We’ve heard it before. Small town mentality is the mindset that someone from a small town has. Simple enough, right? A small town mentality can hinder you from achieving greater things or make one fear trading a small town for a bigger one. It may also be the reason behind close mindedness.
It can get pretty comfortable being from a small town. You know your neighbors and your way around; it feels safe. Many people are creatures of habit and it can get scary leaving a small town to realize that there is so much more world out there. I know for a fact that I would be afraid to. Actually, I am afraid to. “But how?” some may ask. You’re from NYC you shouldn’t be intimidated to move to another big town.
For college, I decided that I “needed” a change. I was tired of living in the same town; all of my peers had dispersed to different states to continue their educations. After one academic year of being home and witnessing everyone else’s fun through the Internet, I, too, wanted to be a part of that. I left my very comfortable, very familiar home in Brooklyn and moved to Virginia. I am a creature of habit, I would define myself as introverted, and I did not know anyone when I decided to move. I was from one of the biggest, most popular cities and a piece of me was terrified to move away.
Jump to this weekend, I attended Hip-Hop artist J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hill Drive tour. It was the final stop of the tour; his hometown, Fayetteville, NC. Now, J. Cole he is an honest rapper. I won’t go too much into his life story but he isn’t afraid to write about experiences that he’s actually had; one of which is being from a small town.
Following the performance of ‘St. Tropez’, J. Cole gets real with us, explaining to that he uses St. Tropez as a metaphor for someplace “…that really rich people go to when they got a lot of f**king money and they want to vacation and be on a yacht with champagne glasses and bikinis…” He continues to explain that many people get caught up in a small town mentality but that shouldn’t stop them from wanting to achieve their dreams and aspirations. He feels as though this message could connect to his Fayetteville audience because they are, many of them at least, from the same small town he grew up in.
I be doing shows in New York, Los Angeles, you know, f**king, Chicago; big ass cities, so they don’t feel me. They don’t know what it’s like to be somebody that’s from a small town, a place like Fayetteville…
And then there was me. From Brooklyn, NY and I understand completely what J. Cole is saying. In my experience, being from a big town didn’t necessarily give me a “big town mentality”. I always knew that there was a world out there bigger because I, just like Cole, saw it on TV. I knew there was more to have, more to achieve, bigger things to aspire after because I, just like Cole, saw it on TV. I may take it for granted the fact that I am from Brooklyn. It may have made me cockier or more arrogant by nature, but it never stopped me from fantasizing about being amongst the greats that have come from neighborhoods I would drive through or to when I’m home; Basquiat, Adam Sandler, Gabourey Sidibe, Aaliyah and of course, Jay-Z.
Listening to Cole made me realize that I had almost forgotten (for the lack of a better word) about the hunger that I have to be great. It was very interesting to hear his story and to see how humble he is about his success. Then it hit me: sometimes it takes moving to (or visiting) a small town to remind you of your desire to live or experience a “big city” life. No matter where you’re originally from.
Lastly, to our surprise, J. Cole brings out Jay-Z and Drake to perform alongside him as a treat to his hometown. And then there was me, again, hailing from Brooklyn through Virginia, and currently standing in Fayetteville, NC just to be in the same space as my hometown “hero”, Jay-Z. It was a night to remember.
Does being from a small town make you hungrier for success than if you were from a bigger town? Are bigger town natives overlooked because it is thought that they have more opportunities available to them? Let’s continue the conversation in the comment section. I’d love to hear your thoughts.