What I’m Listening to This Week
Title: “We Cry Together/Purple Hearts”
Album: Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
By: Kendrick Lamar, Taylour Paige, Summer Walker, Ghostface Killah
You’ve heard the album by now, I hope.
K. Dot’s newest entrée after how many years? If you haven’t sat with it yet, then you might not be a hip-hop head and maybe this write up won’t resonate.
Even so, I got to tell you, it resonated with me. Amidst songs on depression, addiction, recovery, and poetry — I focus on the two-part poem:
“We Cry Together/Purple Hearts”
I haven’t seen too many people sit with these. I haven’t really looked. But they’re what I’m listening to this week.
We Cry Together
Trigger warning — intimate partner violence.
This is what the world sounds like
An unseen Muse implores her audience with a muted harmony,
Hold onto each other.
Disconcerting, abrupt, K. Dot interrupts that ethereal, angelic voice urging love to win.
This is what the world sounds like
Did y’all sit with this beat? A casual sample, looped ad nauseam without novelty. But what it lacks in diverse instrumentation, it more than makes up for with the sense of anxious dread instilled by the simple piano scale. The keys lightly trace a melody that climaxes into an unnerving double jolt — and it happens over and over.
If you’ve heard the song, then you know the premise. It’s more a lyrical performance between two estranged Lovers than an actual song. You won’t hear “We Cry Together” play at any clubs this summer.
It has a chorus though:
Fuck you, b*
Nah, fuck you n*
Nah, fuck you, b*
Fuck you, n*
Again, just over and over.
The piano scale reminds me of something I learned in therapy: in a toxic environment, your stress reaction is constantly triggered. You are numb to the anxiety, but also incapable of reaching a state of rest. The mental anguish is constant, persistent — while it’s operating in the background, your nervous system is burnt and this will fuck up your physical life.
I sit with this track because I am triggered. Further, a talented artist decided this was worth sharing and publishing. Kendrick. And all the truths reflected in the art: “you’re the reason b* start fucking with b*”.
The deep silence that pervades all the insults and attacks — no one‘s listening while both are unloading. It’s devastating to hear words like this and to sit with them considering if they are true.
And the worst part is how and when the two protagonists interrupt each other, like K. Dot knew he had to slip in some real real.
And then they fuck — because that’s why they’re willing to share the problems in the first place.
Stop Tap Dancing Around the Conversation
What do you think that means?
Shut the fuck up when you hear love talkin’,
Shut the fuck up when you hear love talkin’
It arrives immediately in response to “We Cry Together”, dismantling brick by brick the wall built between Lovers. And it’s such a strong fucking wall that they brought out Wu-Tang‘s finest, the Original King of Staten Island, The Ghostface Killah in to give us a lesson.
I haven’t figured out why it’s called Purple Hearts. Maybe they’re bruised? Or maybe, like the award, these Purple Hearts honor wounds earned in battle?
And it’s not a song where the couple resolves their issues and rejoin. Bless Kendrick for giving us the real.
Between his easy harmony — no longer the scathing, vicious delivery of the previous song — K. Dot prays,
I bless it that you have an open heart,
I bless that you forgive.
I bless it that you can learn from a loss,
I bless it that you heal.
And I love this because it resonates so deeply with where I am. I feel assurance when I take the difficult steps of walking in peace while learning my truth.
And on the flipside — I know that there’s hurt all around. Because I’m a one-of-a-kind type dude. And despite the pain I feel, it’s someone else who asks, “How is love?”
I hate it here… I hate it here… I hate it here…
I might love you still, just think I love me more.
And in busts Ghostface Killah, a Prophet Possessed, demanding we shut the fuck up already. God is here while Love is talking. Reminding us, Love is the language of God. The Greeks write about this: agape. Many other cultures, I’m sure, have reached the same conclusion over time.
The lesson urges the Lovers to pause — consider that the Love each has for the other is not necessarily for the other, but is an instrument of God. And I understand Ghostface to be alluding to the Judeochristian teaching of God. This Love exists despite the pain, despite the trauma — despite the human things each did to the other. The Love that persists is precisely in-human. It is Godly, it is God’s voice. And the lesson concludes: there’s so much else we can channel that love toward; and we will see this if we just bow our heads in reverence and listen to the silence.