Hip-hop is not my preferred genre of music in general but I stay in tune with popular culture. The rapper known as NF caught my attention a few years ago because his lyrics didn’t contain the profanity typically heard in his category. As I listened to his music, I noticed he was communicating ideas about the human struggle and the key questions of human existence. On his fourth album (Search) released last year, he included an Interlude that had more in common with biblical wisdom literature than urban youth culture:
My most considered, like, “successful” moment of my life was the worst
The most depressed I’ve ever been
Literally feeling like I’d probably be happier if I was just dead
I got a number one on Billboard, my song is massive right now
Like I may never have a song this big again
My tour, I think every date sold out except one date
So I literally had everything that I had always dreamed of happening (Yeah)
And I felt… I didn’t feel happy…
There it is. The wisdom of King Solomon echoing across the ages through the voice of a 26 year old rapper from Michigan. The wisest king who ever lived expressed similar sentiments three thousand years ago:
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
Countless celebrities have expressed this idea over the years, but it usually takes them longer to come to their conclusions. Both King Solomon and NF are pointing to the conundrum philosophers refer to as the paradox of pleasure. When you have it all, it’s still not enough. And that thing you think would make your life perfect—It wouldn’t. Even if you had everything you ever wanted, met every goal, and reached the highest pinnacle of achievement in your field, it wouldn’t make you truly happy. Those who do “make it to the top” often repeat the lament of King Solomon, “vanity, vanity, all is vanity”.
What’s wrong? The French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, put it this way: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied with any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Simply, the spiritual heart can only be filled with spiritual things. The paradox of pleasure is solved when we stop seeking after worldly things and, instead, seek after heavenly things. To be reconciled to God is to achieve the highest sense of lasting satisfaction for our souls, or what the Bible calls “a peace that passes all understanding”. (Phil. 4:7)
I’m thankful that NF included the short interlude of Solomonic truth on his album. Hopefully, many of his fans will hear his message and seek the true meaning of life found in the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether from the 10th century before Christ, or in the 21st century of our Lord, King Solomon’s manifold wisdom holds fast:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.