Being Noah Tesfaye #22: Really, Now Coffee Is Cancerous?

Alright, here’s an honest fact: I’m a coffee addict. I don’t hide it. I’m not ashamed of it. In fact, I love coffee so much that I think it makes me truly appreciate how amazing coffee is. So when I read earlier this week on the Guardian that “California law requires coffee companies to carry an ominous cancer warning label because of a chemical produced in the roasting process,” I lost my damn mind.

Here’s a funny story. I was never a coffee drinker. I didn’t enjoy coffee and did not really understand why people could enjoy it. Then, last summer, I had my first lecture at Columbia. Combined with the jet lag and lack of sleep, I could not stay awake during the second lecture of the day. So on Tuesday, the next day, I went to the coffee shop under my dorm and got some iced tea. That seemed to do the trick. So Wednesday arrives, I go to get my iced tea, and they ran out. My friend suggested I get some cold brew, some drink so foreign to me that I just went along with them and got a medium. This single cold brew changed my life. It changed everything.

For starters, as an Ethiopian/Eritrean, coffee runs through my blood. It’s part of my heritage. There is always coffee time whenever we go back to Addis and every time I visit relatives who are more in-tune with the culture, they always brew coffee the Habesha way. The instant I had that first coffee in New York last summer, it felt as though a new experience had opened for me. More than just the caffeine, where I could have gotten from anything, I appreciated the flavor, tasting the subtle hints of orange and cherry in the beans. I appreciated the balance of bitter and acidic tastes, meshed together into a clear, non-branded plastic cup over ice.

Coffee has brought people together for centuries, and especially as a student, there isn’t anything like working in a coffee shop with your peers with your caffeine to fuel you through your projects. Especially this year, I’ve spent hours upon hours upon hours at coffee shops, working on all my subjects and the newspaper. Those countless hours I could have spent procrastinating at home disappeared, and the grades went up. It’s the truth.

So this brings me back to today, where I’m in my local coffee shop, where I write my blog every single week, with a cup of iced coffee right next to me(I know!!! They’re out of cold brew…). Reading that Guardian article, along with some other coverage on CNN made me confused. How can something that has been proven to have health benefits and has “no strong link can be found between coffee intake and cancer and, to the contrary, a number of health benefits seem to accompany coffee consumption,” now require a cancer label? I honestly have no idea. Even though the coffee companies could not prove that there were significant risks, there is no way I think anyone would ever give up this amazing beverage.

So what now? I mean, “They’re taking our coffee. They’re taking our caffeine. They’re taking our sustenance, and some, I assume, are good people.” But they’re not good people. I love coffee. And honestly, of all things that require a cancer label now, are you telling me they’re putting it on coffee and not fattening foods with saturated fats, trans fats, and more? I have no expertise in health at all, but I still find it absurd you’re putting a cancer label on a beverage my people have been drinking since its inception. So, while people are being freaked out about drinking coffee and Frappuccinos, I’m going to continue to sip on this iced coffee next to me for the foreseeable future.


Being Noah Tesfaye #21: Give the Supreme Court Some Respect Please

The first time I remember learning about the Supreme Court was when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated for the court in 2009. I did not know what this court did nor did I understand the power they actually had. Through elementary and middle school, there were bits and pieces thrown into my history and social studies classes, but the true power of the court was never explained to me until I became interested in learning law in high school. I became fascinated with the court and their decisions, but I still cannot believe that so many of my peers and adults also do not understand the actual significance of the court.

Supreme Court of the United States

I’ve come up with a few different possible reasons as to why people do not get to know much about the Supreme Court aside from its major decisions like Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, etc and nominations. The first reason I think there is as to why there isn’t a general public respect for SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) is that their job is not as glamorous nor as appealing to watch as the other two branches. The executive branch is filled with usually a charismatic, or in our case today, a flamboyant, ignorant man, and the legislative branch is filled with loud arguments that are aired on television every single week. By contrast, the Supreme Court is a group of nine people who go under the radar, with less security than many officials in DC. They don’t express loud and ludicrous opinions out on CNN every week, nor do they make it their goal to be seen by everyone all the time. They always put their job and duty to the law as their singular goal. Although you may see justices participate in events across the globe, the majority of their work happens in DC. Then again, there’s the Notorious RBG, my all-time favorite justice on the court who’s a true legend and would destroy me in a workout

Harper Collins

Another possible reason why they could not be followed or understood well in schools until a civics or US history course is that much of the process is based on partisanship, and while schools feel comfortable discussing beliefs of the past, some schools choose not to bring up these arguments in the classroom. I know when I was studying the Supreme Court that we never discussed the current form of the court and the opinions of the justices. We didn’t really pursue current cases and discuss the possible opinions on both sides. I did eventually get this learning opportunity last summer at Columbia, where I was exposed to a brief, but important overview of the opinions of all the justices and their histories that helped me understand why decisions break down the way they do.

Supreme Court of the United States

While I can understand why schools may refrain from discussing politics at all for fear of alienating other students, I believe the true objective of education is to share both sides as equal as possible and allow students to create their own opinions. This means explaining the position of Breyer as much as Gorsuch. Exposing students to all ideas is the solution, not restricting just to the ideas discussed that are most comfortable to the student body. They’re not going to stop going over slavery (although they have in some places) because there’s a black person in the room. They’re not going to stop covering the Trail of Tears because a Native American in the room. They aren’t going to stop covering the horrific pasts of women or homosexual people in this country because there are women and homosexual students in the classroom. Why shouldn’t we stop covering politics and politics in the Supreme Court in particular because there are a few conservatives in my classroom?

Executive Office of the President of the United States

The Supreme Court is responsible for shaping this country just as much as our presidents and Congress and in many cases much more so. I love the Supreme Court so much because I know their job is focused on one central guiding set of principles: the Constitution. They are some of the smartest people in this country and people who have the historical knowledge necessary to help guide this country to new precedents. At times, I have not agreed with the decisions made by the court in the past and I don’t agree with many of the decisions made today, but the one thing I do have faith in the United States government in is the judicial branch. Even though there’s a weird political theory idea that one day the Supreme Court could one day literally take over the country, picking cases to shape the country they want and retain their power above all other branches, I trust the Supreme Court more than I will ever trust the current Congress and president in upholding dignity and the rights of citizens in this country for the foreseeable future.


Being Noah Tesfaye #20: Why Can’t I Pick a Party, and Should I?

To answer the question shortly, I have no idea. I’m a minor and I can’t vote, but every single time I discuss politics, I can’t make my mind up on what I support and I honestly do not know why. For every single time I try to align myself with liberal ideology, I am bothered by some of its rhetoric, and every time I find something that I can agree with on a more conservative level, I hear something foul that I could never support. So what the hell do I take into consideration when I think about politics?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve grown up fascinated with politics and how our country works. When Obama was elected president, I remembered thinking so vividly that this guy’s African too and he’s just doing awesome things. Maturing in the Obama era, I got used to politics that did not appear to be as super chaotic, even though I now realize it was in it’s own way. I mean, sure, there were people who thought he wasn’t born in the country, or the fact that they thought because he smoked weed as a younger person, he was unqualified to be president, but the disputes were based on the merit of the policy he created, as it should be.

Being a political fanatic when this past election occurred, I did not know how to react to the presidential election. It didn’t feel right that I could support someone or believe in someone who I disagreed with strongly just because the other candidate was not qualified to become president. It comes down to the fact that I do not know how I can support parties that are not completely clear on what they want, cause they do not even know within themselves what they want.

I’ve made it my mission to read and learn from all sides of the argument. I go from Paul Ryan to Cory Booker, Ben Shapiro to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Fox News to CNN, where I get arguments on the left that I agree with more often, but still do not understand completely what everyone is asking me to support.

Yet there is one question that remains: does it even matter that I’m not aligning myself to any party? I believe in policy that can move America in the right direction for my perspectives. I don’t think that we should necessarily just abandon partisan interests, because if anything, that is what allows our country to work, but like George Washington feared, partisan allegiances have for so long strayed and fragmented people in this country to a point where we cannot agree on objectively right and wrong things, on both sides.

My main point here is that we should be able to align and identify ourselves with policies from all sides. You shouldn’t be ostracized for being conservative. You shouldn’t be ostracized for being liberal. You should be criticized for the merit of your beliefs and what evidence you bring to why you believe what you believe in.

I’m going to continue to educate myself in what I should believe in and I suggest everyone take time to look at perspectives from all sides in order to truly understand why you believe in what you believe, and if you hear something that makes you change your mind, that’s okay. The main goal is to be able to educate yourself and be able to figure out what you believe. I’ll be reading and watching more political news and information, digesting what I want, and I ultimately want to give myself the best education on all sides to be prepared to change the world.

Being Noah Tesfaye #19: Pursue What You Want

Well today has been a long day to say the least. I just wrapped up the SAT for the first time and I’ve been thinking about college stuff all month. Through it all, I’ve been hearing a lot of discouraging BS. There were moments this week that the amount of pessimism that has been being thrown around reminded me to believe in the power of self. The only person that matters most in life is me, or you.

I got the idea to write this week after my good friend, with no past school leadership experience, was voted senior class president after running a “Trump-esque” campaign (the blindside aspect, not the policy). He told himself to just run and have fun and see what would happen. He made a campaign video, amazing poster, got a lot of campaign supporters, and won. Against all of the possible naysayers and people who may have found it ridiculous that he could have lost against all experienced candidates, he worked hard and campaigned to win the election for senior class president.

My good friend’s story this week just speaks to the bigger message out here I want to speak out about. You are the one that can control your accomplishments. Like I wrote a few months ago, I realized that I have the power to change my life if I just work as hard as I can. What is as equally important is to take all advice with a grain of salt. What I really mean is the idea that we should have our goals all in sight and have laser vision about what we want to pursue. This week, I got told no about something that was a dream of mine from someone who supposedly had experience in telling me whether I could do this or not. Had I not had the self-confidence and persistent believe that I could truly pursue this goal, I don’t know how I could have handled what occurred. I may have gone into another serious depressed state that could have thrown off my SAT this week and the rest of the goals I want to pursue this month. I don’t know what could have happened…

What I did know was that I believe in my dreams. I believe in the fact that I can pursue my dreams of truly changing the world on a global scale. It is imperative that you surround yourself with people who can believe your passion, but keep you in check. They need to support you, and even when they know the challenge may be extremely difficult, they will help you every single step of the way because they want you to succeed. Against all expectations, there will be people that will tell you that you cannot do it. You can’t make it. You aren’t qualified enough. Stop trying. Give up. I cannot tell you how much my life would be different if I took any of the advice that I took from these people. They don’t have your best interests and they do not want you to succeed.

So succeed. Kick ass. Be the best person you can be because it is what you want. I don’t want anyone reading this to ever be discouraged from ever giving something their best shot. Why live your life regretting to not take that shot, not giving that opportunity a chance? I am thankful I get to live in a place every single day that gives me the opportunity to succeed and guide me onto my path to a future that will be one in a trillion. So to my fellow classmates, friends, students across the globe, and anyone who may be reading, just know that it only takes one person to make your dream a reality: you. You can do it, against all that may say otherwise. You can change the world too.


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Being Noah Tesfaye #18: Umm…

I don’t know what the hell to write this week. I’ve been swamped and don’t know what to say. I have a couple pieces that I’ve written in the past that would be great to share with you all, but I don’t know whether I should share those at this moment in time.

I guess the real issue is that, like all my fellow classmates, I am completely stressed to the point I don’t know what to even do. You are so paranoid about the fact that you have so much to do at any given moment in time that it prevents you from actually getting anything productive done at all.

I guess I could say I visited some schools, but that isn’t anything worth really sharing here. I’m working on more school paper stuff, but that’s all on that website. So what now?

This is what it means to write a blog, right? You have weeks and moments in time where everything is set to go and you’re inspired and extremely passionate, but you also have days like today, when I don’t literally have anything to say. I’m even regretting to write this because I know I could be doing so much right now, but I promised I would post something every week this year. I’m not going to apologize for the lack of a regular post because this is something that happens to everyone. I’m just going to hope that next week I’ll be more inspired to share something more intriguing with the rest of the world…


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Being Noah Tesfaye #17: We Need Facts to Overcome

This past week in the East Coast has been one of the best weeks in a very long time for me. Yes, I didn’t have to worry about school for most of the time, or that I could take a detox from a lot of the other stuff going on back home, but I got to reconvene with all my friends and professor this past summer. The one argument we came across and tried to understand was why there has been so much inaction both politically and socially in this country. Perhaps my professor, Camila Vergara, reminded me of this as best where we cannot use solely morals to ever make a case for why there should be change to exist.

The first times in history I could think of with these examples was with the slavery and the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation, while freeing slaves in America, only freed slaves in the South as to affect the Southern Army and help guide the North to victory. While Lincoln morally disagreed with the idea of slavery, he didn’t actually still see black people as fit for citizenship at this time. He only freed the slaves to objectively help create an advantage for the North in the Civil War. Fast forward decades later, the United States faced a crisis. Black people were getting attacked viciously by police officers in the South for protesting against the egregious civil rights and equal rights violations by Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t just the fact that these actions were immoral that President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, but it was for primarily anger and resentment across the globe about the fact that the US claimed equality worldwide when they couldn’t even achieve equality at home. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the culmination of the CRM and ultimately led to the quelling of national debate. Once the cameras of people across the globe shifted, the prison industrial complex and public housing discrimination became more prevalent.

This is where I think we need to address that there are movements designed to shift social perception and those that are designed to shift public policy. Like a topic mentioned in a lecture I went to with my cousin at her school this past week, there are levels of dissent that are allowed in a system and then there is civil disobedience, tackling unjust laws. The Civil Rights Movement was effective because the protestors were willing to give up their livelihoods and safety for their cause. Protests that happen today, I fear, won’t be able to be as effective because both me personally and many Americans fear the consequences of taking serious civil disobedient action are too much of a risk to destroy the livelihood we live with. Action requires enough of a forceful dissent combined with real legislation that is objective.

Speaking towards the civil rights movement, the example I know best, MLK and others had to come up with objective reasons for why civil rights were great for the US. Rather than just protesting the violence, they spoke out about how including black people in all forms of the workforce would make the economy better, that they would be able to create new jobs and not get rid of the jobs that white people had. They demonstrated how they were able-bodied workers and people just like anyone else through the integration of sports and other workplaces. This same methodology must and should continue to be a part of the work that is being done today. I fear that we are too afraid and too concerned to make that risk, and even though we may protest, as I have, we may not be ready to sacrifice what is necessary for the true betterment of humanity as a whole.

This week in particular has been marked by the courageous and valiant efforts of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been not just protesting the gun violence that tore their community apart, but they are actively demanding legislation changes. Now, whether you may agree or disagree, their efforts must be applauded because they are willing to sacrifice their school year, and possibly their lives, to fight for gun restrictions.

There is however one significant problem that can occur with protesting. This is the fundamental crux of what goes on today. In the event that one begins to protest, the real question becomes, “Do I have the power and leverage to cause this change?” This is why many companies began to start allowing workers unions because they feared losing profits from a lack of work at their businesses. The first instinct I honestly had when seeing this protest and the ensuing marches for gun restrictions was, “If Sandy Hook couldn’t get Congress to do anything, why would students in particular strike out of class, losing only their education, to protest against gun violence in schools not in California?” But then I realized something. I realized that it isn’t about legislation at this moment in time. Sure, we should make sure to get these students as educated as possible so they can tackle gun laws head-on with the facts necessary to fight against groups that are in favor of gun rights (NRA, etc). Right now, these students really need to see that there are millions of students who are there to support their efforts. High school students, for the most part, cannot vote in this upcoming midterm election. But, there can be significant efforts made in the upcoming three and four years to ensure that when students do get the chance to vote, they can make sure to vote for candidates that support what they believe in.

Civil disobedience, courage, objective truth, and leverage are all absolutely necessary to create significant change in America. I truly wish we could all morally understand what is right versus what is wrong in the political realm, but that is just never going to be the case. I am rooting for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in their efforts to fight for their beliefs and hope that they can be the first group to help pass comprehensive legislation in Congress in the near future. There needs to be the four: civil disobedience, courage, objective truth, and leverage for there to be change, and once they can really nail down those four things on this journey, there is nothing stopping them on their path to helping make this country a place they want to help change.


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Being Noah Tesfaye #16: “Black Panther” and Why It Made Me, a Young Black Student, So Damn Happy

It is not in it’s ability to be a great movie, but it is it’s cultural and global introduction to black power is what makes it such a groundbreaking film

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Like all blog posts, this story begins somewhere. Last week, I remembered that the most anticipated superhero movie in years was coming out two weeks. I let my A&C editor know that I wanted to write the review. My news editor and friend let me know he wanted to write it as well, so we agreed to co-write. Sometimes our school paper gets access to pre-screenings, and when we got tickets to see the movie this past Tuesday, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Walking into this film, I had the highest of expectations, and thankfully, it exceeded my expectations in all ways. I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy watching a film as I was when watching “Black Panther.” This film is truly one of the greatest, arguably top two superhero movies ever, and one of the best movies this year for sure.

I didn’t get to mention my personal thoughts of the film completely in our review, you can find that on our website, so I thought I would share a few more of my thoughts that we didn’t mention in the review. The first point I want to make is that there is no possible word that could describe how much pride I had watching a full-black lead cast in the biggest film series of our generation. When you see Chadwick Boseman fight against Michael B. Jordan, or when you see Lupita Nyong’o fight alongside Danai Gurira, I don’t think I have to mention this, but I will again: this is the first time this has ever happened! I mean let’s just be honest. As much as I love “Get Out” or other films with black leads, there still has never been a film that has been able to capture black power and black empowerment on such a scale like “Black Panther.” How many times do we actually see that not only a nation in Africa as a place of groundbreaking innovation, Wakanda, but is actually the most technologically advanced place in the world? For as much as we see chaos, especially for me with the recent protests in Ethiopia, black people across the globe get the chance to see their people be the smartest, most high tech, and powerful in the world, and that’s worth something we should be thankful for.

As a film, “Black Panther” fulfilled all my criteria for a great film: a great script, strong male and female leads, and great visuals/cinematography/music. Starting right off with the script and the narrative, I will just say that besides what is in my longer form review, I found Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s adaptation of the Black Panther character to especially carry a narrative that the audience really should connect with. They wrote the film so that you could not only just care about T’Challa, Black Panther, but, if anything, you could care more about Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, the antagonist. The motivations for each character are established clearly and concisely to set context for why every single action is taken throughout the film. I won’t go into spoilers, but the two approaches on how to rule Wakanda by T’Challa and Killmonger are truly the best fictional interpretation of the battle of ideologies between MLK and Malcolm X. You can make arguments for why both sides are possible solutions to bring Wakanda to the world, as it’s an isolated nation at the beginning of the film.

Speaking towards the characters themselves, from humble T’Challa to my favorite, Killmonger, to the ferocious Okoye to the methodical Nakia to the angry W’Kabi and to the hilarious M’Baku and Shuri, I couldn’t have asked for a better team of characters that complemented each other both in dialogue but also in how they acted with each other. There was a sense of camaraderie that couldn’t necessarily be seen in the script but rather in how they appeared on screen. When you see them on the press tour now especially, it is clear that they know how important this film is, and they brought individually and collectively their best performances to the biggest stage in film.

I’ll just touch on the music, but please, I assure you that listening to “Paramedic” by SOB X RBE after watching the film is literally the greatest feeling in the world, as it’s literally Killmonger’s anthem. Overall, the soundtrack, while most of it isn’t in the film, does flow just like the film and each song provides a distinct musical interpretation of each section of the film. There were some slip-ups in the CGI at a few points, which will be obvious once you see the film, but for the most part, it was on-par with any other Marvel film in its spectacle and its scope.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The scene I have a screenshot of from the trailer above is really a part of the bigger importance of what “Black Panther” means for me as a young, black student. Even though I’m older than most of the middle school Marvel fanatics, I cannot contain my true passion and happiness for this movie because I am so proud that people like me can get the opportunity to be shared in such a positive light on the most grand stage ever granted. Ryan Coogler, Bay Area native and director of “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed,” took a risk by bringing the true meaning of black power to the world. Thankfully, he did the best job anyone could ever ask for with the creation of a world and group of characters that exemplify what it means to be strong and black. This movie will inspire millions of black people across the globe, heck it’s absolutely inspired me, to know that we can be ourselves and that’s enough. We don’t need to change our blackness to fit into a mold.

There’s no way this film could ever speak for any issues that happen in the world, particularly in Africa, but it provides insight into the most simple debates that exist about why the second most populated continent can become a greater place and has the potential to be one day the greatest continent in the world. As both African and African American, I am so proud of this film, the team, and everyone who has helped bring this story to the world. If you want to watch a film that will be one of the most important of this decade and possibly this century, or just want to watch a great film about gripping with change and acceptance, then you should watch “Black Panther.” You will not be disappointed. I promise;)


Being Noah Tesfaye #15: Needing to Write

This week hasn’t been quite the best week in the world. Granted, I did do some awesome things. I wrote wrote three and co-wrote a fourth article for my school newspaper. I did get the pleasure to meet two political science professors and got to go to a real Stanford class for the first time ever. I was enthusiastic and excited to get this knowledge into my speech for my English class and would like to think I created a somewhat convincing argument to restrict hate speech at universities(we didn’t get a choice on what side, just what topic. For the record, I am for not restricting hate speech in universities at all).

This all goes just to say that I’ve had one of the most strenuous weeks that I enjoyed and I feel like I did nothing. I had some incidents and comments about stuff at school that I wasn’t too comfortable with. I had an incident where at a point I feared for no reason that my academic career could come to an abrupt end. At times, I really believe that I hate who I am and who I’ve become. Sure, I feel like I may be productive, but it isn’t about that. In a time especially when I’m trying to deal with the issues of college stuff and school work in general, I am struggling to find the meaning in it all. That doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I want either. I know that I want to go to a great school, study political science/theory and constitutional law, and help as many people as I can. But it still doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t shy away from my insecurities. I don’t appear to have them, but I do, and at every single second of the day, I try to find out how I can combat these failures I find in my life in order to secure what I wish to be a life of fulfillment. The problem that I realized early on is that I shouldn’t ever do anything for anyone else. As such, I tried to minimize other people and their involvement to my success. I thought that by doing so, I would be able to come to a point where I would be able to get everything together. That being said, I still don’t believe that I have gotten to the point where I realize that I am truly responsible. It is my responsibility for how well I can succeed and how well I can successfully take advantage of every single opportunity my circumstances have bestowed upon me.

So why am I even writing about this for the blog this week? There’s one simple answer: for my sanity. Every single Saturday, I come and sit down in a coffee shop to escape everything. I write to get a sense of where I am. I write to understand why I’m making the moves that I am. I write to realize where I will go. So no matter what I write about, I know that it is helping me, even if it’s just a little nudge, to really continue to explore who I am. So even if this gives me relief for just the next fifteen minutes, I can refocus onto what I need to become the best person I can become. Even though I don’t know where I will be in a year, I know that this is the one place I can come back to and just scream my frustrations out onto the blog and give myself some sort of hope that a refuge is some place I will find one day. I’ve only found part of it, but I’m on my way there.

Being Noah Tesfaye #14: What do I want to do for a career?

I’m sorry, but this is the ultimate question that I don’t spend an hour without thinking about. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to write about for this week, but I set it out as my mission to write something every single week this year. Let’s be honest for a second. As a child, how much did you flip around your career ideas? It was pretty simple for me at this time to constantly change it around, but didn’t we all switch it around? Actually, there were tow kids usually. One type of kid knew exactly what he wanted to do since he knew what it was, and the other type of kid is the one that doesn’t know what they want, so they spend hours contemplating their future. Fortunately and unfortunately, I fall in that second category. As a young adult, I try to figure So the question if the day is: what do I want to do for a career?

When I first found out what a career was, the first dream I had as a child was to become an Egyptian archaeologist, digging up the next King Tut artifacts. Later on, I began to realize that this career didn’t really have much prospects in the US, where I want to stay, and I didn’t want to have a career that would, for the most part, be mundane in helping excavate artifacts that don’t really affect the world today.

The next career that I remember I wanted to have was to become an NBA coach. Understanding my lack of physical prowess at a young age, I knew and understood the game from the bench better than any of the starting players on the court. But alas, this didn’t serve the purpose of making an impact on people’s lives for anything other than entertainment.

I considered a job in public policy and becoming a senator in middle school. I thought I could learn about making the nation better, but then I realized that politics, for the most part (at the time), was a fairly slow, inefficient process and as a somewhat impatient person, I didn’t want to wait around for my fellow congressmen and congresswomen to agree with me.

At the start of high school, I binged ALL of Grey’s Anatomy during a single week of ski week. I was fascinated with idea of actually saving someone’s life. I wanted to become the next Callie Torres, an orthopedic surgeon, mainly because I had a compound fracture in my right arm three years prior, and I wanted to fix the problem that I had. I also even though of going into cardiothoracic surgery and be just as cool as Cristina Yang. But after watching the show, and then matching up the skills I have, medicine wasn’t quite the place for me to be. I did love the idea of helping and having a direct impact on people, but STEM didn’t fit me.

Then, like I said in a previous blog post here, New York City completely changed my perspective. After being exposed to how powerful the law really was and being able to interpret the Constitution, I knew immediately that my options were now narrowed down to just two options that I loved. The first was to become a constitutional lawyer, arguing one day in front of the Supreme Court over constitutional interpretations and studying America for how we can adapt the laws to help all Americans. The second option was to become a professor in political and constitutional theory, combined with a job as a writer for the Atlantic, my current favorite news publication. These two careers would fit me because I can impact people with what I do, but also with what I write, something I have been able to see with writing for my school paper.

So at this point in time, I am leaning towards those two, but to be honest, I don’t know where I’ll end up. The one thing I do know is this: I want to become a better reader and writer and I want to help people in as many ways as I can with my words and actions. As long as I can do such things, then I can be happy with the career I end up with. I want to change the world, and even if it may be at a small scale, I always want to know that what I’m doing is for the better of human kind.


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Being Noah Tesfaye #13: 4:44, The Most Important Album of This Past Year


The first time I listened to 4:44 by JAY-Z, I was lying in my bed in my dorm at Columbia. My roommate was sound asleep, like usual, and I decided to hit play at midnight on June 30th, hoping this album could be everything I anticipated it could become. I played “Kill JAY-Z,” thought it was interesting, but soon after, I fell asleep, with the album still playing…

I woke up later that morning and decided to play it from start to finish going to get breakfast and some good cold brew from UP Coffee Co. Initially, the first impression I had of listening to this album was that it was too short for me to ever enjoy. But, to take advantage of my Tidal free trial, I played it again, and again, and again, and again. I also downloaded a free copy as part of the Sprint promotion where Shawn gave away a million free copies. I don’t know what happened but I think it was the time I started discussing the album with my friends before class. I didn’t know quite the impact it would have on my life for the rest of the year.

That weekend, I exclusively played the album, memorizing the lyrics, interpreting every single bar that was there. And then it hit me. I realized that out of nowhere, this album was my favorite album. Ever. I didn’t understand why. Maybe it was the Nina Simone samples, or the simple drum breaks, or the punchy, punctual bass. But there was one thing I couldn’t get over: the lyrics. Now, I understand that his lyrics aren’t hard to understand. They’re not suppose to be super difficult to understand. What made me appreciate the album so much was his ability to just speak the truth of his own life. His experience being black, the two competing minds of Shawn vs Jay, family feuds, and his legacy. No one I had heard has had this kind of sincerity that I felt came from his lyrics. I have listened to a lot of great music, going all the way back from Rakim, to Tupac, to Cole, and of course JAY-Z. But the albums that spoke to my age and direct experiences as a teenager didn’t connect to me. That’s what made 4:44 so amazing. I didn’t experience losing out on a property for $25 million, or have an affair and almost lose my wife. I don’t have a gay mom either. What I did have was two personalities: the crazy measured. The one who always wants to do every insane thing imaginable, and the one who panics to get through work.

When I was walking to get to the 59th Street station to go to Coney Island on July 4th, I saw a skyscrape filled with nothing but the 4:44 album cover. I knew this album meant so much more to me even at that point, because everywhere I looked, I saw the album, and everywhere I looked, I saw the album speak towards circumstances of my life.


“Kill JAY-Z” spoke to my split personalities I feel at most times of my life, as I alluded to earlier. That idea of feeling like you should do something that you know will hurt you, and that guilty conscious will hurt and punish you for acting that way. Shawn is speaking to Jay in this song, and that’s how I try to reason to myself to get out of the selfish state of mind.

When “The Story of OJ” came on, and I listened to the chorus, I couldn’t believe how simply you could put the African American struggle. Yes, we have different skills, come from different experiences, and want different things, but we are all still the same, under one name.

“Smile” was me connecting to my appreciation of the life I do life. I don’t have the most peaceful and happy life, but I should be able to continue to appreciate my life for what it is. I should be thankful for the opportunities that I have and most of all, my mom is just a legend.

I understood “Caught Their Eyes” as my constant fight to watch out for those who get in the way of my success, attempting to threaten what I want to achieve. The most important thing was that you should watch out for those deceptions that could come in the way at some point too.

Well. “4:44” was… it’s just a masterpiece. No need to connect it to anything else. It’s one of the most important songs in hip-hop ever. Most people don’t know that yet, but they will in twenty years. A true classic. Not much else to say honestly.

“Family Feud” especially was almost laughable at some of the similarities with my family, and I appreciated his simplicity of saying: “I’ll f*ck up a good thing if you let me.” How much more blunt can you be? Really? The Beyoncé sample, feature, whatever it may be is phenomenal that balances out the snares and beautiful piano melody in the background sets this up as the most joyful song on the project

“Bam.” This is the “turn up” song of the album, mainly thanks to the fact that this song is the response to “Kill JAY-Z” from Hov’s perspective. He just attacks every single level of reasoning with just working to constantly go on the offensive, never settling for anything at all. That’s how I pump myself up. I want to and continue to get to the level where I can work harder than everyone else.

I couldn’t stop laughing at “Moonlight” because of its hook: “We stuck in la la land. Even when we win, we gon lose.” I appreciate his shredding of these rappers who sound the same and don’t change anything else. This song connects with me personally because I relate it more to how I see everyone around me doing things because others have done it, never thinking about what they actually want to accomplish.

“Marcy Me” is without a doubt my favorite song on this album. It’s not just the instrumental and the singing chorus, but it’s the idea of reflecting on how far you’ve come. I couldn’t believe just six years ago that I could be at the state I am at today. Also, “Hold the uzi vertical, let the thing smoke,” and the rest of the line about Lil Uzi Vert was appropriate, mainly to point out the stupid actions that these younger rappers are doing today.

I hope that my “Legacy” can play out something like Shawn’s. The intro from Blue is appropriate for this one especially, and I want to create a legacy that I can leave for the world one day. I want to truly change the world.



With the Grammys tomorrow, I’m rooting for 4:44 to come home with the victory. But to be completely honest, no Grammy or two or eight or none will take away from the impact this album has had on my life. When I ranked it as my number one album of 2017, I should have been more clear about the fact that everyone who loves music should listen to this album because it will become a Picasso. I’m just fortunate enough to realize this now, and maybe in thirty years, I’ll remind you, “I told you so.” Thank you Shawn Carter for making the most important album of my life and I wish you and the family all the more success in the future.


Thanks for reading this week! If you enjoyed reading, please leave a clap (on the side fo the page), and be sure to follow me so we can get more readers! Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @noahbball1 for any updates to the blog. I’ll see you all next week at the same time.