I Might Give Satan A Swirly: How to Be The Chance You Want To See In The World
What’s wrong with the world today? Occasionally, if you’re like me, you can’t help but wonder, as Flight of the Conchords did all the way back in 2007. While some issues are timeless, many are particular to this era. A quick check of the internet tells us these problems include, but are not limited to: Millennials (if the writer is a Boomer), Boomers (if the writer is a Millennial), both of those (if the writer is a Gen-Xer), the mainstream media (if you’re reading the President’s tweets), the President (If you’re reading basically anyone else’s tweets), “echo chambers,” the internet itself, and of course, whether or not your favorite food is a sandwich (somehow still a thing).
It can be exhausting to follow all of these issues, and many in our culture take advantage of that by flip-flopping their positions to whatever will afford them the best opportunity for advancement. While Americans claim to take pride in individuality, we repeatedly conform for profit.
Standing out as a rare example of hope and nonconformity is Chance the Rapper, who has proven that he doesn’t particularly care about what’s expected from him as an artist. He made an album that seamlessly fuses Gospel and Lil Wayne, all of his music is available for free online, and my dude’s music video features a Muppet. Even more unusual is the way Chance packs infectious joy and hope into even his saddest songs. For example, “Summer Friends” on Coloring Book deals with the epidemic of violence in his hometown, especially that which affects children. This is obviously very heavy subject matter, but the song ends with Chance’s mom praying for him and his future, followed by Jeremih promising to “Always bring my friends up.” Even when discussing the deaths of childhood friends, Chance has an eye towards a better tomorrow.
For this reason, it’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood while listening to his music. Chance’s remake of the Arthur theme song, along with the first and final tracks from Coloring Book, “All We Got” and “Finish Line/Drown,” are my go-to options for a mood lift. “All We Got” in particular encompasses the Chance experience with his signature lush production style, a well-deployed guest, and some incredible lyrics. Here’s the second verse:
I get my word from the sermon
I do not talk to the serpent
That's the holistic discernment
Daddy said I'm so determined
Told me these goofies can't hurt me
I just might make me some earl tea
I was baptized like real early
I might give Satan a swirly
Wish I could tell you it's ready
Tell you it's ready today
They don't give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
But that don't take nothing away
These lyrics, especially the line regarding the placement of Satan’s head in a toilet, have become something of a personal mantra of mine. But what does it mean to give Satan a swirly? Since Chance (most likely) hasn’t physically accomplished the feat, this must be meant in a more symbolic sense. I believe that, to paraphrase Stu Scott’s speech, you give Satan a swirly by the way that you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live. The devil can also be taken symbolically. Chance deals with a variety of devils on this record; labels and his wrongs (for example, drug addiction) specifically, along with negativity and violence. While Coloring Book is clearly influenced by Chance’s faith, it isn’t exclusionary, and these words can have value for anyone. This is because Chance doesn’t stop at giving Satan a swirly; he invites us to join in, showing us how both in this song and throughout the album.
Return to the start of that verse: “I get my word from the sermon/I do not talk to the serpent/That’s the Holistic discernment/Daddy said I’m so determined.” Chance is explaining how he remains positive in the face of darkness and doubt. He disregards negativity, instead listening to his family and faith. This is a difficult thing to do, given how loud negativity and the devil can be in the age of Twitter. Furthermore, he’s setting up a contrast between himself and the rest of the world. In a culture that rewards those who change their mind and abandon their principles for the sake of personal gain, he bucks the system. Forget negotiating, he won’t even talk to the enemy. This is done in the face of the fact that “They don’t give nothing away.” Chance’s refusal to negotiate with the devil, (or in his case, labels) makes his path harder, but it’s worth it.
But we don’t stop at simply ignoring the devil. Giving someone a swirly isn’t a passive act. Chance didn’t just ignore doubters and put out garbage. He made the best album of the year, one without a “gosh darned part you can’t tweet.” Further, he rubbed it in by including an attack against the abuses of the music industry in the form of “No Problem.” We aren’t just beating the devil; we want to beat the devil by a landslide. Chance exemplifies a Cobra Kai mindset: no mercy, no fear.
Chance doesn’t keep the success to himself, either. He’s a great example of how to use your platform for good, to spread the hope that he conveys in his songs. When Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner tweeted at him to congratulate him on his Grammy wins, Chance took the opportunity to set up a meeting to discuss the state of Chicago’s schools. When that didn’t go as well as planned, he donated $1 million himself, along with getting the Bulls to match his donation. He also supports programs that encourage high school students in the city to pursue the arts. By helping others reach the opportunities he grabbed for himself, he makes sure that Satan stays down.
But there’s more to giving Satan a swirly than just being successful. Unlike DJ Khaled, most of us lose sometimes. How we respond to these inevitable losses is often a determining factor in our lives. We could fold or conform to doing things the wrong way, or we could hold out hope against all odds and come back stronger than before. Giving something all that you have and failing, but getting up, dusting yourself off, and continuing to give it your all is the best way to prove the devil wrong. While Khaled’s win/loss record isn’t universal, he’s right that “they don’t want you to succeed.”
Honestly, giving the devils in your life a swirly isn’t that complicated. In this moment, some of the most rebellious acts that one can perform are being hopeful and spreading that hope, helping others, and succeeding in the face of adversity without compromising or negotiating. The great part about this is that you can apply it to literally everything you do. Encouraging someone or spreading hope in any way? You just gave Satan a swirly. Helping a coworker or friend? *Flush.* Doing something the hard way, because it’s the right way? Congrats, you’re becoming the Chance you want to see in the world. It’s not always easy to fight darkness in your life, but there’s a blueprint readily available. As Chance says on “Ultralight Beam,” “You cannot mess with the light, look at lil Chano from seventy-ninth”.