Rappin’ It But Not Really Livin’ It?
September 3, 2010
Sitting and reading my bible in my favorite spot in the shade of some trees, I spotted a weathered homeless man slowly plodding in my direction. It is with shame that I must admit that my automatic response was to bury myself further in the Good Book in front of me and silently pray – pray that he would not approach me that is. But he seemed to be headed straight toward me. I mentally cringed while continuing to give off the appearance of being engrossed in the Word. To my shameful relief, although he stopped directly in my line of sight, it was just short of me. Then I watched in silent horror as he began to dig through the trash in front of me until he pulled out a plastic container of what appeared to be days-old leftover pasta from someone’s lunch…
Just to provide a little background for this scenario: I work on 42nd St, 6th Ave in the Bank of America Tower right across the street from Bryant Park. I like to catch the #7 train from Flushing early enough that I arrive about an hour before work starts and I have time to reflect, read my bible, and pray; basically, I need time to get my mind right every morning lol. Now even though I haven’t lived in an urban area in about 11 years, I did spend the first 10 years of my life in the city and, after only a week back, I can already feel old “urban” tendencies returning. (E.g. walking dumb fast as if you’re always in a hurry, not making eye contact with passers-by, and turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the numerous people posted up on seemingly every single corner and in every subway car trying to solicit attention.) Every day I see homeless people sitting in the park. For example, there’s one young dude who can be found in the exact same spot every day, grungy t-shirt lying on the bench next to him as he sits on the edge of the park looking out onto the morning traffic of 42nd St. However, this was my first time seeing the homeless senior citizen I have just described…
The old man calmly sat down and began eating his putrid pasta. I know he must’ve been hungry, but he didn’t gulp it down fast as one might expect. He slowly chewed each mouthful, almost as if savoring each bite. I tried to turn my attention back to the bread of life spread out in front of me. But my heart was broken. This was no scam artist, this was a hungry old dude just trying to make it. He finished his scraps and then quietly replaced the plastic container in the dumpster and walked away.
That really got me thinking. In songs like “Voices,” “Marlene,” “Pretty Brown Girl,” and “Be Real,” I highlight suffering that I observe in the world. I aim to emphasize the existence of a God who both sees and responds to the human plight and human need. My question as an artist is – am I living out what I spit in songs? Am I just a socially-conscious emcee or am I socially active emcee? And on an even deeper level, as a Christian, am I living out the Word that I supposedly believe? Or am I simply a hearer and not a doer (James 1:22)? Finally, how will I respond from here on out?