In my last article, I discussed how the rapper Wax sees the costs both emotionally and physically of pursuing passion through the song “we can’t all be heroes”. The full album “Continue” has a few themes that present a counter argument including a song called “Feels Good” that presents the counter to this initial pessimistic view the album takes in the first half.
Before getting into the meat of “Feels Good”, we have to acknowledge the other themes in this album. During this period, Wax is clearly struggling with substance abuse and he discusses these in all sorts of positive and negative lights. The tracks I’ve marked here with Red are almost exclusively about substance abuse ranging from the depressive mood of Straight to paradise to a euphoric Outta My Mind, which in many ways, feels like the climax of the album despite the truly destructive nature of lyrics.
Ignore the blue: those are just about boobs mostly. (including Wax’s charting single Rosana (some great comedy and takes on relationships with the opposite sex here for sure though…))
The Yellow marked songs are also thematically notable, starting the depressive album on an upbeat tempo and subject matter typical of the braggadocios rapping style. The first song “Dreaming” ending in an alarm to bring in “Continue” a clear allusion to Wax breaking ways with his label Def Jam and a more realistically optimistic view on life.
Continue, the title track, being the most comprehensive mentioning how failures and messing up are parts of life that should be positively as learning opportunities. There almost seems to be a solution before the problem here: “A wise man will devise plans that are option filled”.
This track is about seeing the horrible things in your life and moving on. In many ways we can see the contrasts already: maybe Wax doesn’t have to overthink his art, maybe the guy who had a failed sport career can pick himself up and maybe the addicted people on the corner aren’t doomed to spend eternity in that state.
Feels Good: (allow me to paraphrase here) Though there are depressive aspects to Wax’s career, when he goes on tour it becomes apparent that his art impacts others.
“Met a young fan who told me that my songs moved him
Said that when he listens to them that they talk to him
Cause the same problems that he’s going though I’ve
Gone through them
I guess we’re all human, and not that different
And compared to myself my music is more significant”
Wax goes on to discuss how his life really isn’t that bad, (accentuated again with a closing track about physical labour and how his problems aren’t significant) and when he looks at the small details in his life they are pretty great. Overall, he is happy he pursued his art because although the intended consequence hasn’t happened, some good things have and day to day things are hard, but it also feels good to live his life honestly.
There’s a small “last call” about how Wax was on a track years ago and said that if that album failed he was going to go to Hawaii and drink himself to death. This parallels with the actresses in my first article who failed and gave up. But Wax states that he views his failures as just some stuff that happened and because of this nothing he has ever done has been a failure.
So there you go. pursuing art will let you smell the roses as you work but be prepared to fall real far. and when the going gets tough; I guess just
Wax, a popular rapper has this song called “We Can’t All Be Hero’s” and it’s awesome and I’m going to talk about it and what it means for a generation of creators.
This song is about how most people who become bloggers, athletes, musicians or other unique talents rarely make it. and its written by a mildly successful musician, at least to those who don’t actively follow Wax, he isn’t as visible as an artist like Drake or Logic that are household names, Wax can survive as an artist on his music but he doesn’t enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. The album “Continue” where the song appears comes off a turbulent time for Wax after a separation from Label Def Jam. (Note I am extrapolating this I don’t know Wax’s income)
The album as a whole seems to bounce between 2 repeating themes, Meaningfulness in art and meaningless in art. Basically, should you pursue art? I’ll wrap up with an overview of what this means but for now lets focus on the most comprehensive song on the album: “We Can’t All be Heroes”.
This song sets the stakes for pursuing passion. While the beginning of the album pitches the best case scenario, this song pitches the worst, focusing on the possible outcomes of pursuing passion in ways that can damage your body, your mental health and your life as seen through relationships.
This song pitches the vision for a larger life and talent as a curse that drags you down and becomes addicting in itself, passion in this case is irrational like love but without the societal acceptance of love. There isn’t another human on the end of this attention that benefits: it’s just lost effort if you fail.
The first verse discusses his own failures and how the monotony of art has dragged down his enjoyment of it. Anyone who has failed at learning the guitar or writes for a career can tell you how the realism of consistency taints the dreamer’s need for constant stimulation and growth. Rap is exciting, but perfecting rap is as tedious as any normal job.
“I should get an office gig, but I can’t because I’m over here dreaming”
The song goes on and we associate with 2 different characters. We hear the tale of some kid who grew up playing basketball and ends up having a failed career as a college level athlete. He gets injured and the dream dies. He comes home without the skills to pick up somewhere else and his relationships crumble as he becomes addicted to pain killers in his depression. Wax goes into the detail of this person’s life and it feels compelling.
in the interlude Wax discusses how life is hard enough without us complicating it, pleading us yet again to realize the dangers of pursuing our passions.
The third verse is even more extreme; we connect with many young women who moved to Hollywood trying to become actresses. As the situation becomes dire, for a single individual now, she becomes addicted to drugs and “on the corner”. It’s explained in a very rational way and by the end of the verse we associate with an old woman by a bus stop screaming to herself “Stop Fucking with me!” This is horrifying imagery because of how Wax starts with a simple thought that many of us have been pitched growing up: “Move to LA and pursue art”. and then he drags us down there to see the shocking reality of our greatest fantasies ending in something that we find appalling in day to day life. The song makes us feel hopelessness and that maybe our artistic “fears” of a stable job and nuclear family are, in actuality, the dramatically better options. As artists we feel attacked, especially those of us who are sensitive because of our sheltered upbringing where we don’t associate with homeless or addicted but then Wax shows us that this optimistic thinking can lead to failure and eventually madness.
I think any artist, or not even artist, just anyone who took a risk at an opportunity cost, has lived a scenario that was further damaged as a result of the risk. Humans take risks and as a result we create largely horrible experiences in our individual lives and largely beneficial creations in the macrocosm that is humanity. We play the lottery so one guy can win.
So what now according to Wax should we do when we get these impulses to live life in a fuller way? Go sit in a cubical and cook hot dogs on the weekend right?
I think this might have a part two where I will discuss the conclusion Wax draws in the album and the argument he proposes to this song.