One of the most significant messages in Fantasia Barrino’s “Without Me,” a track from her latest album Side Effects of You (2013), is to never forget the important people in your life who helped you to achieve what you’ve accomplished. In the lives of most successful people, there are individuals who were instrumental to their success. When successful people begin to act “brand new” and fail to show gratitude to those who are largely responsible for their success, Fantasia asks a powerful rhetorical question in the song: “What would you be without me?” While one may give himself or herself too much credit for a person’s success by saying, “I made you,” what “Without Me” communicates is you wouldn’t be the exact person you are today without me. The song forces the listener to reflect on the people who have been significant in aiding him or her in the evolution of the person he or she is today.
In the opening verse, Fantasia sings, “You gonna make me expose you for exactly what you are, (you are).” One can understand the frustration this verse conveys with those who have benefited from the help of someone, only to have to witness the person going around pretending like that assistance was not crucial to his or her current success. When people begin to act like the things you did for them weren’t important, then you should, at some point, “expose” them for exactly “what” they are. What’s ultimately responsible for a person acting “brand new” and ungrateful is reckless arrogance. For example, you could have bought a guy the fancy house, clothes, shoes, car and etc. he has, but this same guy may start flossin’ like he bought those things and start looking down on you because you don’t have them and the lifestyle he has. This type of person fails to pay homage to the sacrifices you made so that he or she can have those things and the lifestyle you made possible. When you threaten to expose the person or actually expose him or her, the individual thinks you’ve done him or her wrong.
Fantasia states, “And as hard as you try to hide reality, while we know the truth, so act brand new if you want to.” A person who wants to sham like you didn’t play a tremendous part in their achievements doesn’t want you to expose him or her. The individual prefers for you to leave the truth hidden. The reckless arrogance that has consumed the person causes him or her to have resentment toward you because he or she knows the truth: without you he or she wouldn’t have many or most of the achievements he or she cherishes.
Although many will interpret Fantasia’s song as only applying to an intimate relationship between a male and female, this limited interpretation results in one missing its wider applicability.
Never take what people have done and do for you for granted. Learn how to show people the gratitude they deserve. Your unchecked ego may be leading you to try to hurt someone who is highly responsible for what you have accomplished simply because you don’t want to give him or her the proper credit that has been earned.
Be very careful about how you treat those who have been vital to your success—you never know when you’re going to need them.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
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I’m not one for exposing someone, while I can understand the purpose. It just seems juvenial to me. Yeah someone may get the big head and have convenient amnesia when it comes to certain people that helped him/her along the way; I just think there is a better way to handle things. In the end, we all get what we deserve, if you do dirt sooner or later you get dirt, if you do right by others it will come back 10 fold. I just don’t feel the need to rush karma.
I very much understand your point. When people do wrong, they are eventually going to get what they deserve. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to sit back and wait on them to get what they deserve. Many times, natural human emotions cause many of us to react without waiting on life to deal with the person. It is really hurtful when people you’ve helped tremendously and for a long period of time show themselves to be ungrateful. While the high road is certainly letting life deal with them, this piece does acknowledge that natural human emotion to want to do something to retaliate against them. This might not be the most mature thing to do, but it may make many feel better to do it.
Where would you be without me What would you be without me So what you blowing up just a little they knowing you a little Don’t give a finger in the middle Cause a real n—a you will never be!