Something happens to people when a famous person dies. While sadness and shock are the immediate responses, the second wave of emotion is something very different. I don’t know why we are wired this way but , any time someone of notoriety passes, things inevitably become a mourning contest to many of that persons fans. Who was the REAL fan. Who was an actual day one. But more than that, it’s about pointing out the fault in others and how they perceive another persons dedication to whoever the recently deceased is.
Obviously, the passing of MF Doom is what brings this to mind but , lets be honest…this is a regular occurrence. In fact, death in a spotlight seems to have these steps
1)shock and sadness
2)outpouring of honoring his/her legacy
3)people trying to claim personal ownership of dead persons legacy
4)calling out others shortcomings in their fandom
5)backlash where some people find is necessary to pick apart said dead persons life to prove “hey, he/she as a flawed human being” ,which is always just read as grieving fatigue
Dr Dre is in the hospital with a brain aneurism and I have no clue how he’s doing. Obviously, I hope he pulls through. However, if he were to pass away, i know exactly how it will go on a social media level. An outpouring of grief for one of hip hop’s greatest figures, followed by a dick measuring contest , followed by tweets about how Dre once beat up Dee Barnes. In a way, I’m glad these famous people who die don’t have to be around to witness this cause , while it’s nice to be given your flowers, it also must be weird to watch people go out of their way to subtly dance on your grave.
I’ve always had a somewhat removed relationship with the passing of famous strangers. I can really only think of a handful of those types of deaths that hit me in any way beyond “Man, that sucks…”. cause , at the end of the day, these are people i didn’t know. I know of them and i know what they’ve left behind them but, on a personal level, they were absolute strangers, even though their work may have had an indelible effect on me. Yet, People like Phil hartman, Chris Farley, Big L, Patrice o’neal, Doom and ,strangely, Kobe seemed to hit harder than others. I say strangely cause I was never a Kobe fan. In fact, i probably actively disliked Kobe, as a basketball fan from NYC who was raised to hate the Lakers. His talent was undeniable but that’s just how sports works. there are some people you just don’t like. However, i remember being on tour , en rout to a show buffalo in the morning and finding out he had died and just feeling taken aback. Kobe wasn’t supposed to die. Add on his daughter was with him and it all just felt like a different level of tragedy. When death is unfair, it’s much harder to rationalize and , ultimately, process. And Kobe’s death made no sense. It’s not like he was living life on the edge or he had been sick for years. He was perfectly fine and then he was dead. Just like that.
I think what applies to all the names i listed above is that i felt they weren’t done. They all had varying levels of gas in the tank. And this is an incredibly selfish but honest feeling to have. After all, i only knew them for their output. What they gave to me was just that. They weren’t a fixture in my life like a real friend. They were something else. And it’s the same reasoning that the deaths of people like Prince or Bill Withers didn’t hit me as hard. Cause, as a selfish fan, they had already peaked. i realize how fucked up that is to vocalize but , if i’m being honest , that was our “relationship”. With a death like that , all i can do is honor the legacy they left behind. But to pretend their passing has a profound effect on my life? That’s just ridiculous cause , regardless where they exist on this physical plane, their work lives on. That said, any time someone suddenly dies, it really puts the fragility of life in perspective. Anyone can go at any time. Prince was a shock. Kobe was a shock. Big L was a shock. And, for that reason, I really try and take a practical approach to how i view and deal with death cause one thing you can never do with death is reason with it. It truly doesn’t care what you think.
I am not a person who believes in anything. Meaning, I don’t think there is a heaven/hell, i don’t think we are reincarnated. i don’t think we exist for a higher purpose. I think we just live until we die and that’s that. I don’t think there is a meaning of life to decode and questions that can never be answered do not monopolize my mind for a moment. We are living until we are dead and then we are basically compost or ashes. So, with that life view in mind, I tend to take death in stride but the difference between losing someone close to you and losing a stranger you admire is unfathomable.
Anyone who’s lost a close friend or family member knows this. As sad as i am that Doom is no longer with us, I also lost my mom last year so, you know, it’s a puddle next to an ocean. But i’m also just me. i deal with shit the way i deal with it and, thus far, it works for me. So far, so good. i cannot turn to another person and tell them how to grieve. I CAN internally judge the shit out them though but that’s just for me. Let’s be honest, We all do that. On micro and macro levels. The same way someone feels the need to correct me for not writing Doom’s name in all caps in a tweet cause it’s something he said on one song 15 years into his career is not dissimilar to when my dad passed away over 20 years ago, I sat watching my older half siblings have daily meltdowns about their place next to my dad and I just kinda rolled my eyes at the theater of it all. We all can try to be these soulful portraits of zen grieving but , no matter who you are, our brains don’t stop. What would be nice is if people could learn to filter those thoughts on a public level. That would be a good start but, lol, that’s not ever gonna happen at this point. Our thoughts are far too valuable to be kept inside (this is the sarcasm font), even if they serve no constructive purpose and ESPECIALLY if they can somehow cut another person down.
A lot of people take death as a personal attack. Like another person dying has effected only them. I’d say this is a fairly common human emotion as we all exist in our own personal movie. you’re the star and everyone else is just another cast member. So, of course, no one feels how you do about something. how could they? They aren’t even you! People who do this can often become emotional tampons who manage to make someone else’s death about them on a level that their mere entrance into a room can suck all the energy dry. i can recall many moments of a friend dying and some person swooping in , like a hurricane of misplaced emotions , leaving a trail of confused people behind them like “wait, were they even friends?”. But again, this all goes back to how we grieve and deal with death in general. Some people want the attention and others find their role is to try to keep everyone else’s head above water.
I think what’s so daunting to people about death is that it’s final. It’s not a break up. It’s not getting fired. It’s the definitive end of a story. People seem to need reasons to make sense of it all , in order for it make sense. But , personally, i find the finality of it calming. When my mom finally passed away after a week in hospice due to a stroke related to 6 years of cancer , there was finally peace. I was obviously devastated to lose her but relieved for both her and my family. Death takes it’s toll on the living, Especially when it’s drawn out. People always talk about people being in “a better place” once they pass. hell, I have a song called that. But perhaps “a better place” is just nothingness and that’s okay. Nothingness is probably a better place than most people are in the moment before they die. So, while mourning is all part of the process, in the long term, celebrating someones life is far more important. Cause, unlike the human body, that shit is forever.