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Pearls of Wisdom from Lupe Fiasco and T.I.

One of my students pointed out that Skyler Grey must like singing backup on controversial rap songs. Songs with anger. Songs of disgust. Songs with lots to say. Songs crying out for intense discussion. And, behind the bitterness, songs of hope. You'll benefit from listening to and thinking about both.

I don't love every line Fiasco and T.I. write. I can't get behind the radical 9/11 theories. I love Lupe Fiasco's personal story, especially his early life – read it here:

But I definitely don't agree that the answer to any problem is to boycott voting. And, unlike Fiasco, I don't "believe in the people." "The people" need a lot of work.

I looked hard for something in T.I.'s "New National Anthem" that I didn't agree with or find truth in, but I couldn't find anything. How about you?

Both videos were sent to me by 17-year-old Asian-American boys who are about as far from the streets and the experiences of Fiasco and TI as I am. But they cared about the message, which is that our country – our world – has a long way to go. Neither are good enough.

Lyrics to consider:

Fiasco: "I can't take back the words I never said."

True, right? What we don't say is what we most regret.

T.I.: "If you ain't found something you're willing to die for, you ain't fit to live."

What would you die for? Anything? Who would you die for? Anyone?

Fiasco: "If you don't become an actor, you'll never be a factor."

In other words, stop talking and start doing.

T.I.: "Let me ask you something. If the kids are the future, tell me why you can get more for being a C.E.O. than you can for being a teacher? Tell me why it means more to the government to pay the people who watch over the prisoners more than the people who got to keep the children from becoming the prisoners? That make sense?"

No. But I teach economics. I think it's a supply/demand thing. But, still, point taken.

Fiasco: "I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence. Fear is such as weak emotion, that's why I despise it. We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth, so scared of what you think of me, I'm scared of even telling you."

Is silence worse than violence? Maybe. Maybe the accumulation of it is. And, yeah, the whole world is afraid. So afraid of what others will say, think or do that we say nothing. I'm guilty, too. I'm trying to get better at this.

T.I.: "Stop waiting on folk to help you, help yourself, it starts with you. Land of the beautiful. Get yourself out, reach back, get somebody else out."

I love this. Both parts. Don't be dependent. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't help others.

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