The album: Reasonable Doubt
The date: June 25, 1996
The track: 8
The line: “I’d rather die enormous than live dormant…”
Despite my lack of desire to attend a Jay Z concert in the near future, I will never speak ill of the influence that he’s had on my life through his music. Countless songs and lines pushed me through some of the best and worst times in my life. I recall listening to “Roc Boys” from American Gangster while speeding in my PT Cruiser (yes, I drove a PT Cruiser, however, it did have leather seats, a nice sound system, and a sunroof. U mad?) with the windows down when I found out that I was graduating on time. Song Cry was on repeat for a while when I was moving through a bad breakup back in the day. And now, I’m listening to The Story of OJ and reflecting on how its representative of a few of my peers and colleagues who believe that they’ve made “it” and are somehow untouchable, similar to OJ. A lot of Jay Z’s ad-libs found their way into the soundtrack of so many life events for me ever since I first heard Jigga What, Jigga Who back in 1998.
Out of all of the verses that he’s put out in his long career, I always listen to his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, where Jay was hitting me with gems on Can I Live? If you really listen to the song (hell, the damn entire album), he’s really giving you game that can change your life. Especially with the line above. I feel that the line in particular is a call for how we should live our lives to the fullest. Ever since I heard that line back in high school, I made it my goal to really soak up everything that life has to offer, the good and the bad. I’m a firm believer that I (we) wasn’t put on earth just to survive, make money, and pay bills. I refuse to believe that! I know that I was made to do EPIC shit and change lives in the process. There isn’t one way that I’m going to accomplish this because I want to do/create so much for our community and my family. It’s my mission before I go and I know that each step is part of the overall journey. I can’t get deterred by my life’s purpose and neither should YOU!
However, as we get older, we tend to lose that spark that was so bright when we were children and teenagers. We forget to dream big like we used to do back in elementary. When was the last time someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up? We get scared to live the life that we KNOW deep down we deserve for a variety of reasons: families, bills, careers, Sallie Mae ol’ punk ass, and more. I get it, but we can’t allow the minutiae of life bog us down to the point that we forget how to live a life that we’re proud of. When you’re in the midst of your career, you’re focused on moving up and “securing the bag” so much that you sometimes forget to enjoy the overall process. Of course this isn’t everyone, but I do know a few people who are experiencing this now. They’re questioning their purpose in life now after working so hard and finally grabbing the proverbially “brass ring”.
Jay talks about the line in his 2010 “book” Decoded:
This line resonates deeply with my listeners. It’s a take on the “Live Free or Die Trying,” “Liberty or Death” spirit that’s woven into the fabric of what it means to be American. But it’s also about great ambition, and the alternative, which is stagnation. The risk is death, so the reward should have equal gravity, a life lived to the fullest.
Jay touches on a great point about stagnation. Are you in a job that you hate? Do you feel yourself no longer growing doing the same rote actions on the daily, but you’re making big bags? I feel that getting comfortable is the Achilles Heel to accomplishing our mission on earth. We hit all of the checkboxes that society has us believe is all that needs to be done and get stagnant. We tend to settle and forget that there’s a lot of life left to be lived. Our mission isn’t finished and we have more to do. We’re all out here trying to make things happen and hopefully, make a better life for those coming up after us and its important that we don’t forget our own dreams and goals. We owe it to the world to let our dopeness shine through and radiate as bright as the sun. Life isn’t meant to be lived dormant and if you’re feeling that way, I encourage you to do an inventory and figure out the next steps. Start small and go from there. Life is calling…