This song was my beginning to an obsessive fandom of Emawk. When the song came on, I was mid-squat, hitting leg day at the gym, watching my reflection in the mirror to ensure proper form, but really to prevent myself from making stupid faces while pushing through the movement. I was initially drawn in by the whole feel of the sound: a lo-fi, r&b kind of vibe with raspy, almost sleepy sounding vocals (though the vocals were controlled, and the subtle flashes of vibrato betrayed the “lazy” facade for the true, trained and practiced voice).
Finishing the rep, an appreciative “yooo” escaped, feeling the groove and allowing the kick drum to lead my next squat. And then he sang “Yes I cut my existential dreads off”, and, in the mirror, I watched my own eyes dilate, eyebrows raise, and chest rise as I inhaled before letting out another, louder, involuntary “YOOOOOO”. I racked my weights and restarted the song to get a good listen.
His musicianship drew me in. His lyricism sealed my soul.
As the title indicates, this is about coming to terms. The first verse lyrically displays frustration, if not anger. These words are driven by a deep, low synth along with the kick drum that sounds more like a foot stomping or a fist slamming on a table.
Yet, between each verse, there sits an instrumental absent of the deep synth, led by a rhodes keyboard, a relief from the hard downbeats to a flowing, legato movement, like a moment of reflection and clarity. This first “moment” proves effective, as the next verse has a change in tone lyrically, but also introduces a new, not-so-angry instrument: an acoustic guitar.
In the next verse, he begins to understand the other side of the story, accepting some of the blame, and even finishing the verse with an apology: “I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you couldn’t say the truth / tell me how you feel now.” And then, another moment of reflection and clarity, with another peaceful instrument added: the piano.
Finally, as the song closes, the “angry” instruments begin to fade away, and we’re left with the acoustic guitar, a light synth line, and ambient vocals. Did he finally come to terms? Interestingly, the chord progression never finds its way back to the tonic (root note/chord, first scale degree). It never musically resolves.
Emawk’s wordplay never ceases to captivate me. His ability to take words with double meanings and use both (“existential dreads”), and his ability to take a word and evolve it into another word (“sorry that I picked up the PAIN and PAINted my way back into your picture”) is something I covet.
Like a poet, he brings to life simple statements like “I watched you cry” and turns it into “You pulled me to the corners of your eyes and I found your tears hiding”.