All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned from Hell Hath No Fury, which turns 10 years old today. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the Pyrex and powder. These are the things I learned:
Prepare for bad things, including (but not limited to) getting shot in the torso.
Bulletproof under T-shirts because they hate us. — Pharrell, “Mr. Me Too”
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve left the house and thought, “Nah, I don’t need my bulletproof vest today,” only to be shot in the chest later in the day, like at Target or Subway, a place I trick myself into eating at because the restaurant locations always smell way better than the food actually tastes.
Always keep track of the money.
[Have] that money right or end up in the trunk taped up. — Pusha T, “Mr. Me Too”
As a matter of ranking, the trunk of a car is the third-worst place to be during car travel. The second-worst place is under the car. The first-worst place is crammed beneath the hood with the engine.
Practice proper gun storage in automobiles.
Keep guns stashed under the floorboard. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
“In the floorboards with the guns” is the fourth-worst place to be in a car during car travel.
Being vague works well.
So many different things make me trill. — Pusha T, “Trill”
I like to imagine Pusha told someone that he was trill and then that someone asked Pusha, “What is it that makes you trill?” and then Pusha looked him right in the eyes and said, “So many different things make me trill,” and then he turned into a dove made of cocaine and flew away.
Understand the importance of branding.
Niggas hear the ‘eghck’ and they know it’s me. — Pusha T, “Hello New World”
It’s very vital today that you have a strong brand.
Understand the effectiveness of rebranding, too.
The news called it crack. I called it Diet Coke. — Pusha T, “Hello New World”
If you are associated with a terrible thing, then you can just change the name of it and ta-da! It’s not terrible anymore. That’s what they did with that whole alt-right thing. Some guy was like, “Hey, everyone. I don’t know that it’s a great idea that we call ourselves neo-Nazis or white supremacists. Why don’t we call ourselves something different?” Someone else was like, “What about ‘alt-right’?” Then the first guy was like, “There’s no way anyone actually falls for that. I mean, we’re literally doing the Nazi salute.” Then the second guy was like, “Doesn’t matter. Just put on a bow tie or some shit.” Then Donald Trump was like, “Can we hurry this up? It’s hard to breathe in these hoods.”
I’ma stand on my own, so thanks but no thanks. — Malice, “We Got It For Cheap”
Make sure that in all your business ventures, you end up the guy who doesn’t get a hole shot through him at the end of the movie.
If hustling is a must, be Sosa, not Tony. — Malice, “Hello New World”
Who gon’ stop us? Not a goddamn one of you. — Malice, “Mr. Me Too”
A lot of times you don’t really have to be the best at something, you just have to trick people into thinking you’re the best at something. I suspect that’s why Pusha reinforces this idea later in the album when he raps, “You niggas tryna take my place? Never happen” on “Ain’t Cha.”
Ask for what’s yours.
Seems to me reparations are overdue. — Malice, “We Got It for Cheap”
Grandma, look at me, I’m turnin’ the other cheek. — Malice, “We Got It for Cheap”
I was at a church service one weekend two years ago and the preacher (or pastor or father, I’m not exactly sure how that works) was telling a story about the whole “turn the other cheek” thing. He said that it was a misunderstood passage, that Jesus (or someone else from the Bible) was turning the other cheek because a person struck him on the cheek, but back then, you hit women and children on a cheek on one specific side of the face and you hit men on the other side of the face. So the assailant hit the victim on the same side as the women and children and so he was like, “No, hit me on the men’s side.” It was a thing about respect or something. And it sounded cool, and I wanted to believe him, but then like 40 minutes later he also told some story about how a humpback whale saved his life one time by helping get him to the surface of the water after he’d gotten trapped while scuba diving and so I was like, “OK, that story was definitely a lie,” which made me feel like everything he’d said that day was a lie.
Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m so obnoxious. — Malice, “Momma I’m So Sorry”
Pass down wisdom.
Youngin’, learn from me, let’s not be at odds. — Malice, “Momma I’m So Sorry”
Grown-ups teach children. That’s how it works. That’s how the world moves.
Short of being able to pass down wisdom, at least pretend to pass down wisdom.
You’ll understand when you’re older. — Malice, “Ride Around Shining”
If one of my sons asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to, I just make up something that sounds insightful for one second but is actually very useless if you think about it for more than five. When the tallest one asked me, “Daddy, how long does it take for Jupiter to revolve around the sun?” and I didn’t know the answer, I just said, “Not nearly long enough, son,” and then walked away before he realized I hadn’t actually said shit.
Man, I showed up. — Slim Thug, “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”
It was Woody Allen who said “80 percent of success is showing up,” but it was Keanu Reeves in Hardball who said, “One of the most important things in life is showing up.” I’m taking Keanu over Woody every single time.
Keep your nose at the appropriate pitch.
Bitch, don’t just stand there with your nose up. — Slim Thug, “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”
In the video for “Wamp Wamp (What It Do),” a woman pours alcohol on a different woman’s head presumably as a response to the second woman standing there with her nose up. The same thing happens to a woman in the “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” video. It would appear to me that there is a direct correlation between having alcohol poured on you in a rap video and having your nose turned up in a rap video.
Give a little, take a little. — Pusha T, “Dirty Money”
Money is important, but don’t forget that it’s just money.
But I don’t mind spending, all it is is paper. — Malice, “Keys Open Doors”
A very important lesson, to be sure.
Keep your receipts.
Whatever it cost, baby, we got answers. — Pusha T, “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”
This is a true story: Back when I was first freelancing — this was, say, my second year of doing it — I didn’t know that I had to include the freelance money I was making when I filed my taxes. I thought that since I was filing it for my full-time job that I was square. Turned out, I was super not square. I got a letter from the IRS several months after I’d filed my stuff and already received my refund saying I owed them $7,000. That, to me, seemed ridiculous, given that I had really only made about $12,000 or so freelancing that year. I talked to an accountant and she assured me that she could get it down, all that I had to do was send her all of my writing-related receipts, which of course I did not have because I am an idiot. I regret not paying closer attention to what Pusha was trying to tell me back then. :(
Speak Spanish to people because it makes you seem and sound cultured.
I tuck you in, homie. Buenos noches. — Malice, “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”
If you are new to Spanish, let me teach you a couple of easy phrases to just sprinkle into your everyday conversations. If someone asks how you are doing, just say, “Chinga tu madre,” which means, “Fine, thank you for asking.” If they hold a door open for you or say “Bless you” after you sneeze, then look at them and say, “Quieres chingasos, guey?” (It means, “You are too kind, my friend.”) If someone invites you into their home, then when you walk in just say, “Huele a mierda aquí,” which means, “You have a lovely home.” There you go. Now you are cultured.
Live in the moment.
All I want to do is ride around shining while I can afford it. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
Treat nausea appropriately and quickly.
Plenty ice on my neck so I don’t get nauseous. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
This one actually really works but you have to use actual ice, not diamonds.
Make good quiches.
The black Martha Stewart, let me show you to do it / Break down pies to pieces, make cocaine quiches. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
My main problem with making quiches before I heard this song was that my quiches had zero cocaine in them. My quiches had eggs and cheese and things like that in them. No cocaine, though. Very embarrassing. When I found out there was supposed to be cocaine in them, I felt a lot like the way Cady felt in Mean Girls when she showed up to that costume party in an actual costume.
Remember the children around you as children.
Money pile high as my nieces. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
A thing I’ve been struggling with lately is that my youngest son, a 4-year-old, is 4 years old, which is about three years older than I want him to be. I think a lot about him when he was a baby and that, of course, reminds me that he’s not a baby anymore, and it’s all just very sad. So this is good advice from Pusha: Take the time to enjoy the children around you as children. At my house, we keep track of height with little notches in a door frame. Pusha keeps track of either the height of his nieces with money, or the height of his money with nieces. Either way, I think it’s important.
Remember the proper seat assignments for both cash and ass.
Hefty bags full of cash, cars full of ass. — Pusha T, “Ride Around Shining”
While I would guess that a car full of cash would be pretty good, I cannot picture a scenario where a Hefty bag full of ass is anything other than bad. Don’t mix these up.
Watch bad TV.
We stayin’ up til’ 2 a.m. to watch Cheaters. — Pusha T, “Dirty Money”
Be bad at relationships.
You could tell me about ya day, I pretend to listen. — Malice, “Dirty Money”
I do not recommend this.
But be realistic in relationships, too.
And you ain’t gotta love me, just be convincing. — Malice, “Dirty Money”
I do recommend this.
Establish the mechanics of your relationships.
You rock with ya boy, then anything is yours. — Malice, “Dirty Money”
“If you are my friend and nice to me then I will buy you things” is a good way to have the best fake friends, which are basically as good as decent real friends.
Don’t worry about what others say about you or how they feel about you.
Funny how my neighbors don’t think it’s where I’m supposed to be. — Pusha T, “Hello New World”
Unburden yourself of the shackles holding you back.
Free ya heart and show ya greatness. — Pusha T, “Hello New World”
There’s an answer to every problem.
Keys open doors. — Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors”
This is my favorite piece of advice on the entire album. It just is so inspirational.
Seek sound financial advisement.
Cook money clean through Merrill Lynch. — Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors”
One day I would like to have the kind of money where I’m setting meetings with someone from Merrill Lynch. Truth be told, I would even settle for having the kind of money where I know what Merrill Lynch is or does, because I actually have no idea, smh.
Knock it the fuck off.
Knock it the fuck off. — Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors”
Sometimes you just have to stop.
Make sure you always take care of yourself.
Feed your goddamn self. — Malice, “Keys Open Doors”
Take care of your children.
The kids are happy, the perfect picture. — Malice, “Keys Open Doors”
I am generally at my most peaceful when I know that my kids are happy.
Never trust a promiscuous man or woman with your child.
Never trust a hoe with your child. — Pusha T, “Keys Open Doors”
This one is directly related to the one above it, probably. (Although, were I to really think about it, I don’t think having a lot of sex with a lot of people makes one an ill-fit babysitter. I mean, Alice from The Brady Bunch was great with the kids, and you can’t convince me she wasn’t knocking it down a bunch when she was younger.)
Adversity is an opportunity for heroism.
Through despair, I [trap]. — Pusha T, “Ain’t Cha”
That “adversity is an opportunity for heroism” thing is actually a quote from Marv Levy, who most know as the coach of the Bills in the ’90s. I don’t know why it always stuck with me. It just did. I think him and King Push would’ve gotten along very well.
86 karats, you know how much digging in the planet this could take? — Pusha T, “Ain’t Cha”
I don’t know if this is actually good advice or not, I just really love this line.
Math is important.
One and one is two. — Malice, “Ain’t Cha”
Imagine being good at math. And I don’t mean “good at math” where, like, you understand trigonometry or whatever. I mean “good at math” where you’re solving equations and algorithms on a window with a wax pencil like in the movies. If you’ve only ever done math on a piece of paper or a computer, then you really haven’t done shit. The way it breaks down from smartest to least-smart versions of math execution: Doing math on a window with a wax pencil → Doing math on a mirror with a wax pencil → Doing math on a very, very large chalkboard → Doing math on a computer → Doing math on a piece of graphing paper → Doing math on a piece of regular paper → Doing math on a normal-sized chalkboard → Doing math on one of those small chalkboards where you write the answer down and then hold it up so the teacher can see it.
Pay attention to your surroundings.
If it seems the walls are closing in, it’s only ’cause they are. — Malice, “Ain’t Cha”
Sympathy is for suckers and poor people.
Sympathy? I feel none. — Rosco P. Coldchain, “Chinese New Year”
Common sense’ll tell you duck and get the fuck outta harm’s way. — Rosco P. Coldchain, “Chinese New Year”
I’m a big fan of common sense.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. How to be successful in love and business and cars. Television and promiscuous people and equality.
Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all — the whole world — cooked cocaine quiches at 2 a.m. and then lay down to watch Cheaters.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to wear a bulletproof vest under your shirt.