When Ervin McKinness, better known as “Inkyy,” a 21-year-old aspiring rapper was killed in a car accident a month and a half ago, shortly after tweeting “Drunk af going 120 drifting corners #Fuckit YOLO,” the irony was brutal.
While it was not McKinness who was driving during the crash that also killed four other people, much attention was given to his Tweet and the dangerous and often stupid actions that people try to justify by chalking it up to “YOLO.”
YOLO, made popular by Drake and Lil Wayne’s hit song “The Motto,” is the painfully unoriginal and extremely agitating abbreviation for “you only live once.” Thanks to the success of “The Motto,” you can’t go a single day without seeing or hearing YOLO, in songs, on T-shirts and following a hashtag in thousands of Tweets and Instagrams.
The issue is the negative message associated with “The Motto,” and promoting irresponsible behavior, with McKinness’s death being a shining example. The problem isn’t the artists or their music or supposed message, but how listeners are interpreting these messages and implementing them in careless and dangerous ways.
Maintaining national attention has made musicians an easy target for people to displace the accountability for their own actions. In 1990, legendary metal band Judas Priest was sued in a civil court by the parents of two teenagers who had committed suicide five years prior and had cited Judas Priest as one of their favorite bands. Despite not mentioning suicide in any of their lyrics, it was argued by the parents that the lyrics contained subliminal messages when played backward.
Following the Columbine shooting, several artists came under fire for promoting violence, specifically shock rocker Marilyn Manson. The blame on Manson was without question a knee-jerk reaction by those looking to place such blame, and it was revealed later that the two shooters didn’t even listen to him.
Similar to when a student’s failures in school are primarily blamed on the teacher rather than the student’s lack of effort or the parent’s inattentiveness, reckless actions are now the responsibility of media influences instead of those who actually carry them out.
Musicians shouldn’t be blamed for the stupid decisions people make. “The Motto” is idiotic, but nowhere in the song does it explicitly tell people to participate in dangerous actives while drunk — it’s just a song about enjoying your life and doing things that you like.
Music can inspire, it can anger, and even incite drastic change. Ultimately, most music is not meant to be taken too seriously, as its purpose is often to entertain or tell a story. Enjoy your Halloween activities responsibly this week and above all, please stop using YOLO as an excuse to act stupid. But if you do decide to do something dumb, know that your decision to YOLO is entirely your own, as is the responsibility for your actions.
— Grant Hull is a senior studying cultural anthropology. He can be reached at