The concept of the self-made man has hooked us with the tasty bate of individualism, only to gut us with loneliness and selfish ambition. Especially in the artistic world, where introverts are a-plenty and the lifestyle of long nights grinding in the studio is elevated and optimized, the cry for connection is nonetheless never dimmed.
Where can we go on our own? We can walk far down the rugged path of life by ourselves, but soon we’ll need someone help untangle our clothing from the thorns of loneliness, nurse the wounds, keep each other warm and revel in the sunset together.
Even the artist who boasts of persevering when nobody cared, elaborating on his lack of need for anyone around him, still wants his voice to be heard and his art to be appreciated. There is an inherent hypocrisy in the shouts that celebrate solitude where desperation underlies the words. In this, there is hope that they will resonate with another human soul, thereby affirming their experience as relatable and worthy of another’s attention.
More than our success, we need to pay attention to our humanity. The running waters of the soul, that which nourishes and bears the fruit that make life worthwhile are supplied by the fountainhead of community. Instead of holing oneself up in a drab bedroom where chips and guacamole lay moulding in the corner and empty beer bottles stand littered along the sill, we must embrace the friend, neighbour and like-minded around us with open heart and good intention. Exhibit excellence in your craft, put in the late hours, but do not forget the importance of true friendship; the glory of kindred spirits. The possibility of human influence only comes when the individual is in touch with their humanness.
One such man, Chance the Rapper, has exemplified and exuded connectivity, and thus breathed a minty aroma of life and positivity into the popular music scene. As he has become an influential voice in the world of rap, and a conscientious contributor to culture as a whole, Chance’s bedrock rests in the communal structures of family, spirituality and collaborative camaraderie.
His girl and child, who he alludes to consistently through Colouring Book seem to tie his existence together, revealing the motivating factors of love and stability to individual success. Instead of inspiring diss-tracks and divisive drama, Chance’s demeanour is enlivened by a positive engagement with the people and circumstances around him, (depicted adorably in the viral video of him fan-boying over a side-hug for Beyonce) catapulting him to being one of the most popular personalities in music.
Take a page out of Chance’s Colouring Book and be a planter of seeds into the soil of community, rather than a ravaging forager who seeks to consume with selfish intentions. Instead of entering a party or social function with heat-seeking eyes set on the subject of highest personal value, enter that door on a mission to offer and to serve, to know and to love. In a scene where the name of the game is notoriety and climbing the social ladder — often at the expense of those considered lower in the hierarchy of social order — to be countercultural is difficult and complex. Nonetheless, it is good.
To align oneself with the innate need to connect and affect with other social souls will feed the gnawing sense of existential emptiness.
Words by Conor Sweetman