Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

In numerous posts, I’ve recounted how my older brother, Sahil, shaped my love for music. Growing up with a four-year age difference, I always wanted to be like him. He wore his overalls with one strap buckled in place, the other hanging lazily. So I did the same. The very first instrument he learned to play was the flute, so that was what I chose to learn in elementary school. I couldn’t play a single note. He watched Pokemon on the weekends, with me faithfully by his side. He signed up for baseball, so I signed up for softball. That only lasted up until I got hit square in the face with the ball. After that, any time it would come near me, I would cower in fear, providing absolutely zero support for my team. Most of the time I wasn’t quite as successful at these activities as he was, and looking back at it, I’m not sure just how good he was at them. But in my eyes, he mastered every single thing he tried. It was impossible for him to fail. And even if I fell short in comparison to him, he always encouraged me. He knew what I needed to hear so that I wouldn’t give up. That pattern has continued into our adult lives, even if he isn’t quite as vocal. We both fell in love with music. I drew inspiration from his passion, talent, and diligence, and I wanted to show him that I was capable of it as well. After a few years, I started to feel those same sentiments, no longer feeding off his love for the arts to impress him as it grew organically within me. We grew older and fell out of touch through our teenage years, reconnecting and drifting apart incessantly as the exhausting cycle of life ensures. However, our sibling bond never faltered. I always knew that he would be in my corner, no matter what I chose to do. So today, on his 29th birthday, this post is dedicated to my best friend and incredible brother, Sahil. Thank you for exposing me to so much incredible music.

Throughout the years, sibling duos have made Hip-Hop history. Clipse, Bone Thugs -n-Harmony, Rae Sremmurd, Audio Two, The Click, TRU, and Three 6 Mafia (depending on if you consider Project Pat an unofficial member) are all huge names in Hip-Hop that have involved two or more siblings. Although the terms brother and sister get thrown around quite a lot in Hip-Hop lyrics, the bond between blood siblings is unmatched. To celebrate my darling brother’s day, I decided to compile a list of lyrics that represented our relationship, or just simply reminded me of him.

“Brother’s Keeper” — Anderson .Paak ft. Pusha T

Clipse is easily the epitome of brotherhood when it comes to Hip-Hop. As mentioned in the song, they were an incredible duo, and it makes it even cooler that they are brothers. Sahil and I cannot relate to this song in any way; we would be the world’s worst pair of drug dealing siblings and an even worse Hip-Hop duo. (I should disclose that I think I would make a fabulous drug dealer and he would probably weigh me down but that’s a conversation for another day). Furthermore, neither one of us has found salvation in religion (as of now). Strangely enough, though, we can relate to the fact that I chose to continue my path in music, whereas Sahil chose a different one. We always thought it would be a different turn of events, specifically that very situation in reverse. And yet, he found success in a way that allows him to continue pursuing his passions while climbing the ladder and demonstrating just why he’s a force to be reckoned with. Despite our different career paths, we’re still extremely proud of one another, and I’ll always be my brother’s keeper.

“A Few Words For The Firing Squad” — Run The Jewels

This may be a strange choice, but it’s honestly because of one particular line. During his verse, El-P raps, “this is for my sister Sarah, honey, I feel sorry you were hurt.” In this line, he references a traumatic incident that happened to his sister, an event that he mentions in other tracks such as “Constellation Funk.” I think the reason why this stuck out to me is the way he addresses his sister and the amount of hurt that you can detect from his voice. His gentle approach when addressing her contrasts so vastly with his typical tone, and although I don’t see it very often, I recognize it a lot as something Sahil does with me when he knows I need that comfort. 

“My Brother” — Mac

This song shows the trials and tribulations of any sibling relationship. Just like any brother/sister duo, hurtful things can be said in the heat of the moment. I remember when my brother and I were little and we would fight in the basement, usually because I wouldn’t get to watch what I wanted. I would turn the lights off on him and run upstairs, but as soon as I reached the top, my heart was flooded with guilt and fear as I worried that some sort of monster might get him in the dark. Whenever we would fight, and especially if low blows were involved, we felt horrible. He wasn’t great at saying sorry, but I could feel the sadness radiate off of him and it was enough for my forgiveness. This particular track also discusses the pressures of trying to follow in your sibling’s footsteps. I think my brother and I both felt our own amounts of favoritism or pressure, but I don’t believe that any of that petty resentment or jealousy could overwhelm the immense amount of pride we feel in one another. If anything, he just motivates me to work harder so that I can be like him.

“Brother Man, Brother Man” — Big Daddy Kane Ft. Lil Daddy Shane

This track just reminds me of wanting to do anything and everything with my big brother. Hearing his encouragement was the only push that I needed, and activities were just so much more enjoyable if I could do them with him. Hell, I would sit around and watch him play video games for hours just because it meant we got to spend time together. We were pretty inseparable when we were little. If my brother agreed to let me hang out with him and his friends or would take me for a movie, my day was made. I don’t ever take for granted the amount of time he spent with me growing up even though I was probably just the annoying little sister to him and his friends. In the song, the playful back and forth between big and little brother reminds me of our relationship and how much Sahil’s approval has always meant to me.

“Soundtrack 2 My Life” — Kid Cudi

There’s only really one part of this song that stands out to me when talking about my brother, and it’s when Cudi starts describing his family dynamic at Christmas. He talks about how his mother goes out of her way to make Christmas special, and that his “independent older sister got [him] fly when she could.” No matter how she expressed her love towards him or tried to spend quality time with him, there was a part of him that she couldn’t understand. It made him stand out from his family. I think growing up with Sahil being the older sibling, he probably felt that way, especially because he took on that protective big brother role. However, I’m extremely lucky. I always had him to confide in, even when there were things I didn’t want him to tell our parents about. I could tell him about my deepest, darkest feelings and not have to fear judgment or negative repercussions.

“40 Acres” — Pusha T Ft. The Dream

Once again, Sahil and I are not drug dealers. I feel like I need to reiterate that… just in case? But the bond between No Malice and Pusha T is the epitome of ride or die. This song shows that no matter what paths the two of them choose to take, whether they intersect or run parallel, they are there to support one another. I love Pusha T harbors no resentment towards No Malice for choosing to change his life around; although he doesn’t see that happening for himself, he applauds him. I think that’s beautiful. He also mentions that even if they aren’t a duo anymore, he shares his victories with his brother, recognizing the impact that he’s had on his life. I think doing what you do as an homage to your older sibling is something I relate to a lot; I wouldn’t be who I am today without the influence that Sahil has had on me, and even if we don’t talk as often as we used to, I know we’re always in each others’ corners, rooting to see the other succeed.

“Broad Shoulders” — Taylor Bennett and Chance the Rapper

Yes, for someone who hates Chance the Rapper so much, I give him a lot of positive attention on my blog. But this song just really pulls at my heartstrings. It details not only developing into adulthood but the pressures a younger sibling faces to follow their older one’s path. Although that has a negative connotation, the experience can be rather enlightening when you have a supportive brother who encourages you to make a name for yourself while providing you with the knowledge that they’ve gained throughout their journey of trial and error. Like I mentioned above, I’m so lucky that I had Sahil to pave the way, even if sometimes I feel as though I can’t measure up to him. It was never a feeling of competition between us, but instead a relationship of collaboration, one that pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves while having the other to help make that happen. As the song progresses, it gets to be a bit harder for me to handle as they talk about growing up out of their child-selves into the adults that they are. It makes me nostalgic for a time in which our biggest problem was who got to play with the Pikachu toy. It makes me sad to think about how much life can exhaust a person, and it makes me want to take away any pain that my brother has ever felt. It makes me hope that he feels nothing but happiness in his adult life, even as I recognize the naivety behind that sentiment.

“Best Friend” — Brandy

I think this is the most fitting song to end the post with (although it’s a lot less sweet when remembering that the song is for Ray J of all people). Just like my parents, my brother is my best friend. No matter what we go through or how we treat one another, that feeling will never change. We’ll always be just a phone call or text message away.♥

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