“Everything a man does springs from his motivations” — Ken Kesey
The bedroom contains the silence and stillness found in places where boredom breathes a heavy sigh. When there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do but wait for life to happen, a quiet room can become a waiting zone for lost boys who end up as lost men. Recognizing this truth as an aging adolescent made me restless and worried; no man wishes to be held captive by stagnancy. While staring at the ceiling one unremarkable morning, as time moved slowly as sand in an hourglass, I thought of CeeLo Green and his hook on the OutKast record “Git Up, Git Out.”
“You need to git up, git out, and git something,” Green says, a profound simplicity that could have easily been recited by Dr. Seuss himself. I don’t recall how or when “Git Up, Git Out” first entered my eardrums, but its lasting importance to my life is bigger than the date of introduction. The ’90s Dungeon Family posse cut was likely just another classic initially, a song I recognized for its timeless funk and captivating coming-of-age tales, but it became something more once I experienced firsthand how it felt to come of age.
“Git Up, Git Out,” the 12th track on OutKast’s celebrated debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, is about young black men who must confront their choices, and how their actions are challenged and received by the world. Each verse, but especially those delivered by CeeLo and André 3000, touches upon the universal theme that growing up isn’t easy, and yet, what ultimately shapes our future is how we engage with the present.
Remarkably, between all four verses — CeeLo, Big Boi, Big Gipp, and 3000 — not one rapper suggests what the listener should strive to be. The song’s hook is the only encouragement actually being offered. It allows you to choose what your “something” is, so long as it isn’t just wasting the days away. It’s a friendly nudge, a tornado of motivation by a youthful group of men who used art to explain how the searching-for-something period in life isn’t a unique phase, but a ubiquitous experience.
Hip-hop, better than any other musical medium, can ignite a desire in people to want for more and aspire for better. Capturing life in its raw essence may not always receive plaques, break records, or receive the loudest acknowledgment, but there’s an attachment that forms with the audience more personal and more groundbreaking than what the biggest pop songs may achieve.
“Git Up, Git Out” wasn’t a radio darling — the single didn’t make a dent commercially — but rather than becoming a short-lived blip in Atlanta rap history, the record traveled through eras as a generational classic. This proves that if a song can motivate a man to leave his bed and dare to bring a dream into fruition, the chances of immortality increase tenfold.
Though Ace Hood isn’t an immortal songwriter, the 30-year-old emcee from Port St. Lucia, Florida certainly has a few singles in his catalog that may transcend time because of their get-up-and-get-out energy. In 2011, Ace released “Hustle Hard” as the first single off Blood Sweat & Tears, his third studio album. What made “Hustle Hard” a memorable and effective record, beyond the infectious chant and Lex Luger’s post-“B.M.F.” trap production, is how he identifies what drives his ambition in the hook. “Momma need a house, baby need some shoes” is simple enough to be a strong chorus, but wrapping the song’s sentiment in relatable ambition made it a winner.
Throughout the song, Ace Hood’s hustle isn’t made explicit. He doesn’t use the verses to dig deeper into the conditions of mother or son, but the narrative shortcomings don’t negate how “Hustle Hard” lives in the lexicon of Southern rap anthems like adrenaline shots of pure determination. No matter what you’re chasing, when the grind is selfless, the aspiration mirrors what “Hustle Hard” stands for: improving the livelihood of loved ones by any means necessary.
Ace Hood is an interesting contrast to Rick Ross, a fellow Floridian, who was a major contributor to what was then understood to be contemporary, hustle-centric rap bangers. Ross’ debut single “Hustlin’” didn’t detail why he was hustling every day, but the record’s cinematic production and his hypnotic hook transferred over the airwaves his larger-than-life passions.
Before waking up in a brand new Bugatti, Ace Hood made records based in everyday realism as a rapper emerging from rags to riches, while Maybach Music Group’s head honcho sold the hyperrealism of a kingpin who built a castle out of all-white bricks. In the field of hip-hop, where personalities can easily become exaggerated caricatures, the opportunity to present that middle between fact and fiction if the feeling is authentic is minuscule.
It’s not just about communicating the raw essence of life, but the essence of what life could be that can be buried into a listener’s blood stream. On “Hold Me Back,” the third single from his 2012 album God Forgives, I Don’t, Rick Ross delivers what is essentially the battle cry of an unstoppable juggernaut. “Hold Me Back” is the self-described biggest boss sounding larger than he ever has, and it makes you feel as if your body has grown three sizes larger just hearing him articulate with unrestrained confidence that no man or woman can suppress his greatness.
What Ross proved with “Hold Me Back,” as well as on countless other monstrous records in his discography, is how adversaries are able to fuel the internal fire that’s often called inspiration. No song better articulates this point with flair and zeal than T.I.’s “Motivation.” Atlanta’s Rubberband Man used the second song on his third studio album, Urban Legend, to acknowledge all his haters as motivators. He encourages all those wishing him ill upon him to be on their job as if the act of hating was a profession with daily time sheets and a 401(k). He doesn’t sound giant as Rozay, but he does embody invigorating invincibility.
“Motivation” reinforces the idea that whatever you want is yours to obtain and can’t be stopped by any forces formed against you. It’s a fitting message for a song with an unauthorized music video shot while T.I. was in Fulton County Jail during a 2004 sentence over a probation violation. As T.I. raps in the first verse, “Anythang don’t kill me, make me better.”
Currently, Twitter user @Adizzzyy has over one million views on a video she uploaded with the caption: “So I made a video all my skating progress this past year.” Watching as the novice skater goes from tragic falls to triumphant landings is genuinely heartwarming to witness, but what adds even more value to the clip is having Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” as the score. The well-known, riot-starting club record is perfect background music because the record walks listeners through vignettes of Meek’s struggles from prayer to relishing in the luxurious bought by his labor. The song builds and soars as the skater improves and thrives.
“Was on my grind and now I got what I deserve,” Meek raps before the celebrated anthem explodes into the mayhem that follows a game-winning shot. It’s that exact moment when the cork pops, champagne erupts, and the flood of satisfaction washes over the soul. Meek Mill’s career hasn’t been flawless, there’s been a number of slips and falls, but he always gets up and gets better.
When South Carolina-raised, Atlanta-based multi-talented artist Childish Major rapped, “You gotta add work, you’ve been prayin’ all day” on “Aim High,” the intro track to his debut album Woo$Ah, “Git Up, Git Out” once again came to mind. Childish is one of many young, astute artists filling their music with growth, self-development, and action. It’s human music, made by people who are going through life trying to be better than they were before, and encouraging you, their listener, to want the same.
Rappers, like all entertainers, can easily become brands and billboards focused on selling a lifestyle they feel the public wants to see, admire, and adore. Foreign cars, flashy jewelry, and other symbols of wealth will tempt eyes to stare, encouraging those who look to crave what they have, but sharing stories and sending messages layered in life experience has the power to live in a person’s heart long after the engines have failed and the jewels are pawned.
There’s a reason OutKast will live forever — no matter what the future holds, someone, somewhere, will need the nudge to git up, git out, and git something.
By Yoh, aka Cee-Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Originally published at djbooth.net on January 24, 2019.