Live and Let Live
93 ‘til Infinity
In 1993, hip hop group Souls of Mischief released a song entitled “93 ‘til Infinity” on an album with the same title. The track remains as a quintessential classic of its time, blending elements of underground influence and mainstream success.
It was when I was 17-years-old and in high school that I recall hearing the new joint played over the airways of a local college radio station which hosted hip hop and R&B on Saturdays. Unfortunately, the 5” x 7” speakers of my Ford Escort GT couldn’t provide adequate signal processing to do the song justice.
Live and Let Live, an REBT approach
That was 29 years ago and a lot has changed since then. In fact, I hardly recognize the person I was in the photo above. I mean, who wears white socks with leather Eastland loafers?
At any rate, aside from the aforementioned most popular track on the album, 93 ‘til Infinity featured a noteworthy song entitled “Live and Let Live” which better relates to the sort of material I assess within blog posts from a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) perspective.
The preppy-dressing teen featured in the photo from my youth was one who hung with knuckleheads from the blocc. Transporting members of the blue team while driving a red car was interesting, to say the least.
I dressed in an acceptable manner to avoid detection from and interaction with law enforcement officers. My strategy worked. While my friends donned clothing that signaled their affiliation, I largely went unnoticed.
Where I’m from, and at that time, the appearance of a teen who wore a white hat in order to blend in with jocks and preps would likely be considered socially acceptable. In reality, the shenanigans I got up to in my Escort GT were unreasonably dangerous.
This ties in to the content of “Live and Let Live.” For the reader’s benefit, I’ll italicize the irrational should, must, or ought-type statements as I address the lyrics and the foolish behavior during my youth for a teaching moment.
In the first verse, Souls of Mischief rapper Opio states:
Now playful pulpit pussies poppin’ junk with the pistol
Sweated, because I’m dreaded, let’s get ready to pull a fistful
Of extinction, reachin’, quick on the trigger sneakin’
And then send a flurry of bullets diggin’ deep in my flesh and wreakin’
The props, ‘cause they pops lots of mops heads drop
Dead plots, a cop, eager and ready to lick the shots, hot
Ready to kick the plot so wipin’ the flop and then I vanish
Managed to escape by the skin of my teeth and then say, “Damn
It’s a shame,” the brain is washed, to the point, when it’s savage
Beasts, I rest in peace, simply before I annex
And send, why can’t there be a resolution, I ask you
No answer, so fuck it the next time my life is threatened I’ll blast you
Packin’ the black steel, makin’ the macks feel pain and fear
As I smear blood from buck shots to the brain
Pump, pump, pump! Listen to the bullets hum as they buzz past
Your ears and dig in, drillin’ into your cranium
Not a gang-banger, crack-slanger, never done had the rep kid
Yet sweated, frequently, see me and step with
Intent to kill, spilling your blood for your sins
Defends my livelihood ‘cause rivals could bring ends to
My youthful bliss, bustin’ a trigger gun and missed this
Bullets to the vital organs in order to assist
In your death, your last breath havin’ spasms as I has em’
The idea is demonic and the thought is surely sad
And not a murderer, ensurin’ the longevity of my life, I’ll
Live and let live, kill if I must, I shall
Opio outlines a kill-or-be-killed argument. Perceivably targeted by others for his appearance, the rapper describes how it isn’t affiliation with a gang or other criminal activity that makes him the subject of other people’s ire.
Similarly, I didn’t dress as a banger and I wasn’t slangin’, though my life was openly threatened on many occasions before I graduated high school. Similar to the character Opio highlights in his song, measures were taken to ensure self-defense in my case.
Now, almost three decades later, I’m amazed to still be alive. Truly, even after having served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) for a month shy of 11 years, I experienced more violent action as a teen than as a Marine.
Was I a victim of my environment? Could I truly claim, as Buju Banton has stated, “Circumstances made me what I am, was I born a violent man?” No.
I take personal ownership for my behavior. Practicing REBT, I now comprehend that it was never the fact that someone threatened my life that led me to engage in a retaliatory response.
Understanding the REBT ABC Model, I know that when a person threatened to kill me due to my acquaintanceship with others (Action), telling myself that others must respect and not harm me (Belief) is what led to that which I won’t articulate herein for legal reasons (Consequence).
REBT uses the following formula to address this causal relationship: Action + Belief = Consequence ÷ Disputation = Effective new belief.
Without disputing the unhelpful and unhealthy beliefs I used as an adolescent, I didn’t arrive at effective new beliefs with which I could better engage the actions to which I was exposed. Thankfully, the scenario Opio outlined didn’t manifest in irreconcilable outcomes in my own life.
In the second verse, group member Tajai states:
Damn, I wish that I can have bliss daily
Lately, I try to speak my piece but words fail me
I’m dwelling in the halls of appalling sights of evil
I got to sweat the devil, plus I got to sweat my people
Do I gotta blow them brains out to get them chains out
Your head, the mackin’ mentally offends to be dead
Deceased I gotta peace deeds, ‘cause the beast be
Lurkin’ up in them, so now I’m buckin’ them
And stuck in them, the herring fits means tricks
You learn it when you plunder and tell me to run the kicks
You might trip, and find it hard to swallow this
But follow this down a dark alley and you’re catchin’ hollow tips
You got yo’ shit, I got mine, leave it at that
Respect T or thank me, when I shank thee
Necks, ‘cause clever dreads can sever heads, weasel
I may be thin but my lead friends be diesel
A law-abiding citizen, but shit it’s been long enough
Strong and tough, sniff this and you’re snuffed
Stifled, step lively, don’t try to bust me
Trust the fact that I’m friendly and you’ll Plus see
I love humans, they hate, me
I’d love to live and let live, but no-one’s T
So until then I chill when it’s possible
But I got’sta pull pieces, because we’re peace-less
Tajai begins by expressing a desire for bliss and then lays out a case for why he believes peace isn’t a realistic option. I, too, once convinced myself that I was entitled to peace.
In my youthful naivety, I held a “don’t start no shit, it won’t be no shit” mentality. Put a different way, I thought, “You shouldn’t cause problems, otherwise there will be problems.”
Combine Tajai’s scenario with my script of demandingness and the result is, “I ought to have happiness; therefore, you must not do anything I perceive as threatening.” Two issues come to mind when evaluating this statement.
First, is a person entitled to joy? I wouldn’t disagree with someone requesting, hoping for, or desiring a state of bliss. However, when we tell ourselves that we must have peace and we ultimately are deprived of it, what is the resulting consequence?
If I say, “I hope to find happiness,” though I’m unhappy nonetheless, I may be mildly disappointed. When I tell myself, “I better have joy,” though I remain joyless, I disturb myself into an angry disposition, because my demand isn’t being met.
I am then responsible and accountable for my state of discontent. Being disappointed is a natural experience in life while being so angry that one chooses the most extreme measures to remedy the perceived wrong may not be as helpful or healthy as one may think.
This leads to the second issue whereby a person demands that others provide for one’s own safety. Are others required to make us “feel” safe?
Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, is noted as having stated, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
If I convince myself that I must not be threatened, others must treat me well, and that the world must be safe, I will undoubtedly disturb myself. While I may hope not to be threatened, appreciate it if others treated me well, or would like for the world to be safe, I’m not owed these conditions.
This is where the REBT practice of unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance can prove beneficial. Rather than preparing to illegally or unjustifiably take the life of another person due to a violation of one’s conditions to life, one can simply accept that others behave according to their own interests or principles.
When teaching this lesson to clients, I often receive pushback. “Deric, how can you sit there and tell me to accept that unsafe people exist?” one may say. My response is, “By not accepting something over which you have no control, how are your interests served?”
In the final verse of the Souls of Mischief song, rapper A-Plus states:
Yo, thy shall not kill, I will if I have to
You say I’m the one promoting violence, well I ask you
Have you ever heard the sound of bullets passing you
Ever thought of going out with someone blasting you
Willing to be killing maybe is a great sin but
It’s not appealing when bullets penetrate skin, what
Pain when a brain leaves a stain with the quickness
So I get a fool if I think that I’m on his shit list
With the swiftness of a Glock nine
So now, who got your back? ‘Cause my gat got mine
Find a brother with some dreads and now you figure you’re gonna kill him
Well I grab my gun when I see one, I’m gonna fill him
Why should you live in fear, thinkin’ someone is gonna get ya’
I bet ya’, before he gets me he’ll be on a stretcher
So no nigga pulls a trigger on the S-O-M
And if there’s more than one I’ll have to kill the rest of them
Buck shots leave a body ripped, ‘cause I got equipped
With a shotty quick, that nobody wanna riff with
Get split open with the fury of the lead, G
Rat-a-tat, tat-a-tat, flat is what your head be
Dead, see, why don’t brothers wanna let me function
When I pull it, kids be eatin’ bullets like a luncheon
Adam got a magnum and I tag ‘em with this weapon
Be threatened, ‘cause Adam be pullin’ a pistol if you’re steppin’
I don’t like it but I guess that that’s the way it has to be
Live and let live, but then you’re dead before you’re blastin’ me
A-Plus begins by making a logical case for self-defense. His argument goes something like this:
Premise 1: Every time I perceive a threat, I shall defend myself.
Premise 2: I think person A is a threat.
Conclusion: Therefore, I shall defend myself against person A.
The argument is logically sound. However, it’s based on a false premise. A-Plus clearly states, “So I get a fool if I think that I’m on his shit list,” and, “Why should you live in fear, thinkin’ someone is gonna get ya’?”
As a teen, I was quite familiar with this sort of reasoning. My irrational script went something like this:
Premise 1: If a member of a rival group causes me fear, the person must be dealt with.
Premise 2: Person A is from a rival group and causes me fear.
Conclusion: Ergo, person A must be dealt with.
The similarity between A-Plus’ mindset and that of my adolescent perspective was that mere perception of violence was enough to evoke violence as a response. In a blogpost entitled The Bad Hand, I wrote:
“Much like the southern region from which I hail, street gangs with which I once interfaced, and the [USMC] in which I served, hip hop retains a long tradition concerning a culture of honor, also called honor culture.”
At what point is one willing to stop violent behavior and truthfully ask, “Is my association with violent people what’s causing me to respond violently?” or, “If I weren’t associated with violent people, could I forego violence altogether?”
While I can’t speak for A-Plus, I can verify that I had to ask myself these questions at various points in my life. If violence begets violence, the proper should statement for myself was, “I shouldn’t place myself in violent situations.”
When working with clients and discussing should, must, and ought-type narratives, some people have expressed surprise to learn there are appropriate uses of these statements. The key is that these scripts apply only to the one expressing them and that they are helpful or healthy in nature.
For instance, I may say, “I should get out of bed when my alarm sounds, because in order to accomplish my goals I need to get up.” This is a helpful narrative that serves my interests.
However, if I demand, “Because I get up when my alarm sounds, others should also get out of bed when their alarms go off,” this is an unhelpful script. The reason is because when—not if—others disobey my mandate I would likely disturb myself with an unhealthy belief about how they must comply with my terms.
For the hook of “Live and Let Live,” rapper Phesto states:
I give it all I got, that’s all I got to give
Yo, you got to live and let live
I give it all I got, that’s all I got to give
Yo, you gotta live and let live
Phesto’s use of a demanding should, must, or ought-type narrative manifests in the form of “got” and “gotta.” Saying, “You got to [or gotta] live and let live,” is akin to declaring, “You ought to live and let live.”
It wouldn’t be a self-disturbing statement if Phesto suggested, “Yo, I hope you live and let live,” or, “Yo, I wish you would live and let live.” It’s the rigid demand of you got or gotta that allows no deviation from the demandingness in this case.
When exposing myself to the honor culture of knuckleheads, I demanded reverence by stating to others, “You got to respect me.” Upon what did I base my demand, other than an inflexible and unhealthy belief? Nothing.
When later voluntarily serving in the USMC, continuing devotion to a culture of honor, the underlying unhealthy belief towards other state actors was, “You gotta submit to the demands of the United States government.” Based on what, other than a similarly inflexible and unhelpful belief? Nothing.
When thinking of how one may reply to my past got or gotta narratives, Mr. Cheeks’ verse from Lost Boyz’ “Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz and Benz” comes to mind. The rapper stated, “Talk what you wanna’, do what you gotta. Well let me tell you something, man, you can’t do me nadda.”
No one’s gotta do a damn thing I say they should, must, or ought to. Nann nutta one! As was stated in a sample of Ice Cube’s 1991 hit “A Bird in the Hand,” I can simply say, “Live and let live.”
At my current stage of being, I’m all for a live and let live way of life. Unlike the rigid demands in “Live and Let Live,” or the manner in which I behaved as a minor, I no longer expect others to obey my approach to living.
I may hope not to be threatened. I may appreciate it if others treated me well. I would like for the world to be safe. Still, I’m not owed any of these conditions. Therefore, I no longer disturb myself by demanding otherwise.
How about you, dear reader? Do you disturb yourself into fear, anger, sorrow, or disgust by the unhelpful or unhealthy beliefs you use? Would you like to know more about how to live and let live?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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