‘Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and then be in a good mood once in a while?’
Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything…, 1989.
I first heard this quote in a Scroobius Pip song (not my usual music taste but he’s good). Pip references the character of Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack in 1989’s Say Anything, as someone he interacts with whilst on a dream-based journey. Along the way he meets several people who lay some life truths on him. I’ve always found most of his lyrics incredibly thought provoking and somewhat philosophical, but this one just about floored me as it’s something I’d always had a rather guilty view of myself.
I always felt guilty believing that people can just choose to be happy. We live in a world where mental health issues have reached epidemic level; I understand for a lot of people it isn’t a choice. I guess my argument isn’t for overall life happiness but maybe isolated incidents?
Scroobius Pip’s ‘Angles’ album, featuring Dan Le Sac, was released in 2008 and instantly had a huge impact on me. It deals with some major issues such as perception of others, personal philosophies and even suicide. It’s incredible. His work is probably often categorised as British rap, but it’s more like spoken word or poetry to a beat. Quite often he is literally just speaking but it’s the words and the power behind them.
‘Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say…”In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.’
Elwood P. Dowd, Harvey, 1950
The first character Pip meets is Elwood P. Dowd, lifted from the 1950 movie ‘Harvey’ featuring James Stewart. The great thing about Pip’s track is that he manages to merge the movie quote into his lyrics as if they are his own.
‘In this life you can be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant, For years I was smart; I recommend pleasant, Being smart can make you rich and bring respect and reverence, But the rewards of being pleasant are far more incandescent.’
I can’t think of too many rappers who deal with the issue of what makes you happy in life beyond ‘bling’ and other things that require aster*sks (see West, Kanye). I’m a firm believer that the world needs to get nicer before it gets smarter. We have managed to make tremendous advancements in science, medicine, engineering, technology and many other fields but we are yet to come up with a plan for peace. Perhaps a shift in perception and focus can literally save lives.
After this, Pip even offers some advice on how to choose your mood and be more pleasant. He does this not through quoting a movie character, but this time another stranger (Billy Brown) paraphrasing some off Scroobius Pip’s other work;
‘If you can’t forgive and forget, how’s this? Forget forgiving and just accept that that’s it.’, See that’s how it’s gotta be, Then you can fall in love, get on with your life, and be free.’
Quite often in life we are guilty of allowing moments from our past sit inside and rot away. This does nothing good for us. It just prevents us from repairing relationships with those we have had trouble with, whilst also creating a more belligerent version of ourselves and creating more and more rifts in our life. The last word ‘free’ seems ambitious and fanciful but truth be told that’s exactly what would happen; we would be free from resent.
There is finally a verse where your new favourite rapper (Pip) has his last interaction. This time a gentleman named Walter Neff attempts to take the wind out our sales. Riding high on the epiphanic journey throughout the song Neff (a murdering insurance salesman from Double Indemnity, 1944) suggests that no matter the nature of the man on this planet, there is some evil within us;
‘Whether it be greed, lust, or just plain vindictiveness, There’s a level of malevolence inside of all of us.’
It took a few times listening and reading, but I think the way this is twisted towards the end is that whilst it is great to ride the crest of this positive wave, it is important we stay on board long term. The choice to be happy, pleasant and forgiving is for life. We continue to be defined by our actions until the last breath and we need to make sure we continue to be what Neff is not.
The scene and sound of Pip’s music is very unbefitting of the poetic yarns that he weaves. The truth is I could recommend any number of his songs with some sort of significant message within them but I’ve always felt a special resonance with the teachings of ‘Waiting for the beat to kick in’. My original intention with this blog was to discuss the psychology and philosophy behind choosing your mood but I couldn’t help but head down this road of some sort of life philosophy/song review hybrid. So what better way to finish off the article with the continuation of the first quote I referenced;
‘That’s all I have to say ’cause it’s a straight up fact, You control your emotions, it’s as simple as that’
Stuart Fenwick (@StuFenwick7)
Motivational Speaker at Tree of Knowledge (@tree_of)
(Song – Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac – Waiting for the beat to kick in,
Album Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac – Angles,
Movies – Say Anything…, Harvey, Double Indemnity)