The most successful pieces of artwork are the ones that reflect an artist's reality.
For example, Kendrick Lamar, a Pulitzer award-winning, five-time Grammy-winning rapper, has created some of the most influential and unique hip hop records in the decade. His music reflects his reality and while most other artists who share his reality reflect on it in their music, Kendrick does it in a different perspective that is never shown. He reflects on his life in Compton, California, and the experiences that shaped him. His experiences are expressed through different themes in his music, such as being privileged enough to reject a criminal lifestyle while living in a crime-ridden city. He constantly uses this theme in his album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Kendrick refers to himself as the “good kid” living in a mad city filled with evil temptations. While most artists who grow up in similar situations as Kendrick choose to reflect on the negative aspects of their coming up in their music, Kendrick reflects on the positive and the hopeful spirit he carried through his childhood in a stereotyped, hopeless city. This is important because while Kendrick was just reflecting on his own experiences growing up in his environment, he was changing the way people viewed their own. This made me reflect on my own childhood and identity that I never attempted to explore.
A common theme in my own life has been that I have always struggled with fitting into one culture. It all stems from my parents. My father was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and immigrated illegally into the U.S. with absolute minimal English-speaking skills. My mother was born in a heavily Latino-influenced border town in Texas named Mission and was partially raised in Reynosa, Mexico. Because of this, neither of them used English as their primary language when I was growing up. I was mostly raised in Austin, Texas where the majority spoke English. As you can imagine, it was very confusing for a little kid. My sister and I used to call our language, “Spanglish” because we spoke in sentences with broken English. Our household always had Mexican food for dinner. Tacos, pozole, picadillo, and my personal favorite breakfast: chilaquiles. When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate the food as much as I do now. I was embarrassed to bring our leftovers to school for lunch. While all my friends had similar foods, my mom had packed me quesadillas. It wasn’t just the food that I was embarrassed about, it was my second language. When I would speak on the phone with my mother, I would make sure to respond in English so my friends wouldn’t judge me. I not only felt out of place at school, but I would also feel out of place with my Mexican family. I spoke Spanish and understood it well, but I was insecure about my Spanish speaking skills and I would avoid conversations with my Mexican grandparents. My Mexican cousins never failed to point out that I went to a mostly white, private, Catholic school. I felt like an outsider in both situations. I was too Mexican for my American classmates and I was too Americanized for my Mexican family.
As I got older, I started to notice that more and more of my classmates were desperate to find uniqueness in their identities. I started to see my identity as an advantage rather than a disadvantage. This is what inspired me to start a short film project called First Generation. A collective of small narratives following these themes of not belonging to a single culture but rather a variety of cultures. I'm no Kendrick, but similar to him, my work is and always will be a reflection of my reality as that’s when the best art is created.