It pains me to say this, but there are quite a few people these days who have a negative opinion of hip hop, and I think they’re justified. When you look at some of the ways it is represented in the mainstream media, it makes sense. Radio stations are flooded with uninspired songs touting shallow pursuits like designer clothes and emotionless sex. Rap icons glorify violence and drug dealing. And major hip hop blogs spend more time covering twitter beef and groupie fights than the music itself. But that’s not what hip hop is supposed to be about, and it’s certainly not what it was when it started. Most people think that “hip hop” refers only to the music, but in reality, when the term was coined it encompassed five pillars; rapping, DJing, B-Boying, Graffiti and arguably most importantly, Knowledge of Self. Regardless of which of the first four pillars you engaged in, it was always a path to the 5th pillar. Today I’m going to talk about using my favorite of these pillars, rapping, to increase my knowledge of self, as well as heal some of my past wounds in the process.
For those of you who have listened to my music or seen me perform, you may remember me best for my comedic songs. They tend to be the ones that people enjoy the most. But if you’ve dug a little deeper you will probably find that I can get quite introspective with my lyrics. In fact, even with my comedic songs I will often do this. I like combining levity with seriousness because it makes inner work fun. I want the pursuit of personal growth to be enjoyable, and I can’t think of a more joyous way to do that than to rap about losing my pants while taking a long, hard look at what’s underneath. The surface that is, not my pants.
“Then I found my pleats just in time for a hot date with,
this girl I met at the class with all of the sadists,
I was gonna put on my best mask so she would be fascinated
but then I realised that I would only find true love if I showed up truly naked”
Many times in my life I’ve put on a mask to impress someone, whether that be a friend, a teacher, an employer, or a prospective lover. And after writing a four minute song of comedic punchlines about misplacing my corduroys (which are making a comeback soon I swear to you), I somehow stumbled upon this nugget of wisdom. This is often the progression of events when I write. No matter what the subject is, I will almost inevitably circle back to uncovering something about myself. Or at the very least reminding myself of a lesson that I may have forgotten.
I lived in Ubud for 3 years and I experimented with my fair share of healing modalities, for lack of a better word. Some of them were very powerful. Some of them were downright dangerous. The realization that I kept coming back to, over and over again, was that the most potent healer in the world, is always yourself. I believe that there are many great healers that can help, and many amazing tools to improve your own capacity for healing, but regardless of who or what you engage in, responsibility for self is always the key. And there is no chance of responsibility for self without knowledge of self.
Which brings me back to hip hop. There are few things in the world that I find more ecstatic than finishing an awesome verse and rapping it all the way through for the first time. And then performing that song live for the first time and getting an enthusiastic crowd reaction. So with the idea that all hip hop pursuits are meant to funnelled into an increased knowledge of self constantly in my mind, I can heal myself while I do what I love. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to heal myself. So let me give you an example of when I recently had a major epiphany while writing a song. The track is about this sensation I’ve experienced lately where my mental perspective and emotional state spin around so fast that I can’t tell what is true and what is ego, and all I can do is just sit back and watch. I knew I was going to write about this when I started but I had no idea where it would go. But when I’m focused and in the zone, my words tend to go where I need them to. They took me to a girl I had recently developed feelings for. One minute I was in love with her, the next I thought my desire stemmed from my ego fearing the loss of her. I realised that this whole spinning sensation had blossomed from my ambivalent feelings for her, and that it was seeping into the rest of my life. So I explored this by writing about it, and by the end of the verse, out popped the epiphany. It was something that had been holding me back for a long time and I never even realised it.
I discovered that I had a deep rooted belief that I could only achieve my goals if I was alone, and so I was preventing myself from pursuing romantic relationships and unconsciously using this excuse to justify it. This realisation cleared up my thoughts and emotions, the spinning sensation subsided, and I was able to feel clearly what I truly wanted. So I went for it. And though I didn’t get it, I’m much better off for trying. I’m pretty much always better off for trying, and I couldn’t even begin to count how many incredible things making hip hop has influenced me to try.
Jonny Freesh is a 3rd culture kid originally from Canada, last seen in Indonesia and now found frequenting hip hop nights in Melbourne. He brings a truly original brand of hip hop to the table that he likes to call “explosively quirky”, and is known best for his visually jaw-dropping music videos. When he’s not rapping about losing his pants or his beard, you’ll probably catch him ranting about how crowdfunding platforms like Patreon are the future of the music industry.
© Lightening Magazine 2016