Sleepy Heaven (Pt. 1)

The third song on Wake Up Sleepy Heaven, the new album from my rap duo Holy Smokes, is Sleepy Heaven (Pt. 1). The two parts of Sleepy Heaven are meant to act as interludes but still push the concept of Sleepy Heaven further.

Part 1 comes from the perspective of a disillusioned sinner. He is waging a war against his demons, but when he turns to the religious for guidance, they are busy hiding their sins and putting on a nice face for the public. The religious person is described with the characteristics of a politician, someone who “tries to build the public’s trust” but who, at the end of his life, “might tell you what he covered up.”

The sinner, upon seeing the way religious people hide their own sins, is left with even more questions than answers. He cannot help himself, fake Christians cannot help him, and he begins to question whether even God can help him.

I have seen this, and felt this, a lot in my life. So many of us Christians keep our sins to ourselves so that we can look like good people instead of real people, and we end up leaving more people lonely. We deny that we struggle time and again, causing a chain reaction of private suffering. We wear masks and forget that caring for people means sharing our trials with others so that we can share in our triumphs together. It’s hard to be found when we can’t admit that we’re lost.

Charles Bukowski once wrote in a poem, “the thing about church–you can’t change a mask.” Unfortunately, too often we think that the term ‘Christian’ is synonymous with saint rather than sinner. In part I blame this on the society we live in, where the American culture tells us not to wear our emotions too prominently for fear of looking vulnerable. At the end of the song, the narrator wonders when Christians started worshiping America over God. In a country that subscribes to survival of the fittest, there isn’t much room for admitting weakness. (The idea of America being a hindrance to true faith will come back throughout the album.)

At some point in our lives, we all experience hell on earth. Our stories are filled with suffering, and we all willingly accept that hell happens here. But how many of us acknowledge that heaven might be here too? As I said before, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God wouldn’t come with our careful observation because the kingdom of God is inside us (Luke 17:20-21). What if we removed our masks and showed people our scars? Wouldn’t we be closer to heaven knowing that others are suffering too? You can’t make it through hell if you don’t admit that you’re in it. If we want to bring heaven to people, we need to let them know we have been through our own personal hells, and are still fighting our demons despite our beliefs. No one relates to the person without blemish. Waking up heaven inside of us and inside of others is going to require a lot more vulnerability and honesty than we’ve been willing to give.

Wake up sleepyhead, sleepyhead, sleepy heaven
I try to stay awake but my eyes are feeling heavy
and this life is unsteady
and my friends, they all forget me
My demons grip my neck
I’m just trying to get a grip on me
I feel your hand slip on me
I find my sin and its whole army
line up at attention
state your name
and state your business
Are you all here to kill me?
Is this the real me?
Can you feel me?
I was screaming at the sky to take me
but lately I’ve been thinking
if God makes us from up above
does he drop us just to shake us?
Or if we spend our days in search of love
do most of just find more lust?
We crave a touch
I’ve said too much
No good man ever states his sins
He keeps them in
he locks them up
he tries to build the public’s trust
and at the end
(after some good luck)
he might tell you what he covered up
while the rest of us are shamed to say
that our mistakes they smother us
I’m trying to say that I –ed up
I wonder if God still loves us
us stutterers and vagabonds
We wander through youth then wander on
with nothing new under the sun
We’d bow to the Son
but he’s better than us
In God We Trust
but Dear God,
we must insist that you trust us
with trust funds
and some hot blondes
and these big homes
just like pop songs
Will Pop and Mom be proud of me
if trials are of what I sing?
If they sing “My Country Tis of Thee”
and I sing, “that don’t mean much to me”?
Excuse me, please
for cursing the land of too much blessing
too much dressing on Thanksgiving
thankful for our gluttony
thankful for the greed on Wall Street
thankful for the sluts on TV
thankful for this country:
red, white, and blue
but mostly green
Smoke clouds around
What could this mean?
We got trapped inside our screens
The earth fast asleep
falling deeper
don’t wake me
steeper into this stupor
Sleepy in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting
Sleep in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting

We Aren’t the Kids

I am part of the most legendary rap duo since Outkast and Kanye West & Jay-Z, the Holy Smokes. We just released our third album, Wake Up Sleepy Heaven. I thought it would be fun to share the lyrics and meanings behind each of the songs for the five people who listen to us (my mom, dad, sister, and the two of us in the band).

The first song on the album is entitled We Aren’t the Kids. It was a blasty blast to make. Parker, the music-maker of our duo, made what he thought was our most fun song yet. I felt forced to live up to that, so I responded in kind.

The album is called Wake Up Sleepy Heaven for a number of reasons. One of those is that I believe we are living in a generation where we are starting to question the benefit of placing Heaven in the sky while people live in hell here on Earth. Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God wouldn’t come from us pointing and saying “here it is” or “there it is” because the kingdom of God is within us. I believe that Heaven is asleep inside a lot of us, and it’s time for us to wake it up.

This song is a call to arms for the kids who dream while they’re awake. For the kids who believe that Heaven is inside them and that they can impart a piece of it to this world despite what past generations have told them. They are the kids who see hell around them, and may have experienced it themselves, so they know that Heaven must be nearby too. They know that church is something that just happens on Sunday but every time that truth is being spoken or at least searched for in a world full of lies.

The kids are revolutionaries, dreamers, and rebels, the ones who shout what they aren’t so that they can figure out who they are. They certainly don’t have the answers (“we ask the questions and embrace them all”) but they have the sense of self-worth necessary to go looking. If this is you, even a small part of you, this is dedicated to you.

We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
Don’t sleep to dream, don’t sleep to dream

We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
Don’t sleep through dreams, don’t sleep through dreams

This is for my family and not just kin
This is for my best friends
This is for my next friends
Not every friendship is meant to last
But not every person outlives the past
But this is for the present and this is to the future
This is for the go-getters, all the ones who choose to
do it on their own ’cause they got something to prove
While the world stands still, they still choose to move
They do it for their loved ones
They do it for themselves
’cause sometimes you don’t have nobody else
and you don’t have to die to go through hell
Where the hell is heaven and its angels to help?

We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
We aren’t the kids who sleep to dream
Don’t sleep to dream, don’t sleep to dream

We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
We aren’t the kids who sleep through dreams
Don’t sleep through dreams, don’t sleep through dreams

This is for the ones who went to church
but that good news wasn’t what you heard
They told you to be good and keep your nose clean
but this is for the ones who’d rather say what they mean
What’s a pew to streets where a homeless man preach?
What’s a class in an age where our iPods teach?
We aren’t the kids who bow at your feet
Only things we follow are the tweets on our feed
But those don’t feed us so we chow/ciao leaders
No president can save us so we occupy the streets
But me? I’d rather occupy these beats
I won’t protest the progress of liars and thieves
I’ll reflect on higher things like we stop buying things
If poverty bothers us, then how we spend our green?
Is it fine for us to scream at politicians in their greed?
Waste time counting on what we don’t believe in?

Count what we’ve received and subtract what we’re given
In the end we’re not better
but better still
If we got the urge then we’ll find the will
to die standing tall and nothing short of real
’cause we aren’t the kids who go by the book
We aren’t the kids who gives lies two looks
We don’t look up at skies for answers to fall
We ask the questions and embrace them all

And I don’t look at someone else to decide who to be
I look in the mirror and I’m proud to be me
and if you were really you, then you might see
what it’s really like to dream without falling asleep