Home Culture The Intersection of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s T.R.O.Y and Drake’s YOLO

The Intersection of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s T.R.O.Y and Drake’s YOLO


By Tiffany Patterson

I was recently listening to T.R.O.Y by Pete Rock & CL Smooth. The song opens with a chorus of horns that immediately takes me back to my early childhood in Jamaica, Queens during a time when high top fades abounded and people were a little too comfortable wearing horizontal stripes and neon colored triangles AT THE SAME TIME. I would sing along with the only line of the song I knew, “They reminisce over you my God,” and for the longest time I never knew the title, but “Song with the Horns” as I called it struck a chord with me.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned the title of the song and meaning behind its lyrics. T.R.O.Y stands for They Reminisce Over You and was written as a tribute to a lost friend. It’s easy to be taken away with the groove of this hip hop classic and miss a strong underlying message: Legacy. “What impact will I make in life? How will I be remembered?” I thought to myself. These questions looped through my mind as if on an eternal play list. But there was another repetitive question that was a little quieter but undeniable: Does any of this matter? Then I thought about another phrase that I hear looped through the people around me.

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In 2012, the popular phrase YOLO or “You Only Live Once” coined by Drake is the contemporary twist on Carpe Diem and the justification behind impromptu reckless decisions. Think about it. How did you rationalize that $700 tab for your birthday? I’m sure YOLO was in there somewhere.

Drake’s motto is a self-congratulatory anthem that celebrates (what he believes to be) the pleasures of the moment: women, money, partying. YOLO is everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear this phrase, and I rather not share how many times it’s been my convenient excuse for yet another night of debauchery. “The Motto” is a catchy club banger & certified hit by today’s standards, but are these really words to live by?

There is life and repercussions on the other side of right now and what does that mean for our future? Will we become the generation of YOLO? Will we leave a behind a legacy of indulgence and indulgence alone? Through T.R.O.Y., our hip hop forefathers warned us of the dangers of being “Irresponsible plain not thinking” and in direct rebellion “YOLO” tells us to live it up. Can there be a happy medium?

Imagine if we started hearing things like “I’m going to invest in my company’s 401K-T.R.O.Y” as opposed to “Let’s go blow our rent money in South Beach-YOLO.” Ok so maybe those examples are a little extreme (but for some not really). The fact that both of these songs co-exist in the same genre stands as testament to the depth of hip-hop. Both of these “Mottos” can also co-exist in our everyday lives. So maybe the answer isn’t either-or but balance. Invest in your 401k and SAVE up for that South Beach Vacay. Live a full life, but stay mindful of your legacy. When They Reminsce Over You, maybe they’ll say something like He only lived once, yet became an immortal by leaving a legacy worth continuing…My God.

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Tiffany Patterson is a Writer, Educator, and Grad Student navigating a parallel universe some like to call New York City. Going confidently in the the direction of her dreams, you can follow her on twitter at @Writethev


  1. This was a very thought-provoking post. I like T.R.O.Y and through other artists using the title as a catch line (Kanye West in Tell Me Nothing), I came to get a better realization of it. I hate The Motto, despite the nice beat, and while I get the meaning of YOLO, that song seems to be the anthem of the BS and reinforcement of the stereotypes that plague my generation; that we Millennial don’t take what’s happening in the nation or globally around us seriously, and so on. I felt and still thing that YOLO= Spontaneous Actions, not a full-blown Stupid excuse or reason to be Reckless (getting Wasted, Group Sex, or some form of Jackass/Wild Boyz/Nitro Circus antics

  2. The 80s was the real YOLO era to me, lol. Dope and creative post. I think we learn with TROY to cherish our friends and the legacy we need. YOLO is a live life now without regrets and let go at times mantra. TROY and YOLO intersect when you talk about the right now. 1 life to live so live it to the fullest, and your legacy will build itself.

    Queens Village on mine tho! #QUEENS
    My recent post [INFOGRAPHIC] A look at the @WWE and the past 999 Monday Night RAW episodes

  3. Interesting write-up. I’m not sure what this generation or my specific legacy will be. I’m also not as concerned about leaving a legacy that all can look too and judge. I’m not that worried about what the world thinks of me. If I have the respect and love of my family and close friends in life and in death, I’ll consider myself successful. I don’t need to be known on the “grand stage” to have validation. I respect those that do but that’s not necessarily the legacy I need to leave.

  4. Good post! I agree with it too. I don't want to sound old fashioned but YOLO is getting a lot of people messed up, people are putting their obligations to the backburner for their desires. I know so many ppl Who got burned and hurt and went broke talkin about some YOLO. Good stuff keep it up.

  5. *refrains from acknowledging how tickled I am by a Nemo photo*

    "T.R.O.Y. stands for they reminisce over you and was written as a tribute to a lost friend." I've always hoped anyone I impact would be honest about it. I wanna know while I'm still here that I've touched you or uplifted you or enlightened you. It keeps me happy to know my life has positive affects and it feels good to be cherished by those you love.

    1. "Through TROY our…forefathers warned us of the dangers of being 'irresponsible, plain not thinking' and in direct rebellion YOLO tells us to live it up. Can there be a happy medium?" Only for the mediocre. Excellency is its own path and moves in an opposite direction of everything else. I haven't sat down and thought, 'hmm. How do I YOLO responsibly??' but I decided I have one lifetime and an indefinite amount of time on this Earth so I'm going to live it through impossibilities. There is a 100% likelihood of failure in attempting this feat but….generation after generation I want the peers of my children to study my family line in their history books. 500 years from now I'll still be alive. I leveraged YOLO. Yeah I'm intense for it.

      Your 59th drink at a bar….>>>>>>>

  6. Great post. Sadly, I think the whole YOLO craze really comes from pessimism. We don't even see the American Dream as much as we see the tragic falls anymore. The difference between a Carpe Diem and a YOLO is one is making the most of an opportunity the other is enjoy it while it lasts.
    My recent post Today’s Word is… PRIDE

  7. Hey everybody! I'm a lurker, this is my first time posting a comment. T.R.O.Y. was my song back in the day. I found out later that they were also talking a trouble T. -Roy. Troy was one of Heavy D and the Boys and died when he fell from a stage while dancing. That song gets major play on my iPod.

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