Is "Look Yourself" based on a true story?
"Look Yourself," the first single from the "Adam Up" CD, is the story of one man's salvation experience and the obstacles he encounters as he attempts to share his newfound faith with family and friends. The song is a parody of controversial rapper Eminem's Grammy-winning number-one hit, "Lose Yourself," from the movie "8 Mile." As Eminem's original is loosely an account of his own rise as a rapper, so ApologetiX lead singer and lyricist, J. Jackson, says his parody is largely autobiographical.
"In Eminem's original," says J., "the main character reaches a turning point where he has to make a decision if he's going to risk everything in order to change his life. That's what happens to every born-again Christian. When it happened to me, it was pretty dramatic. I just saw a lot of parallels between my experience and what the main character goes through in Eminem's original, not just the turning point, but what happens afterward as people's perceptions of you change."
J. says he thinks most people who become born-again Christians encounter resistance initially from their family and friends, who think they've either gone crazy or are going through some phase or are getting involved in some sort of cult:
"I think it's natural for family and friends to try to protect their loved one from going off the deep end. Even in the Bible, it says that at one point, Jesus' mother and brothers came to try and take Him home while He was teaching, because they thought He was crazy. And Jesus Himself said in Mark 6:4, 'Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' I'm not claiming to be a prophet, but I'm saying the principle of what He was saying still applies. People you've grown up around have a hard time believing you've changed overnight."
Many listeners are shocked to hear what sounds like Eminem proclaiming a Christian message, but Jackson says sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. A recent article in Rolling Stone magazine noted that Eminem's first independent release, Infinite, contained these verses: "In the midst of this insanity, I found Christianity, through God and there's a wish he granted me, He showed me how to cope with the stress, and hope for the best, instead of moping, depressed."
"Look Yourself" is actually the second parody ApologetiX has performed of an Eminem hit. "The Real Sin Savior," their parody of "The Real Slim Shady," was included on their 2001 release, Keep the Change. Although the song was never released as a single, J. says many Christian radio stations treated it like one and gave it heavy airplay. "I've had stations tell me that it's still their most requested song," he says. "It's also one of our most requested and most popular concert numbers. Most importantly, I have been blown away by how many people who have told me they or their friends or family members have had life-changing experiences after listening to that song."
In regard to his own life-changing experience with Christ, the subject matter of "Look Yourself," J. says he originally came from a religious upbringing, but high school and college took its toll:
"When I was growing up, we went to church every Sunday, and I had a basic fear of the Lord. But high school and college exposed me to all kinds of other attitudes like atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, mysticism, and a wide variety of world religions. I also got exposed to all kinds of temptations. So I didn't know what I believed. My first year after college, I started reading the Bible, because I wanted to get closer to God, and I had a really guilty conscience. I think I was kind of like King Herod back then. He liked to listen to John the Baptist talk, except when John the Baptist pointed the finger at him and the sin in his life. I liked to read the Bible, except when it convicted me of things I was doing.
"I didn't think I could make the changes in my life necessary to get close to God. And I think I was getting a little too zealous for the tastes of my family and friends, who all thought I was a fine upstanding young man as I was. So I ended up going in the opposite direction. For a year, I tried to live like there was no God. I looked for answers in science and everywhere but the Bible, and I led a pretty hedonistic life, just doing whatever I wanted. But I did throw up a little prayer that said, 'God, if You're for real, please have mercy on me while I go out and try this, and lead me back to You.'"
J. says God answered that prayer dramatically on January 1988:
"It was Super Bowl Sunday, the Redskins vs. the Broncos, and I was at a party at my girlfriend's apartment. For some reason, I felt compelled to go next door to the local church (which was dark and empty but unlocked) get down on my knees and pour my heart out to God. Kind of like, 'God, if you're up there, I know I'm a sinner, and I really need you to change my life.' My year of living without God had left me feeling so empty, and my conscience felt guiltier than ever. But this time, I was coming to God seeking His forgiveness rather than just His stamp of approval, and I was willing to give up everything if necessary.
"I can't remember everything I said, and I didn't even know if anybody was up there listening. I didn't feel different that very moment, but soon after I got the desire to start reading the Bible again. Something inside of me was changing. A year earlier, the Bible was a book that I found mysteriously fascinating but threatening. Now, it started making sense, and it was encouraging. And I believed it, which really was freaking me out, although it freaked out my family and friends a lot more."
The song "Look Yourself" describes the reactions of friends and family to the main character's conversion. "It's kind of like that old T.V. show 'Welcome Back Kotter,'" J. says. "The guy went to this school and then comes back as teacher, and everybody's thinking, 'You're one of us. What can you possibly teach us?' Thankfully, just as Mr. Kotter was able to gain the students' respect over time, I gained the respect of my family and friends over time, and I've seen that happen in the lives of many other born-again Christians. I've also seen a number of old friends and family members, including ones who thought I was crazy, become born-again Christians over time. So this song is ultimately encouraging, although its final verse ends with a poignant plea for friends and family to accept Christ."