Rap is not typically an avenue for intimate emotional expression, but using the power of words to drive a song gives artists a chance to create uniquely personal reflections of their own minds. This week I picked apart a couple of songs that stood out to me as well-written windows into the artists’ souls.
Lady Paradox – When The Weather Fades
“Kind of Peace” is a soothing, almost meditative, album. Lady Paradox sets a melancholic tone through her lyrics in the early songs by describing the lonely disconnection the walls of depression create. “Dreams” is the first song to introduce positive imagery in the form of Lady Paradox’s fantasies about a brighter world. The song ends with jazz legend Johnny Griffin describing his relevant quotation – “Jazz is made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions.”
Jazz is an emotional genre and its roots in blues give artists the ability to express feelings beyond the range of words through the primal language of music. Lady Paradox takes this emotional nature of music a step farther in “When The Weather Fades” by personifying it as an exciting new lover. She draws on my favorite imagery between music and weather I described in my first post as she describes how music can shine through the haze of her depression.
“I try and listen to fill in empty spaces
Sounds are my brightness when the weather fades”
Lady Paradox continues to describe her beloved relationship with music as a constant source of support and the tone of the entire album changes. The remaining songs are upbeat and confident, culminating in “Summertime”, a joyful song filled with imagery to delight all of the senses with the sights, smells, and flavors of summer.
The journey of self discovery on the album reminds me a lot of one of my all-time favorite albums, Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon: The End of Day”. I highly recommend listening to the whole album cover to cover for the full experience, but I think this transitional song does a great job of capturing the purpose of the album.
Richie Cunning – Pure Imagination
This is a perfect example of a track where well-done production turns a good rap into a great song.
The audio clip in the beginning is from the 1993 crime drama “A Bronx Tale”, a story of a young man at the intersection of a law-abiding life and a life of crime with the mafia. This theme of polarity is echoed in the rest of the song.
The beat in the verse features a sample of the introduction to the song “Pure Imagination” in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”. This is the song we hear as Wonka introduces the Chocolate Room. The haunting chimes build a sense of anticipation as we see the fabled room for the first time. In Richie’s version, the chimes are slowed down to match the march-like cadence of the beat as he raps about the monotonous grind of his life. We still feel that sense of anticipation; surely there must be something more to all of this.
Our patience is rewarded in the chorus where a symphony of strings invokes a sense of elation as Richie’s tone shifts from defeated to dreaming and hopeful. The first time I heard this song I didn’t even realize how much the mood had changed until I was completely grounded again at the end of the chorus as the music cuts out and Richie says “But there I go letting my mind get ahead of me/Swimming in a rainy day reverie.”
One subtle touch I love in this song is after the second chorus, the last line changes to “Drowning in a rainy day reverie”. His dreams have gone from a casual fantasy to an all-consuming escape from reality.