Sean Leon often gets praised for his musical, lyrical and visual abilities but I don’t see nearly enough mention of the philosophy he places within his music. Since his debut he has touched on death, birth, race, class, ostracization and its impact on himself and the people close to him. Themes of fatherhood have become especially present in his music since the birth of his own child, Xylo. She was featured extensively on his latest album ‘I Think You’ve Gone Mad (Sins of the Father)’ and he recently spoke with The Come Up Show about how her birth had him contemplate his own mortality.
SL: “Having her made me think about death a lot....Because as soon as you have your child you realize that your time is coming, at least that is where my mind went
Come Up: ‘In terms of the next generation is here?’
SL: “Yea like there’s someone else to pass things onto, I hadn’t been thinking like that before..
I want to spend as much time as I can (with her) and sometimes I sit and count the time I got left and it’s not enough. And that’s because I have this thing I never want to be without.
And that made me go there.”
His words had me think of two quotes I heard recently. The first from Hov on Story of OJ where he raps about passing on his collection fine art to his children. ‘I can't wait to give this shit to my children/ Y'all think it's bougie, I'm like, it's fine/ But I'm tryin' to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99.’ The second from Sean Leon himself on Xylo’s Lullaby/ Sweet Girls Always Fall for Monsters. He sings ‘I love her mind so much, sometimes that I might lose mine to hers, shortly/ Not only my soul to hers, but all of mine are her, all of my time, all of my mind is her’. The first speaks about a father's desire to amass wealth and pass it onto the next generation with the second exploring the insanity inducing love a parent can have for their child. To me they both somewhat describe what Leon is saying in the above quote.
Rappers have written extensively about death with few touching on bringing life into the world and parenthood. Stories of fatherhood found in hip hop usually follow a similar narrative; their absent. From the opening of ‘I Think You’ve Gone Mad’ the shift in tone is evident. ‘Yea I love my daughter/ that’s why I copped the chopper/ Yea I love my daughter/ that’s why I copped the chopper’. The bars that open the album lay out where his inspiration comes from the jump.
In Blue Nights, Joan Didion says “When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children...Once she was born I was never not afraid”. Similarly Rachel Sherman writes in On Death and Daughters. “When my new baby, after months of feeding off me from the inside, was born and reached out to me for nourishment in the world outside, I knew I would die.” Women have wrote about parenthood and mortality but men have decided to steer clear. Tracks on death have dominated hip-hop with few touching on the natural reality of generational turnover.
Birth and death are inextricably linked. Sean Leon seems to be the only rapper whose realized.
Sean Leon has a show at The Mod Club this Wednesday, July 26, 2017. You can cop tickets here
Words by Nuruddin Qorane