Over the past decade, tens of thousands of miles traversed, and forty two states visited (or more — I’d have to check my log), I’m come to love the energy of travel, answering the elusive beckon to taste adventure on the open road and cloud-cushioned skies. One of the best aspects of travel is the opportunity to taste unique characteristics of different cities and landscapes and regions. Nashville, San Diego, Phoenix, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Saint Louis, and countless other metropolitan centers come to mind with great affection, particular traits elevating certain cities above the rest.
Like people, cities have uncommon combinations of personality. Terrain sets the stage for the layout of city blocks, besieged by winding rivers and droves of trees. Architecture builds the cityscape and neighborhood blocks as the facial features with which a metropolis is recognized. Industry frames the infrastructure and productivity of a place. Demographics create the mixing pot of human capital and brings the city to life in an array of connections, like blazing flickers of electricity through a maze of exposed wire. It is with many such identifiers that we each recall our hometowns, college towns, and places of especially meaningful seasons of life.
Minneapolis forever shall be among my favorite cities, because of its youthful energy, artistic value, urban industriousness, swaths of multiculturalism, proliferation of educational institutions, and appreciation of the natural landscape of rolling hills, fields and the mighty Mississippi River nestled amidst sprawling, fertile farmland. Because of time spent there during college years, the relational connections provide rich networks of friends, family, peers and mentors. All these were the context for some of the most formative years of my life.
As a native of Seattle, Washington (pictured above), Ben Haggerty became the hip hop artist known as Macklemore, precisely because of incubation of life experiences in the Pacific Northwest. Many of his tracks feature local references and personal anecdotes gained from family life, growing up, hip hop culture, neighborhoods and streets, the music scene — the context of his influences and mentors. Macklemore draws strong inspiration from his roots and his tribe, manifest greatly in his track (and music video) entitled, “The Town.”
They tryin’ to shut down the clubs that my city rocks
Now Mr. Mayor why would you enforce an ordinance?
Music it saves lives, these kids out here are supporting it
And through the art form we’ve learned the importance of community
Truth to the youth so they know what’s up
Yup, and as a public school student
I learned from my teachers, but became through my music
So much has changed here, so much has not
I was just a kid hopin’ I could earn my spot
Try to get some props
Meet a promoter who’ll give me a shot
To let me get up on stage and get the crowd to rock
Read a page out my notebook
What I thought would be respected, they would connect with it
Now looking over the city’s the only thing that keeps me calm
Scattered thoughts jotted down by this pen in my palm
It’s like my city stands still, the world looks on
If I could only capture its beauty and put it in a song
Shadows of Truth
- Music creates community. Community is formed when people come together in common interest, and it’s deepened when driven by common mission. Macklemore is a master communicator, and he knows that a key to a city’s well-being is providing a place to belong for those who long for it. Especially young people need outlets for energy, creativity and meaningful relational connections. This mirrors the passion Jesus shares regarding the inclusion of people into community; support and love and grace and accountability and sustainability are found in God’s call for the Church, his community of people on mission together, a place to receive and to contribute. “And through the art form we’ve learned the importance of community, truth to the youth so they know what’s up.”
- Macklemore acts as a spokesman for the music scene. He’s not afraid to call out city leadership when part of his tribe’s way of life is threatened. Tribes need leaders. Teams need visionaries. Gather people with you in your mission and invest in them. Don’t give up on your people. Be like Jesus, who exerted the utmost understanding and forgiveness for his followers, and is faithful to those who seek him today. “They tryin’ to shut down the clubs that my city rocks, now Mr. Mayor why would you enforce an ordinance?”
- As youthful optimism provides before adult cynicism soaks in, Macklemore wasn’t afraid to dream big as an inexperienced newcomer to hip hop in his early days. He had a vision of sharing parts of himself, his stories, because he had the sense that they were worth sharing. Accolades and recognition are certainly enjoyable, but finding one’s way to produce rather than merely consume is an essential component of growing up, becoming a more holistic person. “I was just a kid hopin’ I could earn my spot…Meet a promoter who’ll give me a shot…Read a page out my notebook.”
- Landscapes and skylines impact me and Macklemore similarly: such things induce moments of reflection, calm, wonder, appreciation. It’s admirable how he channels his love for his hometown for even more creative application. For those who write, sing, produce, direct and dream, it’s essential to capitalize on moments of inspiration for further productivity, to create something of personal and artistic worth. “Scattered thoughts jotted down by this pen in my palm, if I could only capture its beauty and put it in a song.”
Are there certain cities or places that you hold in high regard? What places staged the most meaningful influences of your life?
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