By Ernest Wilkins, @ErnestWilkins
2:03 PM CST, December 31, 2012
YOLO (full name: You Only Live Once) motto and voice of a generation, was found dead at Flip-Flops, a nightclub in Atlanta earlier this morning. It was a 14 months old.
Born Nov. 1, 2011, to Aubrey Drake Graham, Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. and Tyler “T-Minus” Williams, the phrase inspired countless numbers of young Americans and Canadians to live a life of reckless abandon and to embrace the concept that human beings don’t live more than one time.
The term was found swaddled in a song called “The Motto.” It was introduced via the chorus:
“Now she want a photo, you already know, though
You only live once: that's the motto, [n-word], YOLO
And we bout it every day, every day, every day
Like we sittin on the bench, [n-word], we don't really play
Every day, every day, *bleep* what anybody say
Can't see 'em cause the money in the way, real [n-word], what's up?
Bryan “Baby” Williams, a New Orleans keeper of exotic birds, weighed in on the impact the phrase made upon arrival. “Whoadie, I can think of like three terms that have straight up affected the general lexicon of an entire section of pop culture, and that’s one of them. Rappers be tryin’ to make terms happen all the time, but it’s like that white broad said in (2004 Lindsay Lohan vehicle) ‘Mean Girls’: You can’t MAKE a term happen.’ Don’t even deny the outright linguistic impact the boy Drizzy unleashed on the world. He got the innanet goin’ nuts. Brrrr!”
Interestingly enough, the song YOLO was featured on actually isn’t a part of the “Take Care” album. It was packaged as a “bonus track” on iTunes. Some have argued that not being included on “Take Care” drove YOLO to strive to become greater than its siblings. Through sheer willpower (and some payola to radio stations, who are we kidding?), the song sold hundreds of thousands of copies (124,000 alone in the first week!). The results speak for themselves: “The Motto” is nominated for a Best Rap Song Grammy in 2013. “Make Me Proud” is nowhere to be seen.
To say the phrase became immensely popular would be an understatement. A report from a social media analytics company reports that the term was tweeted just south of 40 million times in 2012 alone. Articles on the phrase have been featured in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, ABC News, the Associated Press and The Huffington Post. Teen heartthrob-turned cult leader Zac Efron got a tattoo of the phrase. Hundreds of retailers scrambled to put the phrase on T-shirts, hats, sweatbands and pregnancy tests. (Full disclosure: The writer owns a shirt with the phrase on it and wore it proudly throughout the summer of 2012). It was truly the golden era of flipping the bird to the concept of reincarnation.
But why? Why did this phrase gain mass adoption while other terms such as “Totes” died a horrible, poo-covered death? Some have speculated that the innocence (and bravado) of youth lit the flame for the term to spread. When you’re young, you truly believe that you’re invincible. Death is a foreign concept, so why worry? “Of course I’ll inject that Four Loko in to my arm, YOLO!” “Who needs a condom? YOLO!” “Be right back, I’m going to vote in Florida! YOLOOOOO!” It replaced “Geronimo” as the go-to statement uttered by people young and old who were about to do something dumb.
Like most things in popular culture, there was a gradual backlash. After a Canadian teen tweeted the term just moments before his death, the phrase started to take a beating at the hands of cultural critics, cynical journalists and people who just don’t like anything that didn’t come out in 1993. It began a downward spiral that included appearances in Wal-Mart and those tacky gift stores at the beach where you can get a T-shirt adorned with the name of the town you’re currently in.
Mr. Nate Gleason of Snellville was taken into custody after murdering the phrase shortly after uttering it no less than 26 times while trying to convince his friends to take a bunch of shots he purchased from a waitress he was trying to impress shortly after 1 a.m. Dec. 31. The waitress was reported as having no interest in him.
A few hours ago, Mr. Graham released a statement: “Before YOLO went out into the world, I lit a bunch of candles and wept into a tape recorder for three days. It got popular and spread its wings around the globe and now joins Aaliyah in the heavens above. The Young Money/Cash Money/OVOXO family asks that you respect our privacy at this very sensitive moment. We appreciate the crew love. Trust me, they know. They know. They know.”
In lieu of a funeral, Graham has asked mourners to "print the lyrics out and have a bleepin' read-along."
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