Professor Michael Harrold
1 February 2011
Song Argument Essay
“What it’s Like” by Everlast is a song that tells not one but three different stories. It touches on homelessness, abortion and drug violence. Three very relevant topics, despite its 1998 release date. The song cautions those who are quick to judge and reminds us all, to take second look. The song also argues that the listener may one day find themselves in a similar situation and they may one day be the homeless person, the girl walking into the clinic or the family member of a drug dealer. Everlast does something very effective when making any argument; he puts a face to the issue he is discussing. The argument in this song is maybe not as direct and simplistic as many, but it is one that I believe is very relevant and very easy for the younger generations to identify with. Everlast brings up something’s that many of us would prefer to ignore. In the fourth line of the first verse after a man is asked for some spare change his reply is “get a job you fuckin' slob…” This is sadly the response that many homeless people hear each day. People often see homelessness as a faraway problem, or an everyday annoyance. In the next verse Everlast states “God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes …'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues”, reminding all of us that this problem is not one that could never happen to each of us. This style of argument is repeated with the abortion example and with the dead drug dealer. A noticeable difference with the last two examples is the fact that he gives both the girl getting an abortion and the young drug dealer a name, Mary and Max. The homeless man remains nameless, much like in real life. The fact that the girl receiving an abortion receives criticism from people may be a reference to her name sake Mary Magdalene. The song also points out that things can quickly change and that people always have a darker side to them. This is seen when the singer says “I heard an honest man lie…I've seen the good side of bad …And the down side of up… And everything between”.
The message of this particular song is not really tailored to any single group, it is applicable to pretty much everyone but it does use a lot of slang that is specific to street culture. The singer uses several hip-hop phrases within the lyrics, such as “fat stacks” referring to large amounts of money, “finest green” meaning the best marijuana and “play the game” referring to being involved in the drug trade. One would most definitely need to realize the meaning of these terms in order to grasp much of the songs message. The singer uses a lot of slang when talking about his own life experiences and in the final verse about the drug dealer named Max. Older listeners or those naive to drug use and street references may not understand some of the songs references, however younger listeners or those who have grown up in an urban environment would easily understand.
The song was released over 13 years ago but its message as well as the specific issues used to tell the three stories are still very much relevant and prevalent in 2011. Homelessness, abortion, drugs, gangs and violence are no less an issue today than they were over a decade ago when the song was written. The issue of abortion clinic protests and violence were a huge problem in 1990’s with 7 of the 8 abortion-clinic related murders occurring during this time period and many instances of clinic arsons and bombings throughout the country. Everlast is not so much making an argument for these problems to be solved but rather for society to take a different look at them and to empathize more with the victims caught up in these situations. He seems to be more concerned with people’s judgment of these issues rather than with the issues themselves.
The song gives no real specific or direct references to events or people, it uses examples that...