. “Conception” and “Final Form” were my favorite, but “I Feel a Change” also slapped. I just loved this concept.
Thank you, Sharifa!
I love the creative spin you put on answering the Sept. blog prompt! Talk about a soundtrack of the times we have lived and are living in. I love the songs you chose to pair with speaking about everything from your challenges, the good, bad and indifferent and even on the unknown and what’s to come. I agree the U.S is in shambles right now, agree that the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise and really has given us time to examine who we are, what works and what doesn’t work and how we will proceed forward to come out of these complicated times better then we came into it. I loved all the songs you referenced but absolutely love what you said in relation to Teyana Taylor’s “Rose in Harlem” about legacy and the source of pride you are to the women in your family and how far you have been able to get from their sacrifices, and how you will continue to build that legacy by how far you pay it forward. With you being a returning fellow in this program, and you now heading toward graduation, I am excited for you that this chapter of undergraduate course work is coming to an end but I’m also hopeful that somehow you find your way back to the classroom! Whether it be in graduate school or another capacity, I feel you are someone that has graduate school written all over them, but hey who am I 🙂 ! I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you after this semester!