“All that glitters ain't gold
And all that shines bright ain't a diamond
And all that wrinkles isn't old
And as far as you see, ain't the horizon”
Everybody want a motherfucking Benz or Beamer
Designer sneakers, ain't no motherfucking dreamers
Shit is deeper than Neiman Marcus or your Hollywood starlets
Underneath there's niggas starving, impoverished
People don't give no fucks, nigga
Trump don't give a fuck
Your niggas don't give a fuck
Your favorite artists don't give a motherfucking fuck
Do you give a fuck, nigga?”
WHERE’S THE MEANING?
Drawing from the trials and tribulations that shaped his life and work, in “First World Problemz/Nobody Cares” Faiyaz explores our motivations, drives, desires, and ways of life. While originally his work was more surface level and focused on relationships and love, over time Faiyaz felt compelled to explore life and culture through the power of retrospect on his own struggles. In an interview with the 405, he commented on the development of his voice: “At the beginning I didn’t really have a stance or look at myself like I was going to be a voice for anybody, I just did it because I liked doing it and didn’t want to work my job anymore. But interacting with the fans and hearing about what the music meant to them… I don’t know; it made me start speaking on shit that was bigger than myself.”
Marked by its near-ubiquitous position in mainstream media and advertising, over-active materialism has been linked to American identity for some time. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is the common euphemism for the reliance on possessions to define one’s self-worth. So ingrained has it become that researchers have run studies to examine connections between socioeconomic status and materialism. One psychology study even found that “signals of wealth conveyed by the local economy appeared to impact self-evaluations in a manner similar to when one is exposed to idealized advertising images. That is, individuals who were young, poor, and lived around wealth were most vulnerable to engaging in social comparison with idealized, wealthier individuals, and using their scant resources to accumulate possessions to, presumably, convey wealth they did not have.” Wealth has become the predominant measure of success in our society.
With this at the forefront of his mind, Faiyaz presents this link between wealth and worth as chief among society’s most pernicious motivations. “Death in designer” – or the insatiable desire to accumulate ostentatious status symbol material items is self-indulgent and hampers people from empathizing with and helping the poor and downtrodden. Wealthy and poor alike profess that they care for and support underserved communities, including their own, while reinforcing the myth that wealth is success by engaging in excessive status displays and purchasing overly-expensive luxury goods, diverting potentially valuable resources from communities and those most in need. This blind embrace of greed and materialism in American culture has desensitized people and rendered many unable to explore their own individually defined purpose and mission in life.
Introspective review of motivation can be broken down into what we want and why we choose to want what we want. The answers to those questions, while all too often different, directly impact who we become as we choose which goals and motivations to create and follow. Drawing from his own life, Faiyaz reminisces on some of his happiest times, which came when he was barely making ends meet. Nonetheless, he knew “it could be a worse situation”, that not only are there others doing financially worse than he, but there are also many - who while achieving greater financial success - have lived out their lives unable to look inside themselves, find their true meaning, and follow that calling. Many remain trapped in the pull of materialism and indiscriminately follow society’s definition of meaning and thereby lack the desire and tenacity to find their true meaning, do what they themselves actually value, and become who they truly want to be.
Instead of accepting without question society’s vacuous obsession with wealth and status, Faiyaz urges each of us to search for and define our own personal meaning of life and to surround ourselves with “some good friends” who support you and love you as you are, even (and perhaps especially) if your life is modest in financial terms. Put succinctly and in verse, Faiyaz sings: “don’t give a damn 'bout what they think. As long as I pay rent.”
- Do you define your success in life in whole or in part by the accumulation of status symbol possessions?
- What values and goals of mainstream culture are most valuable and important?
- How has our society’s celebration of extreme wealth and materialism impacted your vision of a successful life?
According to Sallie May data, “most families (97%) agree that the key to achieving that American Dream is through investing in their children’s college education.” This finding is the statistical underpinning of the goal behind the Thurgood Marshall College Fund – to “facilitate college access through affordability, completion and career success for low-resourced students.” For more on the TMCF, head to their site and you can donate to the cause here.
Functioning as a consortium of over 245 independent, nonprofit organizations, NeighborWorks “helps individuals, families and communities thrive through comprehensive approaches to affordable housing and community development.” Their capacity-building mission is simple and driven by a desire to empower individuals to lead fulfilling lives by creating”opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.”