Friday, April 24, 2009

To Be Young, Gifted, and...Humble be young, gifted, and black/oh, what a lovely precious dream... ~nina simone, "to be young, gifted, and black" (simone/irvine)

of all the versions of "to be young, gifted, and black," donny hathaway's is my favorite, which is not common for me since it's not the original, but i happen to think that musically, donny could do no wrong. so, i'm biased. anyway, i never knew (before looking for an info link to share with the sistergarten) that ms. nina co-wrote the song as a tribute to her dear friend lorainne hansberry. i learn something new every day...but i digress (per usual).

i thought of this song as a result of some things that have been turning over in my mind during the last few weeks. i've been thinking a lot about being humble (or being humbled, by force, which is a totally different animal). over the past 6 months or so, i've been collecting a (virtual) pile of rejection letters from literary agents and publishers who have mostly replied "great work, no thanks" (to paraphrase). and then earlier this week, i got a "no thanks" from a famous poetry retreat for artists of color (who shall remain nameless 'cause i'm a hater at the moment); no "great work" on that one. no feedback at all, actually. at any rate, a series of things (including said rejections) has prompted me to ask myself, "do people just not get it, or am i just not giving what i think i am?" this question, once posed rhetorically aloud, was answered by the fiancé with (after a long lecture)...wait for it, wait for it...a kanye west reference.

for a bit of background, i've had a love/hate relationship with mr. west for years. but to be honest, i've begun to understand him a bit more over the last year or so. and in the midst of this kanye west comparison (as i'm thinking, "did he seriously just compare me to kanye?" and trying to determine if it was an insult or a compliment), i began to identify with 'ye and his larger-than-life ego. i have, as of late, suspected that his ego is the result of many years of having to prove to others that he is as talented as he says he is. and, in fact, he has since conceded this point (check out and search for "ego," as i'm unable to link). so i've decided to use the kanye method and start telling everyone how great i am. how, in fact, i am the best writer and poet of the 21st century...the maya angelou of my generation! okay, so i'm not really going to do that (nor do i think that way), but i do have a newfound respect for him as an artist who's not modest for the sake of politeness. as a naturally modest (and quite shy) person, i would not choose to emulate his model, but i can take a page from it for my internal dialogue.

so, enough about kanye, as i don't even own any of his music (aside from what he has contributed to some of my favorite artists' work, namely john legend [or "homeschool" as i call him] and estelle). my point is that as artists and as people, we have to remind ourselves of the greatness of our contributions, even when others can't/don't/won't recognize it. now, whether or not you choose to rant onstage at an awards show (or on your blog or social networking page) is at your discretion. but at the minimum, rant within. believe that you are as good as you believe you are (yes, i meant that exactly that way). and if you're not, at least you won't know it :).

they say that i won't last too long on broadway. i'll catch a greyhound bus for home, they all say. but they're dead wrong--i know they are. 'cause i can play THIS HERE GUITAR. and i won't quit 'til i'm a star...on broadway... ~george benson, "on broadway" (mann/weil)


Shameka said...

First of all, I must say that I wasn't expecting the Kanye reference at all, and whenever anyone asks me what I think of him I always say, "I think he's good- but I don't think he's as good as he thinks he is." LOL. And as I mull it over, and mull your words over, I don't feel like I was being hard on him, I just realize now what I really meant to say. I felt like his tantrums and shouts of greatness took away from him as an artist because he was so busy thinking he was great, that he wasn't actually being great. So for me, it was all about the doing, at least in Kanye's case (did that make sense?) Anyway...

This blog has led me to wonder if I'm as good as I think I am, which I believe is healthy in moderation (wondering that, I mean). I think just a touch of doubt can make you work harder, make you try harder- it's a motivator. If I already think I'm the greatest, I don't feel like I'll develop (at least not as much) because I won't feel like I need to. So I'll take your advice- in moderation, lol. And if it helps... I don't think you're great- I know it.

Enough mushy stuff... I'll go write now.

Tina said...

I agree with everything that you said Rhythm. I like your attitude and ability to stay positive despite the rejection letters (by the way, they are the ones missing out on a very talented and gifted artist-its their loss). We have to stop waiting for others to tell us we are great or just "good enough." We have to believe it for ourselves and seize our dreams. You have to love what you do and do what you love and be great at it.

The Company Man said...

I think Kanye's cockiness is refreshing because he is so talented. Fake modesty is just as offensive. The only thing worse than fake modesty is obviously fake modesty...and hollywood is overstocked with it. In Ye's case its a motivator and entertaining. He works as hard as possible to craft greatness and then stunts crazy. I enjoy it honestly. The same way I enjoy TOs crazy touchdown dances or Lebron and company's pregame-mock-photo-shoots. Its like "pieces-of-flair". I'll take that in exchange for an album littered with faux-greatness. Because in the end, the music is most important.

And to answer the rhetorical question - people just don't get it.

Good shit.

Rhythm said...

thanks, TCM, et al.


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