Revealing. As writers, we often share personal stories to relieve ourselves of our most nagging transgressions. Lost loves, broken promises, and undigested sorrow shapes gives beauty to our madness. Think of your favorite songwriters and why you found their rhythmic testaments to be as engaging as they were. I can tell you, without blinking, how moving that I found Dre 3000’s The Love Below to be or how many nights that I sat in my old room in my parents home listening to Biggie’s “Sky’s The Limit” with the lights turned off. Even Drake’s “From Time” from his 2013 album Nothing Was The Same really made me text my ex-girlfriend who I had very freshly broken up talking about how I missed her and such and but that only made it worse. Thanks AUBREY! Despite my “emo” moment, that’s what music is supposed to do. It helps you to connect the dots introspectively, and if you’re an artist and your writing doesn’t do that, you need to start from the drawing board.
A few days ago, PartyNextDoor released “Kehlani’s Freestyle” on Soundcloud and I listened intently while asking myself “What would make him do this?”. It wasn’t in a “What is this kid on?” kind of way but rather “Damn, what caused him to put it all on the line?”. I consulted Genius for an interpretation of the lyrics to confirm my suspicions. First and foremost, I think, no scratch that, I KNOW that Kehlani is BAD! I love her tattoos, she’s tight from the bottom to the top, and most importantly her music doesn’t bring me to the brink of committing mass murder. I had never heard of PND and Kehlani being an item before and in the era of privacy’s near extinction, they pulled off an Italian Job. I don’t know nor I care (no offense!) about the current status of their relationship, but this song really made me more of a PND fan and most importantly, it pushed me to be the kind of writer that I’ve always wanted.
“Kehlani’s Freestyle” details the beginning and seemingly regretful end of an intimate connection through the eyes of a wiser PND. It’s one of those songs that, if insecure in who you are, the amount of honesty could possibly make you cringe. There are moments in the song where he acknowledges his flaws (“But I have to act like I don’t know, like it’s whatever/But I can’t promise I’ll do better/No but I know, better/But I cannot promise”) and wishes that he “took things slower“. As a man who’s been in deeper than Jay Reed, I’ve had similar situations where I’ve become smarter and better equipped after there was nothing left but deathly colored ash. As a listener, we’re invited into a portion of the writer’s life, things that are often seen as profane (“Crushing girl, I’m glad too/Fuck you ’til you cum, girl I’m glad to”) are really what makes it the most human and relatable. Anyone can be lewd. There’s a difference between artistic nudity and pornography. We see and hear when a rapper just wants to say anything for shock value as opposed to those that displaying a true sentiment and this is definitely the latter.
For some square reason, the credibility of one’s masculinity is called into question whenever emotion or anything that’s not aggressive is shared by a male artist. No one is 100% tough all of the time. Believe it or not, men can cry and express feelings without the fear of imminent emasculation. As “hard” as DMX appeared on his first few albums, he always had something personal and open to balance it. And did he NOT have a reputation of shedding THUG TEARS on stage? Yet no one questioned his manhood but an artist like Drake for example, will receive insults for speaking on the endless wars of miscommunication and fuck ups with women that plenty of us have suffered from and bottled up. Isn’t that ironic? (Seriously asking since I always get the definition of irony confused… Damn you Alanis!)
Our voices are our greatest gifts and how we choose to use them says a lot of our respective characters. Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, said “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions” and that’s how I’ve decided to approach the craft regardless of how it makes me look to a crowd of people that were ignorant to my existence before reading my work. I share my writing with the world so that you, whoever you are, won’t feel alone in the world because your thoughts aren’t like anyone else’s. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? To connect and empower with those with like minds. “Kehlani’s Freestyle” did that for me over the weekend but I wonder how she felt about it. It’s not for any of us to know, really but it is for us to understand that the judgments of others are null and void when speaking freely from a real place.