Dead Icons didn’t do shit

Yesterday was Biggie’s birthday. He would have been 42. To some of us, that’s probably surprising because it highlights just how young he was when he died, and more to the point, how much he’d already achieved by such a young age. Kurt Cobain died at 27, and so did Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and uh…who else? I dunno, lots of famous dead people are rotting under us. They lived quickly, passionately and then exploded, after a brief life full of achievement. They existed to bring us joy, but their memory lingers to remind us how little we’ve actually done in our lives. Biggie came from nothing, helped define modern hiphop with two unbelievable albums and then died when he was only 24!!!! I’m 37 and I haven’t done shit! Fuuuuuuuck. It’s during revelations like these that I like to break out the vicodin and the Old Granddad and grind the pain of being a disappointing failure into dust.

Well, here’s the thing—those people I named above, (I’m not trying to speak on behalf of their objective talent, as they’re all beloved in certain circles), they really didn’t do that much. They got lucky, and they reaped huge rewards for doing what actually amounts to about as much work as anyone with a passing interest in anything puts into a hobby. Then they died, and we never had to look at their lotto-esque rise to fame in the context of their entire lives. Consider this: do you ever look at Leif Garret’s stratospheric success and consider how little you’ve accomplished? Why not? He was as famous as anyone on this list during their lifetimes, if not vastly more so. He just didn’t die, and as a result, we’ve seen that, over the course of a lifetime, 2 hit records and some acting gigs is nothing to sneeze at, but it also isn’t the sum of an existence’s worth. That trip back down from stardom puts things in perspective pretty fast, doesn’t it? Ask Hammer and or Steven Adler.

To be clear: I’m not trying to insult anyone I’ve named, particularly the deceased. I think a couple of these dead folk are pretty awesome, Biggie in particular, so I’m gonna stick with him here, because I don’t want to get caught up in, say, my opinion that Janis Joplin absolutely annoys the shit out of me and thereby lose sight of my main point, namely that in the great scheme of things, these people didn’t really do that much. It was their environment that did all the heavy lifting.

Biggie recorded 2 albums by the time he died (along with all the random verses and shit that would come to exist on those Frankenstein-esque posthumously assembled records). Big fucking deal. I’d recorded two albums by the time I was 18. Sure, they didn’t define any genres or bring my family great wealth, but they could have. Now, I realize that sounds incredibly vain and/or dismissive, but consider that greatness often goes unrecognized (Van Gogh) and shittiness is often exalted to insane, stratospheric success (Nickelback). The fact that Biggie’s albums were great is pretty much irrelevant when discussing his rise to the top. That he happened to be good and then he died before he had a chance to do anything shitty is why we still talk about him, but dig this: in 1997, the year of Biggie’s biggest hit (Mo’ Money Mo’ problems), MmmBop by Hanson (actually very talented dudes), and the classic, timeless song “Quit Playing Games (with my heart)” by lifer genius songcrafters the Backstreet Boys both charted higher than Biggie on the year end Billboard chart. Fame is no barometer of talent, and talent is no guarantee of a legacy (ask bands like The Honor System or Oblivion who have, in my opinion, both put out brilliant music and faded into almost total obscurity anyway).

Nah, Biggie just recorded two records (that shit is FUN, not hard, and ultimately not even as time consuming or exhausting as working full time at Chipotle) and they happened to hit the right chord with people at the right time, and then he died and boom! The rest of us turds feel bad about what we’ve failed to accomplish. Well, I’m calling bullshit on all that. You’ve done some shit, put up with some hardship and generally achieved enough in your life that you’re still here. So have I. Would I rather be compensated ridiculously and hailed as a genius because of a hobby I had when I was 21? Sure, sounds kickass…but not if it meant dying at 24 or even 27. That sounds terrible, actually.

My friend and mentor Mike Burkett is very fond of telling people, ‘Don’t compare your band to NOFX. We’re an anomaly and no one can expect to do what we did,’ and he’s right. There’s no REASON that NOFX is huge and are going to be huge forever. Sure, they write great songs (so did American Steel). Sure, they’re funny as hell (so are the Dickies). Sure, they helped define a genre (so did the Suicide Machines). None of that shit matters, y’all. And this is true in every field, creative or scientific, or anything in between. There’s hard work and there’s talent, and those two combined make up about 13% of your chances to be successful. The rest is a mix of blind luck, nepotism and having an X factor of likeability (which could, and should really fall into the ‘blind luck’ category). If you’re lucky, you’ll succeed. If you’re good once you’ve gotten lucky, you’ll have a legacy.  If you’re REAL lucky, you can die while you’re on top and people will forever compare themselves to you and be bummed. That’s the real brass ring, folks.

Or, you could stay alive and dedicate your time to making others feel good. Granted, it’s a path for losers, but hey, in the words of my grandpa, “someone’s gotta do the loser shit too.” Just something to think about as you trudge through your shitty existence.

Love you guys.

xoxoxo

 

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17 Responses to Dead Icons didn’t do shit

  1. Jackie Rae says:

    “Fame is no barometer of talent, and talent is no guarantee of a legacy.”

    Frame that shit.

    Great quote, great article. And, what, Biggie was my age when he died?

  2. Guy says:

    Reminds me of Nick Traina. Link 80 Kicked ass, so did Knowledge.

  3. Guy says:

    Reminds me of Nick Traina. Link 80 Kicked ass, so did Knowledge.

  4. cmon says:

    Are we really attributing “major accomplishments” to Biggums? What, being a fat guy? Astounding. He just kinda fell into some shit via luck and circumstance, as entirely unremarkable, undeserving marginal talents are wont to do. His rhymes aren’t dope. I tend to roll my eyes at the retroactive deitizing of Elvis, so obviously Im not going to humor the same for this guy with a straight face. Oh, and for the peabrains, don’t waste energy attempting to attribute racist connotations to this. Just sit and drool

    • cmon says:

      Ohhh…sorry! Lulz! Well, not that sorry. You did, after all, use that disingenuous phrasing in your opener solely to give that lil switcheroo more impact. Whatever

    • KantWhackit says:

      Agreed!!! Wow factor is just sheep migration.. I feel like the men zingers got popular based on sheep followers & now tons of bands try to sound & look like them.. People follow trends & convince themselves that they like what everyone else they look up to does,, I’m sure menzingers are good guys but I fucking hate most of there stuff bad..

  5. Ndog says:

    I agree with this for the most part. Time and place is a huge factor in success. Nirvana were the epicentre of a snowballing scene, put out an incredible record at exactly the right time with the right backing and got lucky. It is the same in the punk scene as a million other fields I imagine. In music time, place and luck are all a major factor. Keep posting man this is good stuff!!

  6. Ndog says:

    I agree with this for the most part. Time and place is a huge factor in success. Nirvana were the epicentre of a snowballing scene, put out an incredible record at exactly the right time with the right backing and got lucky. It is the same in the punk scene as a million other fields I imagine. In music time, place and luck are all a major factor. Keep posting man this is good stuff!!

  7. dustyfloors says:

    I don’t understand how more people don’t find “Single File” as genius as I do.
    This reminded me of punk rock Tuesdays at Risque Cafe. It really could’ve been called Beex spins “Single File” and “The Decline” with some Rancid mixed in… That’s not a bad thing.

    • Dan says:

      Single File is in probably my top 5 albums of all time, and possibly the only punk album in the top 5. I love that BK still brings them up fro time to time so I know I am not alone out there thinking the honor system is awesome.

      That Risque Cafe scene sounds like exactly what I would have been into circa Single File-release. I just checked and that was apparently 14 years ago, so Im going to go have a good cry…

      • Dan says:

        Holy shit, further research indicates I may have seen them both on the plea for peace tour. I have bitched for years that they never make it to florida and I could never see them play. So, this means June 7 will be my 2nd LA show. Whodathunk. Crazyfuckinworld…

    • morgan says:

      honestly, “single file” is up there with “london calling” and “appetite for destruction” for me. unreal album.

    • morgan says:

      honestly, “single file” is up there with “london calling” and “appetite for destruction” for me. unreal album.

  8. hungar(i h8 panda bears) says:

    I think people in general believe fame talent are the same thing. Thank you X-factor and american idol for showing us just how many sheep there are. Thick fuckers who cant/wont think for themselves. This generation is de-evolving all young dopes need is a hand
    Just 1 so they can hold a phone and text some premium number in order to vote for 1 of Gods crule jokes on americas biggest loser unless im missing the point altogether!?

  9. hungar(i h8 panda bears) says:

    I think people in general believe fame talent are the same thing. Thank you X-factor and american idol for showing us just how many sheep there are. Thick fuckers who cant/wont think for themselves. This generation is de-evolving all young dopes need is a hand
    Just 1 so they can hold a phone and text some premium number in order to vote for 1 of Gods crule jokes on americas biggest loser unless im missing the point altogether!?

  10. hungar(i h8 panda bears) says:

    I think people in general believe fame talent are the same thing. Thank you X-factor and american idol for showing us just how many sheep there are. Thick fuckers who cant/wont think for themselves. This generation is de-evolving all young dopes need is a hand
    Just 1 so they can hold a phone and text some premium number in order to vote for 1 of Gods crule jokes on americas biggest loser unless im missing the point altogether!?

  11. Providence says:

    Brandon – this post makes me curious what your thoughts are on Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Have you read it?

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