Harley Geffner is the scourge of Spotify.
Juice Wrld – “Legends”
“They tell me I’m a legend
I don’t want that title now,
Cause all the legends seem to die out,
what the fuck is this bout?”
We’re raising a generation of socially-isolated and depressed children who are so numb to a sense of impending doom that all humor has become wildly dark and defeatist. That the now-deceased artists Juice Wrld, XXXTentacion, and Lil Peep were able to create such profound connections with young fans, many of whom shared their sense of struggle in dealing with feelings of isolation, says that our value system is all fucked up and we’ve been emphasizing the wrong things in our learning process.
All three of those artists sang or screamed about frustrations, and feeling like an outcast. And with these themes cutting so deeply and striking a chord for so many young people, we’re left asking what are we doing wrong? How are we creating so many misfits? And this isn’t just limited to young people; suicide rates across the board have been on the rise since the turn of the century, and attitudes of loneliness have seen large increases among older generations too.
This, from the brief of a Harvard study on loneliness in which it was officially designated as a public health “epidemic” in the U.S.:
“In May 2015, Drs. Gerst-Emerson and Jayawardhana published an article in the American Journal of Public Health, “Loneliness as a public health issue that disproportionately affects older adults,” in which they reported that “a sizable proportion of those aged 60 years and older in the United States report loneliness.” The results of their study showed that “chronic loneliness contributes to a cycle of illness and health care utilization.” And, while they found that loneliness was linked to increased health care utilization […] they posit a further reason why older adults might avail themselves of medical services: “to meet their need for interaction and interpersonal stimulation.”’
When the images of success that surround us growing up in school and on TV drip with the sort of generational wealth that no amount of hard work can accomplish, the traditional version of the American Dream focused on a worker bee’s mentality only serves to keep us in pursuit of an unattainable goal and distract us from the long con. It leaves so many of us silently feeling left out, desperate for someone like Juice Wrld to come along and say “I feel you. I’m lonely too.” Rarely do people get to the level of the Kardashians or whatever, but if we’re shown enough of them who do on TV, then we’ll all just shut up and keep working 80-hour weeks, accepting that that’s the only way to survive or get ahead, and continuing to pump in to a system that makes the rich richer at the expense of economic growth for the working class.
These value-prioritizations are equally as visible in how our education system is structured, in which going off the traditional “good grades, go to 4-year college” path feels like failure, with no built-in rewards for becoming a well-rounded, thoughtful, fun-loving or caring individual. Teaching to the test is encouraged as retention is disincentivized. There’s so much pressure on our young kids to “succeed,” as in, get ahead, that we’re losing sight of the humanity that should be built in to our definitions of success. We begin to empathize less with those outside of our own groups because the vision of success that we’ve been taught has no moral values attached to it. It’s ruthless and non-stop pursuit of betterment for yourself and your in-group with no bounded sense of how that affects those outside of it, corresponding with across-the-board statistical increases in the aforementioned feelings of loneliness and rates of bullying, teen drug use, and teen and adult suicides.
And the worst part is that most of the people who achieve this outward version of success are miserable too. Because when our self-worth is tied to our productivity, we keep aspiring for more, rarely stopping to smell the roses. The most “successful” people will all tell you how hard they worked to get where they are in life, but maybe it shouldn’t be that damn hard. Maybe working hard isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if it means we’re all fucking miserable along the way.
Blindly motoring ahead and leaving others behind is seemingly a staple of relationships in the music industry too. We’ve seen mad people network or game their way to the top successfully, and in a system with winners and losers, there’s a side people are trying to be on, so we see that behavior becomes normalized. Interactions and relationships start to feel transactional, and our senses of community and trust, impacted negatively.
A metanalysis of studies on loneliness conducted between 1980 and 2014 concludes that as a predictor of death, loneliness tops obesity, with a 26% increase in likelihood of early mortality.
If the ultimate goal is to create a happy and fulfilled populace, as it should be, then there’s a lot of unlearning to do. That’s a long process and there are no easy answers for how to shift the mentality and priorities of a whole society. But we can start by practicing radical empathy in our daily lives, which feels more and more like an act of resistance. Take extra time to play with your pets, reach out to old friends and prioritize seeing them to taking that extra assignment, take a homeless guy out for a sandwich and ask about his or her life, go out and say what’s up to the people hanging in your alley instead of peeking between the shades. Hopefully, it’s contagious.
RIP Juice Wrld.
No music outside of Juice Wrld should be played this week.
But if you’re tired after your 60th listen to Death Race for Love and need something fresh, here are a few hot singles from last week. With the news of Juice’s passing, these songs just don’t feel important enough to really write about in depth —
Hotboii – “In a Cell”
Only in Florida does hair like this fly. Do you Hotboii. The outro where he mumbles in the tune is hot as hell.
Kevin Gates – “Bags”
It sucks that POW is probably going to be the only outlet to really give Gates his shine with all of this end of decade stuff. He’s still elite.
Chicken P – “Billy”
Fast Cash Baby is the early hit from Chicken P (formerly Lil Chicken), and it appears on his new album, Billy, which is a late contender for one of my favorite tapes this year, but the standout to me is the 6-minute long earworm of a ballad, Tell Me Again, on the back half of the tape.
BHG Chosen Kidd & 54 Baby Trey – “Sports Mode”
Both this and the Chicken P tape are out Milwaukee, which has a super hot scene right now. Tap in with Evan Rytlewski’s extended look at the city’s raps for NPR.
Celly Ru & Rio Da Young O.G. – “Body Talk”
Rio’s verse on this track is in competition for the scariest verse I’ve ever heard.
Rio Da Young O.G. & Expen$ive – “Playing Roles”
Another Rio video, because as Harold Bingo said on Twitter, a bars of the year list would just be a list of Rio bars.
“My n**** pulled up unannounced and almost got killed.”