It’s not my place to speak on a situation I wasn’t involved in. And when it comes to the ongoing journey of Ameer Vann, there is a lot of shit not many people know the truth about. Let’s be honest with ourselves: in any situation, there are at least two sides to a story…and quite often, there are far more than two sides. Somewhere, tucked gingerly between the various perceptions of any event, lies the actual truth. And, for better or worse, that truth seldom sees the light of day. Between accusations, rumors, innuendo, veiled subliminals and plenty of goings on in the comforting shadows of an already too bright public spotlight, sits a human being.
I don’t know Ameer like that. I don’t know Shawna and Rhett like that. And I don’t know Brockhampton like that. As such, I won’t put out any sort of commentary on what did or didn’t – may have or may not have – taken place. I won’t trivialize statements of abuse from two young women, and I won’t condemn the actions of a young man. Nor will I cast judgement on the actions of a collective of young men. Each and every individual involved in whatever is or isn’t going – has or hasn’t gone – on is responsible for their own self. Karma is the ultimate judge, jury and executioner in this life and I think people would be better off for not assuming the role unto themselves.
I do believe in accountability. In growth. In healing. And in forgiveness. The whole idea behind a “cancel culture” is no less toxic than the actions people are targeting. We are all in possession of fuck ups, mistakes and shortcomings – let he who is without sin. What sets some people apart is they are better at keeping their low points under wraps. But it becomes increasingly hard to keep up with a pristine image of saintly stature when the internet continues to connect people in new ways. We’re all – willingly – surrendering our privacy. Now amplify that with the added bonus of rocketing to stardom. Rather than “cancel” someone who has made a mistake, maybe we should put our focus on better ways of noticing signs of trauma, helping to guide individuals to healthy avenues of redirection or healing, and – above all – never forgetting that people can change.
I’ve met Ameer Vann in person once in my 30 years here in the physical. Prior to this, we had interacted a bit online and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a now defunct website. Dating back to this correspondence, which took place in 2013, I can recall being impressed by the awareness the teenage Vann displayed. From then on, without fail, Ameer Vann never once put himself on a high horse of impeccable morality. He has, since the first time my ears were introduced to his music, been almost uncomfortably forthcoming with the flaws in his character, personality and mental health. Over the course of our brief time together in Texas in 2016, Vann was nothing short of friendly, endearing, accommodating and, perhaps most noteworthy, honest. He shared stories about his life that set the stage for trials, tribulation, darkness and the need to strengthen his inner-self in order to survive. I mean this in the most compassionate way: it comes as no surprise Vann fucked up somewhere along the line.
But it also comes as no surprise he took – and is taking – the lessons to heart. It doesn’t surprise me that, as his story continues to unfold, Ameer is growing into a stronger, healthier and better person. In a recent interview with Sway, which does a good job presenting a new perspective (Ameer’s) on all that has taken place internally and externally, Vann mentions that his mother expressed her gratitude that the Texas-bred Ameer was built to carry this cross. Without passing any judgement on what has happened, and based solely on my own – limited – interactions with Ameer, I would fully agree with that sentiment. He was built for this – God paved the road for him so that, when the time came for his life to flip the fuck upside down, he possessed the mental grit to come out on the other side in a better place.
One of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do is forgive. But it’s an act we must do for ourselves just as much as we do for the person we are forgiving. And we must forgive ourselves, too. In the act of forgiving, we remember how to understand ourselves and each other. We take our power back over situations we had no control over. And we lift the weight of the stones we’ve been carrying. It’s not easy, man. People will wrong you, hurt you, break you – but until you forgive them, you’re making the decision to surrender your power to the experience. All the while, you have the opportunity to take back your power and remind yourself of peoples’ real ability to change.
Next time you’re ready to “cancel” a celebrity or a friend or your biggest enemy, take a look in the mirror. Decide if the person staring back at you is the same person who did someone dirty in the past. Have you grown up, worked on yourself and leveled up to a greater version of yourself than you were five years ago? Or a year ago? Or last week? And have you forgiven yourself for your wrongs and your “failures?” Each day, we are blessed with another opportunity to cleanse our karmic weight and forge forward into our greatest version.
Until you’re right within and without, stop casting stones.
With the release of EMMANUEL earlier this year, Ameer stepped back into the public arena. The 6-track EP, named after his father, brought back to life the impassioned, aggressive and sharp artistry listeners hadn’t heard since his last release alongside Brockhampton. It plays like a powerful reading of pages torn from Vann’s diary – complete with enigmatic production, EMMANUEL is mindful, manic, morbid and atmospheric. Welcome to the head and heart of Ameer Vann – it ain’t always sunny but, man, it’s fucking honest.
“GLOCK 19” is the latest EMMANUEL cut to receive the visual treatment. Like the song, the video plays upon numerous hip-hop tropes to tell a layered story. It’s aggressive and violent, but these surface layer images give way to a thought-provoking visual experience complete with multi-dimensional messages. And the song hits hard as the production wraps around Vann’s knocking delivery – it feels like his prose is the sonic representation of punches being thrown. He takes us into his inner world and we’re opened to the plethora of ways this manifests in his physical world. We don’t just see the light or the dark, we see them both and the ways they come together in a twisted fidelity.
I’m happy to experience new music from Ameer Vann. Again a testament to his internal strength, he made it through the brimstone of public backlash, the expulsion from a band he helped create and he was forced to sit with all that was taking place around him. The fact he’s back making music is dope. But the fact he’s actively working on his mental health is far more dope. There will, of course, be a large number of people who question the authenticity of Vann’s words and actions. And maybe I’m biased due to the appreciation I’ve had for his music since 2013. Still, when I listened to his interview with Sway, I found myself on the receiving end of truth – his truth, but truth nonetheless. The energy I witnessed – the energy I felt – was good energy, honest energy and authentic energy. It reminded me of the young man I met in Texas in 2016 (albeit an older, healthier version).
To see someone heal is a beautiful thing.
EMMANUEL is available now on all your favorite streaming platforms.
Press play on “GLOCK 19” below.