Monday, January 13, 2014

The Lesson (With Footnotes)

Here is the twelfth in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my debut mixtape, "Core Nerd!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "The Lesson."

"The Lesson" is the first song I ever wrote. After a Cap City Mob recording session that led to one of the verses that now appears in "Liquid Thunder," I wanted to take a stab at writing a full song. As an introduction to myself, I wanted to do something that talked about my overall beliefs and KRS-One's "My Philosophy" was playing in the background. I was already Professor Rex by that point, so combining the idea from KRS-One with my name, the idea was of "The Lesson" was born. I quickly settled on a structure that would include eight verses of eight bars each, providing an introduction and seven key areas of my personal philosophy. My idea was always that the song would have no chorus, following in the footsteps of the main cover song I did at the time, the Beastie Boys "Paul Revere." During the time I was in Cap City Mob, a chorus and intro were added, but they never quite felt right to me, so when I went solo, they were taken out. I've also struggled to find a backing track for it and have often performed it with only a beat box or totally a capella. The current beat that I use with it won't be the final one.

I step up to the mic and it's time to teach the class

The central metaphor of the song, and of my entire catalog, is me as the teacher. I was an actual college professor for 10 years, so it's not that far-fetched an idea. The idea is that here I can finally teach the things I couldn't teach in the classroom, the real truths.

I'm here to drop some science bout the present, future, past

"Dropping science" was always my favorite hip hop metaphor, so I get it in here at the beginning of my first song.

This is T. Rex's Guide to Life

My nickname in college was T. Rex and my first blog was called "T. Rex's Guide to Life."

This is dedicated to the heroes in my life

This line originally read "this is dedicated to my children and my wife," but I changed it to this once I got divorced. Tributes to my kids appear in other songs.

Professor Rex is here to dispel your illusions

This was always a central philosophy for me, both as a teacher and as a writer (song or otherwise), debunking things that people believe but they shouldn't.

Like Obama's election I'll shatter your delusions

The song was originally written before Obama was running for office and it read "Like the midterm elections...." Prior to the 2006, a lot of Republicans were giddy with recent successes and were starting to talk about becoming a "permanent majority." I knew it was nonsense, but they couldn't see that their victories were shallow and the 2006 elections, where Democrats took control of Congress, were the first sign of that. In 2008, they couldn't believe that the voters soundly rejected their view of the country.

You people get your info from all the wrong places
Give your respect to all the wrong faces

This one is still talking to those Republicans alluded to in the previous lines, but is also broadened to include anybody who gets most of their info from television and the mainstream media.

The first thing you do is turn off your TV
The world wide web is the place you need to be
Freedom of information that's the key
That bland corporate truth will eat you like a zombie

Tying into the previous verse, this one makes my position clear: corporate media, particularly on television, is terrible for you and does not give you good information. Instead, you're much more likely to find the truth somewhere on the Internet, even though a lot of what is on the Internet sucks. And, of course, the more free information is, the better off people are.

28 days later you still don't know the truth

This line plays off the word zombie in the previous line, referencing one of my favorite movies in the genre. Zombie is a term also often used to describe political lies spread by conservatives that won't die no matter how many times they are debunked, which leads into the next few lines.

Bible beaters got you rejecting the proof
Global warming, evolution, science and logic
Ignorant neocons say it's nothing but a trick

Despite the undeniable truth of these things, conservatives still find a way to deny them.

The second thing you need to do is learn to free your mind

There are so many constraints on the way people think and the world (and our lives) would be a lot better if we could get past them.

The history book's written for the blind by the blind

Most of the history that we collectively know is pretty bad and inaccurate and people accept too many historical accounts from people who don't know what they're talking about.

The things they teach you in school in reality
The lies they feed you defy all morality

In much of the country, school curricula are controlled and influenced heavily by small-minded people with religious and political agendas that have little to do with reality and frequently include immoral components that are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, etc.

They leave out the people who really took a chance
White washing history in ethnocentric rants

Real history is often sanitized and forced to fit into neat narratives that aren't real and that leave out people who don't fit the official story, even if that story is false.

Dumb-ass textbooks are a waste of your day

Never met a textbook that wasn't a piece of crap.

Get with the people, hear what they got to say

Oral history is one of the most important ways to learn about reality. Never take any one person's memory as fact, but gathering lots of memories from lots of people is the best way to get at most history and reality.

The third thing you do is put down your credit card
Close up your wallet, put up your guard

So much of American culture is focused on making us all into consumers, teaching us that, somehow, we're better people the more we spend. I'm saying we need to change that habit.

Quit buying shit that you don't need

And focus on only spending money when we need to or when it contributes to our happiness, not just to show off our status.

Fuck the Joneses, kill the greed

Based on the old-fashioned saying "keeping up with the Joneses," I here reject that concept and greed in general.

The whole world's trying to make you consumer

It's hard to stay away from consumerism when so many people and entities are forcing it upon us.

But that shit'll rot your brain just like a tumor

But we have to do it, because consumerism doesn't serve our purposes or improve our lives. It's all about transferring money from the many to the few, and therefore is evil.

Evil is the root of all money

A play on the traditional saying "money is the root of all evil." This term agrees with that, but flips it to the viewpoint that evil came first and the evil we see emanating from money and consumerism is why money was created in the first place.

Kills more people than crack, this shit ain't funny

While drug abuse is a serious issue, greed kills way more people than any drug ever would (or could).

The fourth thing you need to do is learn to use your power

Maybe the most important line in the song, as most people don't know how much power they have over their own lives and how much power they have to influence the lives of others.

It's democracy, don't vote then you're a coward

There's long been a debate about whether or not voting "matters," I'm obviously coming down on the side of it mattering here.

On election day, get out the vote

And just as important as individually voting is doing something to help make sure that others vote, too.

Shake up the system and rock the boat

And while voting is important, it's also important to do things that go further and shake the system to it's foundations and to ignore the old warning not to rock the boat.

American idiot? Man that's too nice

The line here was a clear statement that Green Day's scathing attack didn't go too far.

George fucking Bush got elected twice

The idea that even one person thought "you know what, George W. Bush would make a good president" is ludicrous, much less the fact that he actually became president.

Don't get started, I know he stole that shit
The vote was too close, that's how he jacked it

While there's very clear evidence that George W. Bush, with help of his brother Jeb and Kathryn Harris, stole the 2000 election, they were only able to do it because the election was too close. Smarter voters would've never allowed the two candidates to be that close together.

The fifth thing you do is kill all that noise
Drop the propaganda, learn some fucking poise

So many people talk so much nonsense about issues they don't really know about or understand. They're mostly just repeating propaganda they've heard from someone who has an agenda that doesn't involve telling the truth.

You spend all day on imaginary problems
Like you're worried bout ogres and goblins

These lines are particularly critical of right-wing politicians and pundits, who talk about things that aren't real problems in order to distract from the fact that not only aren't they solving the real problems, they're creating them.

Communists and terrorists ain't coming to get you

While terrorists, when they exists are a real problem, there just aren't as many of them and they aren't as likely to attack us in the U.S. as the fearmongers would have you to believe. The Communists that are around these days aren't a threat at all. And communism itself was never the problem, totalitarianism was.

Our biggest global problem is your short-sighted views
Racism, sexism, hatred and poverty

All of these problems affect the everyday lives of Americans more than terrorism or Communism did.

Open up your eyes and learn to see

Blindness is the biggest roadblock to Americans having the ability to solve the problems we face.

The next thing you need to do is start making love
Getting love and giving love

People act like sex is a bad thing. It's not, particularly consensual sex between adults. When it happens and people understand what they are doing, it's almost always a positive thing.

If I ruled the world, people'd fuck every day
It wouldn't even matter if you're bi, straight or gay

Again, consensual sex between adults is valid in its many different forms.

Everybody needs to get laid more

The more good things we have in our life, the less bad things we have.

And stop calling sexual women fucking whores

Women have the equal right to want or desire sex and shouldn't be judged negatively for enjoying or wanting sex.

The more sex we get the more relaxed we are
We stop blowing kids up in imperialistic wars

Not a lot of wars and killings are engaged in by people who are getting regular sex.

The last thing you do is get up off your butt
Get out the house, get out of the rut
America needs you, and the world does, too
There's so much shit that we gotta do
We can't leave this mess for future generations
We gotta overcome our doubts and frustrations
We need your help to make the world a better place

The last section doesn't have any deeper meaning, it's just a direct call to action.

Till you get up off your ass, I'm gonna be in your face!

And a reminder that I'm not going anyway and until we solve these problems, I'll be here to remind you about them and your role in solving them.

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