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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

What the Future Holds

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

There are a number of rap groups—duos, trios, etc.—that are heavily intertwined with various periods of my life. One such example is M.O.P, a New York hip hop duo known for rugged lyrics, unique beats, and original content.

It’s worth noting that many people currently in my life, whether personally or professionally, likely wouldn’t appreciate the music of Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame. Perhaps this applies to you, as well, dear reader.

The music of M.O.P served as a soundtrack to a past version of me with which I barely recognize today. Nonetheless, I’d like to highlight verses from a particular track that I think complements the work I perform with clients.

I present “What the Future Holds,” from M.O.P’s 1998 album entitled First Family 4 Life. Herein, I’ll demonstrate concepts of how I use Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) when working with hypothetical characters of the song—not intended to represent the artists themselves.

Lil’ Fame opens the first verse by sharing, “I was a young child, lost; went to church on Sundays. Walking a narrow road that lead me to gunplay.” Fame juxtaposes his position of one foot in religion and the other in the streets.

Hashtag: Relatable. It’s not uncommon for people to maintain countervailing identities. From time to time when working with clients, I hear about how people tell themselves they desire one thing though their behavior paints a completely different picture.

You, reader, may not identify with having been raised with Judeo-Christian values while at the same time behaving as a criminal in your youth. What then may apply to your presenting issue?

Do you tell yourself about wanting to lose weight, though you continuously thwart your progress? Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that remaining faithful to your partner is what you desire, yet you continually cheat.

In my sessions with clients, I assess for motivation (what one wants) and commitment (what one is willing to do). These elements aren’t always aligned. When this is the case, what could happen?

Lil’ Fame responds to this by answering, “I kept dreams of being a rap dude but I know the streets too well, so I pack tools. I lost a lot of loved ones to these streets and lost a lot of loved ones over beef. That goes to show those streets haunt ya’. Look what society created now, a monsta’.”

At this point in a session, during the disputation phase of an REBT ABC Model, I would shift away from focusing on motivation and commitment. Instead, I would use psychoeducation to address personal responsibility and accountability—collectively: Ownership.

Ownership is not widely accepted by those who maintain a victim mentality. While Fame’s character blames an urban setting for his behavior, I, too held such a perspective about my upbringing. I was wrong.

People sometimes express disbelief when hearing about how I lost more loved ones to street life nonsense than I did during my entire time as a United States Marine. Packing tools or fileros while resolving beef wasn’t an unusual occurrence in my adolescence.

Not knowing about REBT then, I had no idea of how rigid beliefs and “musterbation”—often taking the form of should, must, or ought statements—were causing self-disturbance. I was shoulding all over myself! That’s how Fame began his verse.

After Fame’s declaration comes the hook to the song. In part, it states, “Follow your dreams and follow your goals, ‘cause who knows what the future holds? (Who knows what the future holds?) Our man died and was left cold, because a slug took the nigga’s soul. (Slug took the nigga’s soul).”

Now we’re into existentialism territory. M.O.P appears to suggest that finding purpose and meaning is important to them, because there is no guarantee for a long life.

They highlight this notion—because, it is a fact that you, everyone you’ve ever known, know, and will know shall one day die—by making reference to a close connection who passed away, presumably an unexpected occurrence.

What I further appreciate about the chorus of the song is that the duo separated dreams from goals. As my late stepmom used to frequently tell me, “A dream is something you do when asleep. Goals are something you work towards when awake.”

Billy Danze enters the second verse by claiming, “I wish somebody would lend a hand so they could see how I feel inside. I’m on an emotional roller coaster ride; nothing to hide. A long time ago, I set aside my pride and used my past as a ghetto guide. A few good men died, several wept; stood beside me, so I could smooth out the road for those that come behind me.”

This is not the mumble rap or hip pop with which so many people nowadays are familiar. In my opinion, Billy Danze earned a shout-out during his verse of the song “Calm Down,” as a voice exuberantly exclaims to applause, “We love you, Billy!” Yet, I digress.

In “What the Future Holds,” Billy issues a plea for help, describing the ups and downs he’s experienced in life. Not embracing a state of victimhood, he abandoned hardheadedness and used resilience to move forward.

Unlike the current popularity of finger-pointing and whining which so many people in society appear fond of, Billy’s verse speaks to the Stoic concept of antifragility, as discussed by Nassim Taleb. Albert Ellis, creator of REBT, described what we experience when others violate our rigid must statements.

Per Ellis, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy,” often lead to anxiousness, fear, anger, sorrow, and so on. According to Danze’s verse, the lyricist didn’t hold himself back.

Rather, Billy focused on smoothing the road ahead for those behind him. This is where and when change occurs, here and now, with a focus on a better tomorrow.

Danze continues his second verse by rapping, “(He who lives as a gangster, will perish in these streets) I know that’s deep, but I still shed tears for my mother two years after she’d been laid to rest, and still some things I need to chisel off my chest. My remedy for stress, I conversate wit’ my oldest brother ten years after his death. I know there’s nothin’ left, so I’m forced to take a deep breath before I attempt to take another step. A lot of brothas slept, a lot of brothas was left cold in the street, and told, ‘This is what your future holds.”

The depth of these existentially-laced lyrics hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. Billy is reminded that the folly of his ways will surely lead to his demise. While contemplating this, the artist is automatically reminded of the death of his mother and brother.

Make no mistake about this admission, dear reader, and note how Billy proceeds after confessing long-term grief for his loved ones. Danze admits that “there’s nothin’ left,” acknowledging that he’s not deceived regarding hope for rebirth in this lifetime.

A significant number of people with whom I’ve interacted throughout my life have deluded themselves with magical thinking, unreasonable expectations, and rigid and extreme narratives that do not serve them well. Billy hasn’t fallen for these cognitive traps.

Rather, Danze mentions taking a deep breath before stepping forward in life. This well-documented form of relaxation allows the lyricist to advance forward and face his future, as not to end up a casualty of “the street.”

The first two verses having been presented, the song draws to a close with someone cautioning, “So there you have it. You see, a lot of niggas talk about bullshit—talkin’ about cars, jewels, and money. But in all reality, we all come out the same bag of shit. Some of us may never see tomorrow. So, my niggas, don’t you never, don’t you ever...forget where you come from.”

This advisement serves as a form of universality—recognition that one’s suffering isn’t unique to an individual, though instead is experienced by all of humanity. Similar recognition is said to have been realized within various spiritual and religious faiths.

The voice in the outro encourages others not to forget where they come from, a longstanding warning within hip hop that urges humility. In my REBT sessions, I invite clients to consider this element when determining effective new beliefs.

The ABC model is constructed as follows:

(A)ction – What occurred

(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)

(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)

(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)

(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B)

The outro of “What the Future Holds” establishes an effective new belief that could be summed up thusly: “While I could distract myself with attachment to desirable objects, I realize this serves as little more than a distraction on a path to an eventual death. Instead of wasting my time, I can remember that we all suffer. Therefore, I can be humble, forgive myself, forgive others, and forgive the world for not being as I wish it to be.”

What do you think of my exploration into the lyrics of this M.O.P song? As well, does REBT sound like something in which you’d be interested?

For more information about my approach to REBT, I invite you to read a separate blog post I wrote entitled Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about this form of therapy, I encourage you to reach out 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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