Wale Adetula: Man Down

I wish that we lived in a time and a generation where people would stop viewing my honesty as overly emotional. People always act like I spend my life crying in a dark room. I don’t, I’m good. I’m a man. — Drake

“I am a Man… Be a Man.”

I’ve dreamt so much about the day I’ll get to say those words to my son. I imagine us maybe playing football in a yard and he takes a little hit or maybe falls and he starts to cry. I’ll probably go over to him, pick him up, dust him off and somewhere during the conversation that would follow, I’d use those phrase, “Come on be a man…”

It’s November 2011 and the more I think about this scenario I just described and those words in particular, the harder it is for me to strike a balance between the actual act of existing as a man and matching the world definition of being a man.

I’m not a big Drake fan. I acknowledge his talent. He brought something different to rap with his first album. I won’t go out of my way to listen to him except maybe when he features on tunes with acts I really like. A few weeks ago, he dropped his second album titled ‘Take Care’ and it sparked off all kinds of debate worldwide on the issue of men, vulnerability, sensitivity and the unexplainable rise of the ‘emo rappers.’

It was like a bomb that had been stowed away and the album was the detonator. I read on many a blog (the black ones especially) about how the male gender was trading masculinity for sensitivity. From our fashion, to our music and our general lifestyle, being a man as we all knew it about a decade ago was no longer what it was. So what does it mean to be a man nowadays? Well, that’s why we are here but allow me to set up some background before I throw it open to y’all.

If you look at the opening quote I have up there from Drake, one major attribute of ‘men’ nowadays is being honest. Honest about their feelings, honest about their emotions. Talking about ‘emo rappers’ and the new crop of men, Drake is certainly one of the ambassadors. He’s a rapper who doesn’t shy away from expressing his feelings vocally. Those who know me/follow me on Twitter will probably know how poorly I think of ‘Take Care’. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the singles from it; I probably have all the versions of ‘Marvin’s Room’. I find it hard to understand when the same people who criticize ‘Take Care’ for being too “moist” go on and on about Kanye’s ‘Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, J. Cole’s ‘Sideline Story’ or even L’il Wayne’s ‘How to Love’.

I’m a huge J.Cole fan, maybe that’s why I can look past the ‘depth’ and identify the themes on his album: abortion, his mother, going to jail, begging Jay-Z to listen to his demo etc. Things don’t get more emo than his ‘Lost Ones’ tune, L’il Wayne’s ‘How to Love’ and even Kanye’s ‘Runaway’. Yes. Forget they all don’t sing, harmonize and all that, listen to the lyrics and tell me how “manly” it is. But you know what? Is all this stuff new?

In 1997 a rapper by the name of Tupac Shakur, released a single off his second posthumous album (R U Still down) titled, Do for Love. It featured vocals from Eric Williams on the chorus and the rest of the tune was pretty much him expressing his feelings for a woman. Now I really don’t have to go into details on who Tupac was or what he represented and blah blah… but I’m sure if you ask a hundred people to draw up a list of all the ‘emo rappers’ they could think of, I doubt if any would pen down Tupac.

Well, I share a different opinion. Someone once said, ‘women/the world mistake being vulnerable with being sensitive and sensitivity with being soft’. A blogger also said, “If a man has never cried over you, your impact on him has been minimal…” I agree with both statements, the second one in particular. Shedding actual tears for/because of a woman is showing one damn high level of emotion but would I still “be a man” if I do this?

You might be wondering what I’m getting at and why I’ve titled this ‘Man Down’. Well, I was obviously not referring to the popular single from Rihanna. But every time I listen to that particular tune, I always think about how the world needs to calm down when it comes to this ‘man business’.  One of my favourite tunes of Mario’s D.N.A. album is “The Hardest Moment” where he sang about ‘a man that aint afraid to cry is a man that aint afraid to die’. I just love the sincerity of that song.

Have I cried over a woman? Yes. Does it make me any less of a man? Hmmm … I shouldn’t be the one to answer this one. I have a heart, I feel, I have emotions. It might take a bit longer for things to get to me, but dig deep enough and you’ll get to that point where you can ‘hurt’ me too. Saying/accepting this doesn’t make me more vulnerable or less of a man, if anything at all, acknowledging your ‘weakness’ helps you guard it better. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.

This isn’t some lame attempt at getting guys to come out of the closet. If anything at all, the smart ones will ride on this post to get ‘into closets’ (if you know what I mean).  What I want to know though, is if I’m alone in thinking like this. What’s your definition of being ‘a man’ nowadays? Has it changed from what we had a few years back? If so, why? Should men be allowed to express their emotions publicly? Does this in any way make us more vulnerable or less manly? You know the drill, use the comment box and speak your mind. Cheers.

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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