Diagnosing And Treating Your Life Troubles Using ’90s Hip-Hop (Vol. Two)

Welcome to the best medical musical advice you’ll read on the internet today. Let’s drop the needle on some insights and let the songs play. Life is a joy ride and other times it’s a drive-by shooting. It gives with one hand and takes with the other. No matter who you are sometimes life will mosey up and jack your jaw, put a pause in your step and just generally leave you wondering whatthefuck?! But I’m here to tell you all your problems can be surmounted. Some you burrow under, some you clamber over, some you bust through and with other ones you just you gotta walk on. The greatest trick in life is to know what to do and when to do it. And from time to time we all need a little help pulling off that magic trick. I hope you never underestimate the strength of street knowledge.

When it comes to overcoming trouble, those in the ‘hood have their fair share of practice. So let’s bump some tracks from the Golden Era of hip-hop and pull out insights from deep in the crates. Those were the days of conscious rappers, so we’ll borrow some of their consciousness to raise our own. Dr. Smokestack Lightning and I put together a playlist that’s part diagnostic and part mixtape, something to help you carry on when you feel like road-kill carrion. So, without further adieu, here’s round two. 

1.  Have you lost perspective and find yourself obsessing about tiny details?

Your mind is a truly phenomenal piece of the universe. It’s the center of your universe. And it determines how you perceive everything. Trouble is your brain is also far too human and thus it’s paradoxical. It’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. It can get blown like speakers, distorting everything you hear. But if you’ve lost your clarity- let Lauryn Hill calm you down. The poor girl can’t seem to avoid trouble in her life but she can help you avoid trouble in yours.

Remember that “Everything is Everything.” It’s damn deceptively simple. Everything you do is done by you. Whatever you think or feel is based on everything that’s true to you. Not to be too solipsistic or narcissistic, but you’re everything to you. As miseducated as Lauryn Hill may be, she knows, “What is meant to be… will be.” And, “After Winter must come Spring.” That’s just celestial math she’s dropping in your path. Maybe you were dumped, you got fired, you were booted from your band or kicked out of your spot, but don’t sweat it because it’s just right now. It’s not the end. It’s really not. You just need to get off your ass and get ready for them April showers. Trust that sure as day follows night, season follow season, and the shit pile of your life helps bring May flowers. Life is cyclical and if you’re down the only place is to go up. So forget that greener grass you see on the other side. If you really want some greener grass, water your lawn. Every time you get knocked on you ass, pop back up and water your grass. Don’t waste time looking for some greener grass. Let the seasons turn and Spring will bring the rain. You just need to flip your shit into soil and everything will take care of itself.

Lauryn Hill “Everything Is Everything”


2. Are you in high demand but have low desire to be social? Need to get away?

Is you inbox jammed? Is your voicemail full? Do your unread texts number near a hundred? Do airplanes in the sky make you feel like you want to fly? Maybe you need to get away. If the world is really coming at you faster than sin, maybe you need to float away for a spell until you feel well. And that’s the prescription from Dr. Bombay, and you can trust him because he don’t stop and he don’t play, every time they try to catch him he’s always running away. This track, bounces like a gluteus maximus, so when fools are straight taxing ya, listen to the funky one himself, Del the Funky Homosapien, and contemplate your escape strategy. Some times you need to jettison yourself from a situation that’s untenable, get somewhere where you’re unreachable. And when your head settles, come back, smiling, feeling unimpeachable.

Del Tha Funky Homosapien “Dr. Bombay”


3. Are you chasing after the opinion of others, hoping to impress the world?

When it comes to advice, you can trust a man named Guru. He lays it out nice at your feet as he points out how suckas play themselves to have that mass appeal. Nowadays, you may feel you can measure yourself by likes, followers, upvotes and downvotes, and it seems everyone’s chasing that mass appeal. But when you hop up on the stage of life, and you only judge your value through the eyes of another, you’re already wack and done, son. You’re living on hype. You’re like a basehead a slave to the pipe, but the high you like is to be the fool everyone’s talking about. Guru warns you that mass appeal is a kissing cousin of being lowest common denominator, and real heads will check you later. Integrity is the key. You gotta be real even if you’re a lawyer, banker or candlestick-maker. If you determine your value based on what Tom, Dick and Steven think, you’ll be a has-been before you even made it. When you stand for something, it’s just like Gang Starr warns, not everyone will like you. But stand tall and be true to you, and you will never fall. Let Guru write this mantra on the walls of your mind using his laidback drawl, as he scrawls out rhymes with the rhythmic persistence of Premiere’s tall beats. Don’t fall for that mass appeal.

Gang Starr “Mass Appeal”


4. Do you let expectations hold you back?

Fear is a drunk-driving muthafucka. It’ll hit you when you’re aren’t looking and break you off at the knees, leaving you afraid of the sound of the squeal of the wheels of Fate. If you need a trick to stay one step ahead of your Fear, bump your wig to what Digital Underground suggests and “DooWutchYaLike.” It’s a miserable life if you deny yourself out of fear. You spend everyday with you- there’s no rhyme or reason why you shouldn’t do things your way. Now, don’t take this as a license to run over people in order to do what you like. Digital Underground were rappers from Oakland, they’re partly joking. And they left out the part about – don’t be stupid. But for you, I’ll loop it. Don’t be stupid. But get over your fear of labels, choices, people’s criticizing voices and do what ya like. It’s better for everyone. You’ll be happier, healthier and less reppressed, liable to spread joy rather than stress. You may notice this track lacks the presence of Tupac (he was originally a dancer for Digital Underground) but keep your eyes peeled open because it seems like nearly everyone from the ‘90s rap scene makes a cameo. And they all say the same thing, “Do what ya like.”

Digital Underground “DooWutchYaLike”


5. How do you find your way back to your best self?

After he was in Digital Underground, Tupac blew up like a blockbuster bomb, and lit up the ‘hood, which is why he’s in this video but once again, he’s not rhyming- this time he’s acting in the movie, “Juice.” The one on the mic dropping couplets is Rakim. The one who let the rhythm hit ‘em. On this track he spits a cautionary tale of succumbing to a need for power, ducats and glory. It’s a timeless story. And with Tupac as the villain, he outlines what happens when you say fuck it to life. It’s a real fast way to know the ledge. As Hunter S. Thompson said the only ones who know the edge are the ones who went over. Well, Eric B and Rakim are here to take you over. Learn from the journey. Look at your life and if you’re out there pushing past what you know, the next thing you’ll show the world is where the edge is after you’ve gone over. Don’t be scared and don’t be a punk, don’t dance on the ledge because you’re brave like a drunk. Stay true to you by learning to push ahead, and then pull back, and then push again and get back on track. If you’re smooth going like Rakim, ebb and flowing, you should be all right.

Eric B. & Rakim “Know the Ledge”


6. Are people playing you for the fool?

The ‘90s were special because the rhymes were so conscious, they were less about shine and wealth, less about material brags and boasts, instead on both coasts rappers like street poets called out what they saw going down. The most political, most militant, most intelligent had to be the main man of Public Enemy, Chuck D. Nowadays, Flavor Flav is more famous. He made a name for himself on reality tv, but it used to be all about Chuck D. So it goes. We often pick the clown over the prophet. What Chuck D warned us about has come to pass. So maybe it’s time you listen to Chuck, let him remind you how not to be tricked. Don’t let others play you for the fool.  Look at life as your school and learn to see past the shiny surfaces and get to the heart of the matter. Otherwise, you’re left with a Flavor Flav reality tv mentality, rather than Chuck D clearing bullshit from your focus. Listen to what someone says, watch what they do, and between the two, pay more attention to what they do. You can truss their history of actions to dispel much of their mystery.

Public Enemy “Can’t Truss It”


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7.  Do you feel like people aren’t respecting you?

Respect. It’s harder to come by than money. You can’t demand it. You must command it. Like cash, you earn respect. Well, EPMD might have been Eric and Parrish Making Ducats, but they weren’t commanding the respect they deserved. So they dropped this track as sonic boom to shake up and wake up the whole rap community. They grabbed Redman and K-Solo to help them on a few verses to remind fools why they’d been making ducats in the first place. And bam! Instant banger! This track hits so hard you could use it to drive nails. Sometimes, you gotta shake ‘em up.  Remind people why you deserve your propers. You can’t sit back on the respect of yesterday, that shit disappears like shadows after sundown. You gotta get up each day and earn fresh respect. And if you respect yourself first, respect your time, your work and your energy, others will follow your lead and respect you. Learn from the power of no and the timing of saying yes. You’ll find far less stress when you declare what’s acceptable and where the line is and if someone crosses it, like Erik and Parrish you might have to wreck a fool.

EPMD “The Headbanger”


8. Are you worried you might dangle your boss out of the window?

Maybe it’s not just respect you lack. Maybe you’re under attack from someone who disrespects your game. And they drop shit in your path just to drive you insane. If you feel like you need to dangle your boss out of window before they’ll give you your propers, check yourself with this song. Violence solves nothing. But rap teaches us well simulated imagined violence can make you wealthy. Hollywood is equal proof of those economics. But real violence will likely catch up to you. So drop a needle on this track for some violent catharsis. Let their grimey rhymes free your mind of your dreams of violence and the anger you want to inflict on others. Let these verses course through you and release your anger with each chorus. Onyx will set you free. Breathe it out… rather than beat it out… of someone else. Sit back, relax and let your mind go. You can roll with these bad guys, so you don’t wind up with a prison bed-roll and having to bunk with some real bad guys. Hip-hop can give the satisfaction of the action delivered in the lines of the fantasy interactions of an m.c. The lyrical role-playing rolls down the windows of your mind and lets in the cool air to combat your mental heat.

Onyx “Slam”


9. Do you feel like you’ve lost perspective? Are your troubles overwhelming?

Sometimes… you’ll look out and see the world looks a mess, when the truth of the matter is you’ve just been abusing reality. If that’s the case, and you’re having trouble in multiple avenues of your life, the only constant is you. It’s time to get out of your own damn way and realize you’ve just been trippin’. So check your projector back into the AV Club, because you don’t need to project anymore. Reframe your focus on you and ignore what others are doing, who they’re dating, where they’re going and what they’re eating. Get your attention back on you and what you’re doing, dating and eating. When RZA went off to do a side project from the Wu, this is what he wanted to do, some horror-core rap way ahead of its time. They rhyme about doing mescaline, glue and chugging wine and how they’re all fucking with their minds. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been super-emotional, or maybe just chewing mescaline or chasing mojitos with bad ideas, whatever’s clouding your mind, it’ll create confused fantasies, make you embrace paranoia and steal any chance for you to enjoy yourself. So catch yourself. Check your mental health with these twisted ass beats. The Gravediggaz may well save you time. And help you stay on the lookout for when you’re trippin’ unconsciously through time.

Gravediggaz “Defective Trip/Trippin’”


10. Haters are gonna hate… but how do you live free of bullshit?

Before Kanye called himself God, another rapper claimed some of that eternal shine. Nas got himself a cross and carried the burdens of being Jesus on his shoulders. He said to the world, “You can hate me now… But I won’t stop now…” and that, my friends, is your new anthem. Because anyone who’s heard Kanye talk to a camera can tell you- haters are gonna hate. That’s common knowledge. But what’s the antidote? Well, Nas gave us that divine inspiration. You can’t stop. Let your doubters flex at you, let the mad ones try to get next to you, let the bad ones spit text at you, just keep carrying your weight. That’s all you need to do. Like the mail, come rain, come snow, come sleet or hail, you gotta get up every day and deliver. If you want to be a boss bitch or top dog, you’re best be prepared for some biting at your ankles. Don’t sweat your enemies or give them any room in your head. Let their hate brush past like water off a duck’s ass.

Nas and Diddy “Hate Me Now”


11. How can you happily find fellowship with other human beings?

How do you stay in balance when you’re special but so is everyone else? Well, we’ve been dealing with some sources of anger, hostility, and fear in this playlist, and sometimes we go through these periods where it’s hard to remember how we get along. Whether it’s a roommate or your mate, it always come down to same problem. Ego. E. G. O. Not Eggo, like leggo my Eggo. But same beginning and end but sandwiching only a single “g.” But that one letter makes all the difference. What could so easily be a tasty morning treat, turns into an all day stomach-ache. Your ego, my ego, their ego, our egos all get in the way. We forget that just like De La Soul will remind you it’s all an ego trip. And if you wanna live life like it’s a holiday, keep your ego in check all day long. Don’t listen to me. Listen to their song. It’s one of the bouncier, sillier tracks, true to their flower-power Day-Glo black hippie style. But life should be fun. De La Soul makes that job number one, son. And so should you.

De La Soul “Ego Trip”


12. How do you find love in a world of materialistic distractions?

Last in this playlist, is the Big Poppa, the show-stopper, the rhyme-topper, the panty-dropper, the one and only Notorious B.I.G. Any video that features speed boats, police choppers, motorcycles and mermaids and bangs like this one is gonna be memorable, but the real takeaway is Biggie. It’s hard not to love his flashy ways. He was rhyming before Maybachs went mainstream and diamond dreams erased the consciousness of hip-hop. Now there’s little truth and lots of distractions. If you feel like you want something real, let’s say love is what you’re after, don’t take your eyes off what you want, don’t even let Biggie hypnotize you with his flashy ways, you gotta be like Biggie and find your way through the maze of life, before you get stuck with Mace in your life. Ain’t that right, Diddy? You can ride off into the sunset on a humming powerboat if you don’t stop, can’t stop, won’t stop, your climb. You have just this one time. You won’t always get it right, but you gotta keep going until you get it right. If you want something in life, hypnotize yourself. Believe you’ll get it. There’s no way to know for sure, so you might as well believe in you and go for what you want. Ignore the toys and imitate the relentlessness of Biggie.

Notorious B.I.G. “Hypnotize”


Stay tuned for Vol. Three.  In the meantime, be well, my brother and sisters. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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