Hey AllOne Family,
I hope this finds you well... I don't know if "Notes From The Studio" will be a recurring series but I wanted to do a little more talking about the craft and details/decisions behind what I do because I do put a lot of time and effort and mental energy into my creative process and I do love "talking shop" so much that I had this experience and I thought to write about it and invite you into this little window of my world and perhaps you could get something out of it, either as a creator yourself or just perhaps a nugget of information to satisfy any generous curiosity you might have.
A few weeks ago, I tracked a new verse for a guest spot on a song from DRENT and Kleen Kut's next "Illiterate Wordsmiths" project "Edgar Allens Ave". The song is about bullying, suicide and loss and each rapper on the song plays a different character and role in the drama. The incredible Ceschi of Fake Four Inc. is also featured on the song as the person who discovers the body. Chris "Kleen Kut" plays the friend of the bullied boy who kills himself (played by Drent) and I get the role of the bully. My experience with writing this was laborious to say the least. Almost every time I get assigned to do a simple 16 bar verse I write a full song or two of material and crop down from there. This song was no exception. , although this time I wrote several verses and thought I was done and then I ended up revamping most of my "finalized" verse while in the studio (sorry Frank).
My initial issues were A. imagining the words and lines and B. taking on the stance or perspective I wanted to take.
I first went the route of the kid who learns abuse from his family life, and while true, it is also a cliche and too-explored trope. I don't mean to trivialize the importance of showing compassion and understanding to those who lash out in hurt or find those antecedents of bullies and want to help, but I thought there were other stories to tell. I decided to explore the other perspective of a bully type who is a little more aloof and/or unassuming about the maliciousness of their actions. They didn't get abused, they're just bored and it seems funny to call people names and just goof off. In their perspective, people are weird you point it out because it's something to do. Everyone is an extra in your movie, a tool to enhance the entertainment of your experience (all of this is in this character's eyes). When the tragedy of the song unfolds, he is forced to reconcile with the idea that his actions actually affect people. As it turns out, his offhand off-color remarks actually were huge and hugely harmful brush strokes on the canvas and themes of this other person's life.
The other phase of rewriting was a painful realization of "killing your darlings." (above my laptop I have a handwritten post-it-note that reads "Killing your darlings may be killing you darling!") I deciding that the devices and ideas that I had come up with for my finalized set of lyrics that I walked happily into the studio actually took up too much space and although hard-won, they weren't serving the emotional needs of the verse and therefore the song. I took a long time and developed a new rhyme pattern approach utilizing a drum rudiment as a model and it sounded really interested and the use of words and the delivery and rhyme placement was incredibly clever and inventive but I had to admit to myself that this wasn't the best place for me to exercise that approach.
I am happy with the results of my verse, it is very harsh emotional and in-character. I know it is perhaps silly to bring up when talking about writing raps because of the term's rampant use in the genre, but I use the word "faggot" in the song. I made sure to establish in the verse is very much the character speaking, I chose this because Owen alludes to being called it in his verse (As the character of the boy who is bullied) and so it served for consistency of the story within the song.
This is just a reflective reminder to me that when writing we have creative choices and ideas we need to explore, what is our approach? How do we frame our verse and does it serve the song? Sacrifices must be made. Your writing can be strong but if it doesn't serve the overall piece then it wasn't a strong CONTRIBUTION. Remember, especially as a person featuring or being a guest on another's project, it is not your job to solo the whole time and steal the show, it is to serve the piece. They say the best Jazz players (or players in general) know when NOT to play.
Does anyone have any thoughts on this or similar experiences? If so, please share them! I know I'm saying nothing new here but I'd like to share my experiences all the same as I go through these processes on my projects. After much thinking, I decidedly will NOT share the final lyrics here, which will make it all the more exciting when I can share the final product with you! That being said (or written at least), thank you for your time and be on the look out for the "Edgar Allen's Ave" project later this year!
-Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo
|Repping my R.Eye.P shirt for Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen. For the sake of|
transparency, this is actually a photo from a different recording session,
when I was tracking vocals for Rapologues,
but it is clearer than the phone cam flick from that day!