Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Always Coming Back Home to You

Our penultimate text this summer is a song by the indie rap group Atmosphere. In the original assignment, I called this a non-fictional narrative; it might be better called a pseudo-fictional narrative, however. This could be a real memory with a few poetic embellishments. It could also be a kind of composite of several memories. As Didion suggests, the point may not be veracity or verisimilitude. Keep in mind what she and your authors have written as you consider the video below. Click this link to view (and buy, if you are so inclined) the full album through iTunes. The unofficial YouTube clip serves as our fair-use placeholder, since you need access to the fully constructed song, not just the lyrics, in order to respond to it. Notice that “Always Coming Back Home to You” is in the first portion of this nine-minute track:

As you listen, take notes, and talk to each other, you might also ask yourself why it is we seek meaning in the music we listen to. Your preference in music can’t be debated, so that isn’t the question; you like what you like, and while those tastes can be altered or evolved, they aren’t really open to debate. In a course like ours, we’re interested in the debating over the insight in a song like this, how that insight is presented, and what it contributes to our understanding of the world around us.

School has a funny way of stripping the search for meaning of its authenticity, though; the question of what someone’s art means gets murky as soon as you fold in grades, eventual college acceptance, and some sort of nebulously understood future happiness. A common response is to reject the prompt—the “just enjoy it to enjoy it” approach to experiencing something. But you are primed to find patterns and create meaning; you might say it is fundamental to the way we live our lives. And to argue that we should “just enjoy” raises all sorts of questions about what enjoyment means, why it should be separate from thoughtfulness or analysis, and why you are trained to believe that false dichotomy.

All of which is soapboxing to tell you to enjoy music for music’s sake, but not to assume that there isn’t any deeper meaning, nor that your author doesn’t intend for you to grapple with themes or symbols. He does. All authors do. Even the denizens of YouTube recognize this:

no plot? what the **** are you talking about? the kid with the gun is part of the plot you idiot. if you haven’t noticed one theme in this song is how people view slug as a criminal, and he sometimes catches himself having criminal thoughts as well. when he’s in the store, he has a vision of robbing it, so he runs outside. then the lady gives him a stare because she thought he was going to steal his car. then the kid gives him the gun, and slug can “smell trouble”…
-platinumchefindia in reply to 1990cmcauliffe 2 months ago 

a website interpreted it beautifully:
the first half of the song is Slug being surrounded by criminal temptations (robbing the liquor store, jacking the car, the gun).
but the closer he gets to home, he starts reminiscing about his childhood and the good times (hip hop and comic books, memories of his youth, his neighborhood)
when he finally arrives home, it hits him: his childhood and innocence are long gone. but no matter what happens, he will always come back to where he grew up..
idkwhat2puthere in reply to esialdor 1 month ago

Of course, you don’t need to delve into symbolism or themes to respond to Atmosphere’s song. Continue to build a notebook of insights and reactions, and then visit the comments here to speak to your classmates. As always, send me an email if you have a question or concern.

[Note: I apologize to those of you who wrote me over the last two weeks and did not receive a reply until now. It turns out that getting married is time-consuming, hence also the delay in posting this portion of the assignment. I will be more readily available in about a week.]


97 responses to “Always Coming Back Home to You

  1. Danny DePaoli September 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I liked the comparison between our memory, and little portals that take us back in time to our past experiences. It fits the song perfectly because throughout the entire song, his past experiences save him from messing up in the present day.

  2. Danny DePaoli September 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    That was in response to Connor’s post.

  3. Brian Donnelly September 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Atmosphere is one of my favorite rap groups so i was very happy to see we got to write about them. as i was listening to the two songs i realized the first song was kind of depressing and it seemed like he may not have been talking about his home town but rather a bad memory when he would say “Always Coming Back Home to You” like hes always coming back to this bad memory because in say shh it was like a happier song, he seems like he is talking about good places to grow up.

  4. Darren Daughtry Jr. September 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Atmosphere’s “Always Coming Back Home to You,” shows how your actions in the past affect your future. Although he is still tempted to commit crimes (stealing the cigarettes, stealing the car, and keep the handgun), he knows from experience that breaking the law can land him in jail. We can learn from his mistakes. In a way the song tells us that some people do learn from their mistakes and become better people as a result.

  5. Jack Kelly September 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    When I first read the title I thought the song was going to be about a place to go back to, but as I listened to it, I realized it wasn’t a place. It was a feeling, the feeling of temptation, the temptation to commit crime, like when he steals the packof cigarettes and a car, and now in his life there are certain things he sees that remind him of the tempation, things that bring him back “home”. There is a connection to the other passages based on the common theme of memory, and the way memories can change people. He knows he has choices to make in life and the memories of his past help lead him to the right choices today.

  6. Eiman Khan September 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    At first “Always Coming Home” by Atmosphere didn’t make sense to me, but after replaying it I finally understood Atmosphere’s connection to memories. After understanding the meaning of the song I automatically remembered a quote that I saw on line : “People change, memories don’t”. I believe this quote connects to this song very well because in the song we see Slim on his way home, but along the way he goes through certain incidents that challenge him. For instance, when the mother and her child left their car running and unattended while they went to the deli Slim could have easily taken their vehicle. Also, when the scared boy handed Slim the gun, Slim could have created chaos at his own risk but he did’nt because he remembered him home. The idea of coming home was extremely effective in Slim’s case due to the fact that it prevented him from doing potentially dangerous things. Slim can become a doctor or a criminal but something like the joy of coming home can never be replaced therefore “people change, memories don’t”.

  7. Ariana Pagnotta September 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Atmosphere’s “Always Coming Back Home to You”, portrays someone that is tempted and given numerous opportunities to steal from those around him. However, he doesn’t. He remembers the consequences of actions such as those. He refuses to make that wrong decision because his memories show him that he will be punished for breaking the law. He is on a coaxing path towards home and must fight these temptations to steal and commit crime. This memories of consequences help him become a better person.

  8. Joseph Serrecchia September 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    All of these articles stories as well as this song stress how important our past is. It’s more important than everyone thinks. It really does make who you are. Its your decisons no one elses but, what you learn from you past is what truly makes who you are. The rapper has the temptations to steal and committ crimes in general, but hes stronger after his past experiences. He knows what those things lead to, nothing good. He understands that he messed up and has accepted it and learned not to do it anymore. He will always have temptations to do from his rembrance of getting away with crimes if he did, but his memories are the reason he is so strong. His past made him who he is. He was faced with decisons to go down different roads after everything that happened, he could’ve learned from his mistakes and went forward, or stay right where he was and keep doing the same things and living a life of crime and punishment. He on the bright side had learned and is now a better person because of it.

  9. Catherine Caputo September 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    This whole song had an underlying tones of temptation and regret, but what stood out to me the most was when he ran into the little boy with the gun. This might just be over analyzing on my part, but after being reminded of his mistakes, he probably apprehended the boy in the panic that the kid would be mixed up in something just like he was. Facing ghosts of our past and reliving those experiences can be quite taxing, so being like AJ, and having complete and not intentional (as she stated; “You know when you smell something, it brings you back? I’m like ten levels deeper and more intense than that.”) access to those memories in such an intense manner would be like living in a nightmare. You learn from thinking, and grow from learning, to dwell on those past experiences and be stuck in them would almost halt that process completely.

  10. Bridget Stapleton September 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    I have to be honest, I was not overly enthused when I clicked on this portion of the blog, because I don’t usually enjoy rap music. In fact, in my own narrow-mindedness, I almost completely dismissed this part, determined to do a half-thought out response, walking dejectedly into this song. I’m glad I got over my inherent negativity, however, because I found myself really enjoying not only the song, but the message that it projects! I really liked the theme that good memories can take us to a different time, a different mindset. I like, also, that Atmosphere seems to hold a certain respect for childhood, they realize the effect it can have on life way past the point when it happened. This is shown is lines like “Respect the life and the fashions of the children, It’s the only culture I’ve got, exactly what we’ve been building” and “Didn’t wanna leave it for a child to stumble over!”. The first that I mentioned showed the narrator’s gratefulness for his childhood, and it seems like even though he may have grown up in a high-crime area with lots of temptations, he is able to overcome all this through the culture of childhood, innocence and freedom. The latter line I mentioned shows the want to leave childhood uncorrupted. This song leaves me thinking that maybe the “you” he keeps coming home to is his childhood. “I should’ve known, walked all the way home To find that she wasn’t here, I’m still all alone”. Yes, maybe he is talking about a person of some significance in his life and that they are now dead or gone, but also, maybe he keeps coming “home” to his childhood, which is of course isn’t there anymore, it’s part of growing up, but the memory of his childhood may be enough for him to keep away from all the temptations he feels.

  11. Avery Pan September 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    “Always Coming Back Home to You” illustrates the link between one’s personal memories and experiences and making good choices in the moment. Throughout the song, Slug mentions seconds in which he’s been handed the opportunity to cause trouble, or do the wrong thing. The buying of the cigarettes and the discarding of the gun both encompass smarter decisions in which he rids himself of the reprobate option. Because he is in the town in which he claims he has “roots” in, he is reminded of his childhood and hints that it is because of these memories that he is steered away from making sinful decisions. I specifically liked the way he addressed the song “to all my killers and my hundred dollar billers, to emo kids that got too many feelings,” because it’s as if he’s giving those who have rough memories to live by advice, and trying to direct them to search for who they really are and become better people as well. Jorge Borges narrative can somewhat relate to how Slug recalls tiny fragments of memory and specific detail of childhood, the way Funes advised is best to remember.

  12. Will Kelmenson September 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    One purpose of this song may be to convey how important your past and memories are. Your past is part of you, no matter what you are doing in the present. Many of these posts show how holding on to memories can help you. During tough times, memories can help to assuage the pain. However, i also believe that memories can cause pain as well, but the fact is , they are a part of life.