Track Tales Tuesday: So Positive

Rap-rock group Down With Webster infuses their music with an unconventional yet awesome perspective.

There are some bands that I listen and don’t understand why they aren’t bigger. Their music is catchy. Their lyrics are identifiable. Their brand/style is unique. It’s the perfect combination of elements that makes an act popular and iconic. Down With Webster is one of those bands.

The first time I heard Down With Webster’s “Time To Win Vol. 1” I was blown away. It’s a celebratory combination of classic rock and hip hop that hasn’t quite been done before. The lyrics, as the album title would suggest, are about succeeding and partying. The songs mix rap verses with anthemic choruses, of both the crowd chant-along and riff-heavy rock variety. There’s even a sample/modern update of Eddie Money’s “Rich Girl.” In short, there’s a lot of talent and a lot of smart decisions on it.

When I hear an album like that, I’m impressed and inspired, and groups like Down With Webster become a personal passion, a poorly kept secret from the rest of the world that I imagine hipsters would ironically scoff at. I play their songs on repeat incessantly. I memorize their lyrics, rap along with their verses, and make one of their hooks my ringtone, all the while wondering why the band hasn’t blown up yet. Then they release a song or album that unintentionally answers the question I started with

For Down With Webster, that album is “Time To Win Vol. 2.” While many of the songs on it could probably stand sufficiently as my answer, “So Positive” particularly rises above the rest. The closing track of the album, it’s a mission statement of sorts, revealing the psychology behind the band and their approach to their lives. That approach, while being what makes me them so spectacularly appealing to me, is likely what distances them from the rest of the world. Quite frankly, it’s too positive (and mature and rational).

The first half of the hook perhaps best captures what I mean:

I’m so, I’m so positive
and I know that I’ll be alright, now
I’m so, I’m so positive
and I know that I’ll be alright, now

It’s not just about being “positive.” A lot of popular songs claim that perspective. It’s what the partying and “fun” are supposedly all about, enjoying life while you can. Here, the second line shows us there’s a lot more going on. The surety of singing that they’ll be alright is rare in our culture. The rest of the song shows us how they arrive at that demeanor (and just how different it is from most people).

The first verse frames the song’s focus:

The grass is greener on the other guy’s lawn
but I’ll mow mine now til’ it looks right
I’m lookin’ at my glass and it looks half empty,
I’m still gonna chug that shit tonight
Wanna go places, tryin to pack
But I’m stuck in my basement, tryin to rap
Fell down once, but I’m climbing back
and I can see my dreams in a shiny plaque
Sometimes dreams play hard to get
You can’t believe in those promises
When you out for the bread and condiments
cause’ you can’t pay your bills with compliments
I know where I’m going, I just wanna get there
Gotta lot of shoes, and I’m runnin’ in my best pair
But my mind’s on the next pair
and where I’m gonna be next year

What’s so incredible about this verse is in the first four lines conventional sayings are turned on their head in order to render them impotent. You only know if the other guy’s grass is greener than yours if you’re trying to compare. You only know if your glass is half empty if you’re worried about how much you have. What should you be focused on? The verse builds beautifully to show us it’s about where you want to be with your life, not living by comparison or based on how much you have. That approach is where the band’s positivity comes from and where they diverge from the culture at large.
This perspective becomes more explicit in the next verse:

I’m not thinkin’ bout the words that I can’t write,
I’m singing all the words in my head
I’m not thinkin’ bout the girls that I can’t get,
I’m thinkin’ bout the girl in my bed
I’m not worried that I’m going with the crowd,
I’m too busy worryin’ about going it alone
I’m not thinking bout the lineup at the club now,
I’m thinkin’ bout how I’m getting home

It’s not about thinking about what you don’t have. It’s about thinking about what you do have. A focus on yourself is slipped in here too with the dichotomy of going with the crowd versus going alone. Most popular songs would encourage you to go with the crowd.
The final verse is split into two, each delivered by one of the band’s three vocalists, and adds the final piece necessary to understanding and holding this perspective:

Cause’ life ain’t a movie role
and you didn’t write the script
So there’s no way that you could know
what you’re getting out of it
And the love is the truth you know
the money is counterfeit
Put it all on a million to one
I’m likin’ the sound of it, yeah

I’m not a superhero, and that’s all I can say
cause’ when the times get tough, the tough don’t fly away
It’s almost over now, but back in the beginnin’
we had nothing to lose, it was time we started winnin’
Escape the underground, suns out, star shine
Not that we’re all stars, just that our stars align
And you can do it too, and hold your own hand
Just keep on doing you, follow your own plan!

The only way to describe these lines is reality-centric. Each starts out by denying the conventional way people try to envision their lives–characters and events that can’t possible exist. They then continue by stating what facing reality force you to do–accept that you don’t control the world and can’t quit and hide when that lack of control presents you with difficult situations. And just like we saw with The Good Fight’s “A Perfect Storm of Self-Satisfaction,” each vocalist culminates his parts by turning his focus away from money and to himself and his dreams/plan.
The hook is repeated to close out the song, and now I want to highlight the second half of it that I neglected before:

I don’t mind, I’ve been going through this my whole life
And I know I can’t fly, but I close my eyes and I try
I don’t mind, I’ve been going through this my whole life
And I know I can’t fly, but I close my eyes and I try

Positivity is learning what your life is and limits are, dreaming about how you want it and yourself to be, and then pushing yourself to change it and yourself.  Down With Webster is incredible because their music is infused with this positivity. Their songs are about making life better, truly enjoying themselves, and celebrating what they have. Unfortunately, their perspective means they’ll probably never reach the level of popularity they deserve.
It doesn’t matter though. I’m so positive that it’s awesome to be down with them.