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Ask the Rock Doc:
Shrink-wrapped advice for a song
Dr. BLT offers advice for a song to music-minded youth and adults in crisis.
The following inquiry has been paraphrased, with certain details omitted and/or altered to protect the confidentiality of the subject.
Ask the Rock Doc
Dear Rock Doc:
I am a member of a rap duo known as Da Diss Funkshon Krew. My partner goes by DJ Dissmist Masta. We are about to release a new CD entitled, Don't Diss Da Funk. We are not signed to any big label, we're just independents. Meanwhile I am on disability after being in a terrible car accident. Most of the CD was recorded prior to the accident.
I was living the fast life-party, party, party, you know what I'm saying? Sad to say, I was dealing drugs, as was my rap partner. The accident nearly took my life, and got me thinking seriously about where my life was headed. To make a long story short, I turned my life over to Christ. Now, to be fair, my rap partner also took a more sober look at life after the accident, because he was in the car. I was driving. He ended up without a scratch. His sober look at life caused him to give up drugs, but he stopped short of what he referred to as, "getting all hyped up over religion." The problem is, the whole CD reflects my old attitude towards life. It is filled with derogatory attitudes towards women, cussing for the sake of cussing, and nothing but negativity. I'd like to go back and re-do the vocal tracks, changing the lyrics to reflect my new positive outlook on life, and my deep faith in Jesus. But as for my "partner in rhyme" (sorry for stealing your phrase, Doc), he thinks we would be selling out to "the religion of slave owners and slum lords." He also thinks that by changing the lyrics, we would be losing our street credibility and turning an art form into a "missionary quest."
P.S. By the way, don't get the wrong idea, we are white. I just thought I'd warn you because others who have never seen our faces, but have heard our tunes, assume that we're black. I wanted to save you the embarrassment of jumping to conclusions based on stereotypes.
P.S.S. Someone told me you once did a little rap yourself. Would you mind sharing a few lines?
Dear Crushed Ice:
Thanks for the heads up on your racial status, and that of your rap partner, though I always try to go out of my way not to jump to conclusions based on stereotypes. And I'm not going to subject you to the stereotypes associated with white rappers either. It looks like you busted the "Rock Doc." I used to be a white rapper myself, though a non-hard-core "shrink-rapper" who rapped for a laugh more than anything else. I must admit that the association between you and Vanilla Ice did come to mind, however, but only because I penned and later recorded a song about him years ago. Because I've visited your website and seen the hilarious lyrics you've written about Vanilla Ice, I think you'll appreciate the lines from that song, Meltin' Down the Ice that I've provided for you, per your request, at the end of my response to your initial concern.
First, let me begin by saying that I'm deeply sorry to hear about your accident. Yet, at the same time, I'm thrilled that you ended up turning your life over to Christ. Jesus is, without a doubt, the best mix-master in the business when it comes to spinning the music of our souls.
It is clear to me that you have been, as the Apostle Paul would say, "...transformed by the renewing of your mind." Once a person has been touched by the healing power of the risen Lord, he/she will never be the same. Paul believed that when a person is converted to Christianity, "Old things are passed away," and, "Behold, all things have become new." Those who are not "in Christ" cannot be expected to understand the things of Christ-things that can only be wholly understood through the illumination of the spirit of the living God. Rather than being the "religion" of "slave masters" and "slum lords," as your rap partner suggests, Christianity, and Christ, in particular, has the power to deliver us from our own slavery to sin, self-deception, and self-destruction. All we need to do is to humble ourselves before him, confess our sins and accept, once and for all, his free gift of eternal life.
In a sense, you were once dead in your sins, just as I was. Spiritually speaking, between the two of you, though you were more seriously injured, your rap partner is the only casualty of the accident, because he remained spiritually dead. He is blind like the man Plato depicted in his classic allegory of the cave. The light that now radiates from your being has become so bright as to further blind the spiritual eyes of your "partner in rhyme," just as a man trapped in a cave for a prolonged period of time would be blinded if he were to suddenly step out of the cave into the sunlight, as the man in Plato's classic allegory did. Paul experienced the same thing when he was, in the words of The Manfred Mann Earth Band, "Blinded by the Light," on the road to Damascus.
I would suggest that you not overexpose the eyes of your rap partner to your bright light. Expose the light to him a little at a time. Drawing from the insightful terms of seminal cognitive developmental theorist, Jean Piaget, he may eventually be capable of "assimilating" the light, and reflecting upon it more deeply. Then, he may, to a certain degree, be able to "accommodate" himself to your point of view, radical though it may be perceived, coming from his benighted, or spiritually ignorant perspective. Right now he lacks the power to progress much further from the developmental stage you were apparently once stuck in-the one that Piaget labels the "autistic" or "egocentric" stage. Everything once revolved around you. Now it revolves around Jesus Christ. What a profound difference that can ultimately make in a person's lifestyle!
Authenticity is the only thing that makes being an artist truly worthwhile. If one is not free to express him/herself in an authentic manner, he/she might as well give up music altogether. That's why it's unrealistic for your rap partner to expect you to want to rap the same old lyrics. That's why it's unrealistic for you to expect him to alter the lyrics to fit a new perspective that only you can relate to. It's not authentic for him. It is for you.
So, you may think that I am leading to the point of suggesting that you break up as a rap duo. On the contrary, I'm suggesting that you begin to use the music as an arena in which you begin to engage in authentic dialogue. Allow him to preserve his personhood and his perspective, even if he may need to compromise by giving up the vulgar references to women, and the gratuitous cussing. Here's an example of some lyrics that would reflect such a potentially productive exchange:
DJ Dissmist Masta:
You're expectin' me
Well that's nice
Now you may know why I switched back to retro-rock, Americana, novelty, and new folk. Rap is not really authentic for me as a main avenue of artistic expression. But nevertheless, I hope you get the picture. Transform the presently divided energy into a healthy debate, imbued with raw energy and authentic passion. Then let the listener draw from it whatever he/she was meant to draw from it. This may not work in the end, if your partner does not soften his attitude towards your new lifestyle. But I would suggest giving it your best shot. In the meantime, I'm going to regress a little myself and shed a little of my old "shrink-rapped" skin. As promised, here are a few words from Meltin' Down the Ice, my bittersweet tribute to Vanilla Ice, the most dissed white rapper in the history of the rap period---period!
The Ice man
Vanilla's not bad, and the
groove is pretty nice
Yo, I'm outa here!
Dr. B.L.T., the Shrink Rappin' Rock Doc
If you are a musically-minded
person in distress, write Dr. BLT at firstname.lastname@example.org