Being a teen in the 90’s, music didn’t get much bigger than Tupac, Biggie and Puff Daddy.
There wasn’t a mixed tape that popped into my maroon Oldsmobile Delta ’88 that didn’t have a crappy cut-up version of one of their songs. Recorded straight off the radio.
“How you livin’ Biggie Smalls?”
“In mansions and Benzes. Givin’ ends to my friends and it feels stupendous.”
No matter the upbringing, there was something idyllic about those two things. Huge houses and sweet cars.
The evidence was in my own truck just this past weekend, taking my 8-year-old son and his buddy to their basketball games.
All they cared about was spotting Lambos and Bugattis. They then went on to tell me about all the mansions Lebron owns, what custom cars he has and all sorts of other facts they surely found on YouTube.
Biggie would have been proud of their conversation.
There’s this belief that the mansion and Benz will be a signal of security and arrival. That the success will equate to significance.
And in some cases, maybe that’s exactly what it does.
And in many others, maybe they’re a huge cover up for some deep fears and insecurities.
A non-1990’s rapper I really like is a guy named NF. Maybe some of y’all have heard his stuff.
He’s got this song titled, “Mansion”.
Listen to it here if you haven’t already, the lyrics are haunting. And fascinating.
Instead of the mansion you’d see on Lebron’s YouTube feature, this mansion is a picture of what we all do to protect ourselves.
Well, I won’t speak for you. But his mansion speaks for me, for sure.
We build room after room, repainting the walls, covering the pain, hiding from the shame, begging for some semblance of safety and control.
But what we end up getting?
NF says it brilliantly, “My mind is a home I’m trapped in. I’m lonely inside this mansion…”
The loneliness echoes around the walls of our mind-made mansions. Instead of a vibrant and life-giving home, the layers of protection and distance have produced isolation.
Instead of being warm and inviting, the fear of really letting people in has turned things icy and cold.
I’ll let NF’s final verse bring it home better than I can:
“So this part of my house, no one’s been in it for years
I built the safe room and I don’t let no one in there
‘Cause if I do, there’s a chance that they might disappear and not come back
And I admit I am emotionally scared to let anyone inside
So I just leave my doors locked
You might get other doors to open up but this door’s not
‘Cause I don’t want you to have the opportunity to hurt me
And I’ll be the only person that I can blame when you desert me
I’m barricaded inside so stop watching
I’m not coming to the door so stop knocking, stop knocking
I’m trapped here, God keeps saying I’m not locked in
I chose this, I am lost in my own conscience
I know that shutting the wall down ain’t solving the problem
But I didn’t build this house because I thought it would solve ´em
I built it because I thought that it was safer in there
But it’s not, I’m not the only thing that’s living in here
Fear came to my house years ago, I let him in
Maybe that’s the problem ’cause I’ve been dealing with this ever since
I thought that he would leave, but it’s obvious he never did
He must have picked the room and got comfortable and settled in
Now I’m in the position it’s either sit here and let him win
Or put him back outside where he came from, but I never can
‘Cause in order to do that I’d have to open the doors
Is that me or the fear talking?
I don’t know anymore”
We spend so much time barricading ourselves inside our mansions. To protect ourselves from being known. From letting our yucky parts from being found out.
No one’s been in that part for years. It’s too scary in there.
What if we walked out the doors of the mansions we’ve fashioned in our minds? Instead of being terrified in the chambers of those hallways?
Maybe the supposed safe rooms aren’t so safe after all? Maybe the safety comes not from locking ourselves inside but in walking outside?
Maybe the real stupendous feelings come not from mansions and Benzes but from connection, intimacy and vulnerability.
Is that me or the fear talking? I don’t know anymore.
But hopefully Biggie would still be proud.