Why Rapsody’s ‘Please Don’t Cry’ Is Her Most Vulnerable Album — And Her Best Yet

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The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.

Please Don’t Cry isn’t just Rapsody’s most personal and vulnerable album – it’s also her best. It’s often been said that music is therapy, but sometimes, going to therapy leads to making better music. For as much has been made of authenticity in rap over the past several weeks, just what that means has become increasingly debatable. Thankfully, Rapsody’s latest, in addition to being one of those timeless projects that will stick to listeners’ ribs long after the last song has played, is a refreshing palate cleanser for a month of vitriol – as self-love tends to be.

Self-love is also the centerpiece of the conversation Rapsody and I had about the new album and the positive growth she’s experienced since we last spoke. The album had been in the works since then, but Rapsody withheld it all this time to ensure that it would be perfect – or at least, as close to that ideal as any art can ever get. The time was well spent; while a prototype version of this project could have been a top release in anyone else’s catalog, the four years Rap spent tweaking the sound and evolving as a person resulted in an album that stands alongside all-time classics like The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill and Mac Miller’s Swimming, albums that have also sparked the sort of emotional reaction and introspection Please Don’t Cry does.

Please Don’t Cry, what a title.

That’s what it is, you should. You should allow yourself to feel. Whatever that feeling is — and it may not be sad — allow yourself to be human. That’s the core and the root of what that statement means. It’s ironic because no, but please do. Laugh when you cry. Laugh when you’re in love so much, your eyes drool. Rinse your soul of the pain. Don’t hold it. Release it so you can feel lighter.

And I did a lot of releasing in that way, during my healing. I cried a lot. I allowed myself to feel a lot. I got angry a lot. I allowed myself to feel all the things, but I also found my joy again. And that’s why the title meant so much to me. I was on Pinterest and I found the title within a quote, and it said, “No, please don’t cry. You won’t always feel so broken.” And that’s what it is. It’s all temporary. It doesn’t last forever. But the grace is, allow yourself to feel it, but don’t sit in it. That’s all.

Interestingly enough, this was one of those albums that brought me to the point of tears. Most recently, Tierra Whack’s “Two Night” did that for me; before that, it was Rexx Life Raj. What are the albums in hip-hop that have done that for you?

Definitely, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill — “Tell Him” [and] “Zion.” Mac Miller’s “2009.” The whole album because of his situation, but particularly, “2009” brings it out. Jay-Z’s “Lost Ones.” Ghostface [Killah], “2nd Childhood.” I want to throw [Erykah] Badu in there because she’s hip-hop to me, so “Time’s A Wastin.” I know it’s not rap. It’s not rapping, it’s hip-hop.

Tell me about working with Erykah on “3:AM.”

I knew, in the beginning, I didn’t want to have a lot of rap verses because it was so personal. I wanted to have a lot of singers on it to evoke that emotion in what soul music does, and I can’t sing. So every song, I would do the song first, and we would sit and really live with the record and say, “Whose instrument, as far as voice, do we hear to complete the story and what we’re trying to say?” So Badu was the first name that came to mind. I listened to it, and that’s who I heard. And I’m thankful that she was so graceful and said, “Yes.”

We worked on “3:AM” for about 10 months. And I appreciated the process of watching how she crafts her records, and that’s how I grew in that way.

Why did you want to use this group of people, especially Baby Tate, who was one of Uproxx’s first cover artists?

I love Baby Tate as a rapper, but even more as a singer. But I originally wanted “A Ballad For Homegirls” to feel like a conversation amongst several women. I told her how much I appreciate her singing voice, and I just thought it would be dope. But I love that she gave us a little rap and a little singing. She’s so gifted and talented. She knocked it out the park.

Lil Wayne, I’ve been wanting to work with Wayne. I’ve been listening to him since I was 13. So he’s been on my list for a very, very long time, but I’ve never ever sent him a record because I’ve never had one. I never want to force it. So when we did, “Raw,” it felt good. And I was like, “I know he would kill it. I would love to hear his perspective on this particular topic. He’s who I hear.”

“Whose tone fits it? Whose frequency?” That was how I approached this cast. Badu taught me how to slow down.

I don’t want to bring up beef while we’re talking about love, but we’re in this place where the narrative of always seems to be, “He’s got 24 hours to respond.” Everything is very right now, now, now, now, now, now, now, now. And you’re like, “Mmm, let me wait. Let me chill.” Why was now the perfect time for this album?

I first started this project in March of 2020. And the first weekend I started, me and Eric G did 12 songs in two days. And I told him, I said, “We only need three more records, and we’re done.” I remember going to 9th Wonder and playing it for him at that time, and he was like, “This is your best work. It’s heavy. It’s really heavy, but your best work.” And I went back, and it was good, but I said, “I don’t know if I want a record so heavy, that is good, but people don’t want to revisit it because all it is heavy.”

So, I just kept recording. And it’s the best thing that I did because I got to really go through the healing process and not just start it, do some songs, and this is it. No, go through the whole process of healing. And I learned so much more about myself, why I do the things I do. I got to reintroduce myself to me. And I just started pouring out, pouring out, pouring out. Having a conversation with friends, they were like, “Just show everything about you; the good, the bad, the ugly, the emotional, the anger.” And so that’s what I did.

I poured out until I was like, “I’ve covered everything. I’ve covered everything.” Sometimes, four or five times over again on different beats, right. And I said, “I have nothing else to say.” And then it was about getting the right records and telling the story.

Speaking of that pouring out, when you’ve done that, what comes after that? Because now, it feels like you’ve raised the bar so high. How do you top yourself?

I really think, for the most part, projects are somewhat a snapshot of your life and where you are. So right now, I’m just kind of living. I’ve started to live by this Andy Warhol quote, which says, in a nutshell, “Just do the art. Put it out and let the people decide if it’s good or bad. And while they’re deciding, you’re onto the next thing.” My goal with every project I’ve done is to grow in some way. One might be like, “Get your cadence.” One might be, “Get your voice and inflection right.” This one was to be vulnerable, fearless, to have a deeper connection with people. I have three or four ideas of albums I want to do.

I started 2020, working on three. So I have so many ideas in my head. If I could drop four in a year, I’d be like, “Yes.” There’s so much more of me that I want to tell and give. So it’ll come together the same way this one came together. I just got to let it happen and see where I’m guided.

Please Don’t Cry is out now via We Each Other/Jamla Records/Roc Nation/Universal Music Group. Find more information here.

 


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