My Summer Rewind: An Ode to Self-Care 18-“Ringleader Man”

If I were asked to use a song to describe my personality, “Ringleader Man” by T-Pain would be it. Arpeggio chords bounce around in a ¾ time signature gives the feel of a dark circus, a side show in the key of e flat minor. Pain hums in a soft tone, as if he greets a suspenseful crowd in which he-and they-are aware they have no idea what to expect. His audience is lulled into anticipation and at once, with a loud and juxtaposed “Hey,” informs the audience it’s showtime.

T-Pain knows he’s sucked you in for a “ripping good time,” full of twists and turns. The first verse crescendos into the chorus where at the top of his lungs, he introduces himself: the ringleader man. The hook is a full-blown production, equivalent to contortionists who’ve blown fire while tigers ride unicycles and elephants walk on tightropes over his head; one he is in total control of.

As the dramatics peak, the song decrescendos to its quiet beginnings. While the audience processes what they’ve witnessed, T-Pain lets out a chuckle. Before comfort sets in, he jolts them out of their hypnotic state with another “Hey!”

One reason “Ringleader Man” is in every Spotify-generated playlist for me is because I have tried to write to it for years. Each time, I will go through my creative process, zone out and prepare to put down a detailed version of a well-thought out essay, and come up with zero.

It is Monday morning, August 24, 2020; I started this one five or six days ago and have been stuck ever since. I think I will share a couple of paragraphs from some of these other attempts and break them up with a line from Mr. Teddy Pain.

My rhythms and rhymes keep niggas in line because now…is not the time to be lazy.

I was an imaginative kid, loved to channel my creativity through realistic fiction. I was seldom fancied by fantasy; I daydreamed about things I felt I wanted to be; my most of my style of play was an elaborate backstory to my rising through the ranks.

I believed I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. If my dreams were not to come to fruition, it would be on my terms and choice. I wanted to be in the NBA because I was a pretty good basketball player. But I fell in love with hip hop and put all of my energy and focus into it in the mid and late 90’s. Come to think of it, my hoop dreams were my first conduit into journalism: fifth grade was spent creating magazine pictures, layouts, and articles of myself as the star shooting guard for the New York Knicks.

By the time I hit middle school, I wanted to be a music impresario who produced albums and ran his own record company. But I needed to first learn how to write a rap and create a beat before I became best friends with Puff Daddy and marry Beyonce (I promise you all I will one day write all of this out because it is quite an epic story). I practiced with the creation of mixtapes I wanted albums on my label-24/7 Records-to release, sequenced to impeccability. (Written August 24, 2020)

This is my circus, I’m workin’. I can flip this whole game with one hand…The Ringleader Man!

We all broadcast our truest colors for the world to see. What we think we have conditioned ourselves to mask-our flaws and insecurities-are tattooed on our foreheads in invisible ink. Maybe I shouldn’t say true colors; it’s incorrect. People are iridescent: their “colors” change is based on the reflection of light one and the angle of view. Perhaps our view of others’ hue is a projection and mirror of ourselves.

People see what they want in others. So I tend to let most believe whatever they want…Trying to defend myself has gotten my nowhere, and I might as well play into one’s fantasies, get shit done, and make them think that it’s their idea; people are more inclined to do what want when they think they came up with it.  I call it mental judo: using one’s momentum against them.  (Written July 31, 2015)

Ain’t you tired of this wackness? Sick of the wack shit? Wouldn’t you like some of me instead?!

I don’t like most of my previous attempts at “Ringleader Man.” When I read my words, I can see how a reader could interpret them for arrogance. It is never my intent to come off as better than anyone or to speak with a tone of obnoxious hubris. However, the is “Ringleader Man” is a brilliant song about arrogance. We all have an ego and inflated sense of ourselves. We would become depressed with no counterbalance our negative self-talk. Who and what would protect us from our deepest and darkest traumas or to simply get by on the bad and boring days?

Whenever I begin to doubt myself, I play “Ringleader Man.” Now that I think about it, somehow, my own ego used my method of mental judo against me. In my moments of self-judgement towards my star player and best friend in the world, the dark song in e flat minor. I feel it is my ego talking to me through the song to tell me in all its haughty conceit “You are the one in control of this whole show…You’re the Ringleader Man.”

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