Rapsody Is Unlocking Emotional Freedom With 'Please Don't Cry' Album

By Bianca Gracie | March 25, 2024

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Rapsody’s new album, Please Don’t Cry, follows 2019’s Eve. PHOTO BY JHALIN KNOWLES
Rapsody’s new album, Please Don’t Cry, follows 2019’s Eve. PHOTO BY JUSTIN JERROD

Grammy-nominated artist Rapsody is embracing vulnerability and personal growth on her powerful fourth album, Please Don’t Cry. Out May 17 via We Each Other/Jamla/Roc Nation, the 22-song album features artists like Erykah Badu, Lil Wayne, Baby Tate, Alex Isley and Phylicia Rashad, Keznamdi. Rapsody previewed the album with the singles "Asteroids" featuring Hit-Boy and "Stand Tall". Below, the artist dives into the introspective journey that led her to this new (both musical and spiritual) release.

We first spoke in 2019, so this is like a little reunion. We went through a whole world change since then and I feel more connected with myself. Do you feel the same way? Following 2019’s Eve, and then coming to this new era with Please Don’t Cry?

Absolutely. During those three years of the pandemic, everybody got to be on pause. Especially for me, it was good, because as a creative in this business, you're always going going going. But life still happens in between all of the recordings. How I would handle it is to push it down, never take time to really address things that I go through. When everything stops, you’re left to sit with everything else.

For me, it allowed a space for me to let go emotionally of some things, to reintroduce myself to me. I even got to know who this version is. Because as we go through life, we're always supposed to evolve, right? And the biggest thing I think I learned is we come in through life and it’s religion, your cultures, families, society, all these things are shaping from a child, right? And during this time, you got to step back and [ask yourself], “If I strip all that away, who am I at the core of all?” So it was a lot of that. I got to figure out who I was without all of those things.

Yeah, just silencing everything and really looking yourself in the mirror.

Yeah, a lot of it is programming, whether consciously or subconsciously. As cliche as it may seem, you watched The Matrix, but that was real life. That's what we're living in. I have to deprogram and relearn everything in the way that I would like to know truthfully.

That’s beautiful. Eve was about celebrating Black women that you were inspired by. Please Don’t Cry is more self-reflective. How are you celebrating yourself now after you've given all of your icons their flowers?

I'm being a lot more patient with myself, a lot more forgiving. And allowing myself to be human. I think the biggest thing is with me, not only that I just come from an era of we don't share a lot, I give you what I give you through music. I keep some things, but I don't feel like I have to protect myself so much. And it's easy, because we live with social media. You can say one thing, do one thing, share one thing about you, and everybody feels like they have the right to judge that. But I think when you become one with yourself, when you're confident in yourself, it's like, I can say anything. Whatever you feel, it ain't really about me at the end of the day.

So that's where I'm at now. I'm okay just being free and letting people know I'm not perfect. But I'm the best me that I could be. I'm always learning and trying to do better. But who I am today is who I am. And I walk with intention to be the best person that that is: right, wrong or indifferent. I'm allowing myself to go through the experiences. So it's just being patient with myself and allowing myself to be seen fully without fear. I think a lot of was fear and judgment. How this is gonna affect my career has no affect on the way people think about me, without even really knowing me. Because people will take small bits and pieces of you and try to piece it together. But at the end of the day, I've learned that we’re all reflections of each other.

A lot of times when I speak to artists, they do say, “The art speaks for itself.” But you all are human and I always love to pick apart those layers, and really get to know the people behind the bright lights. With this album, what made you decide, “Okay, let me let people in”?

Honestly, when the pandemic started in spring of 2019, I was coming off the Eve tour. And when it stopped, I had just gotten out of two relationships back to back that I really hadn't healed from. So it was all these emotions and healing through the relationships. And it's not about the relationships, it's really about you. You get to have that moment. And it was in conversation with friends, talking through those things. My good friend on two separate occasions said, “You have to be okay with people not seeing you as perfect.” And it's hard for me to see outside of myself. And I was like, “What you mean? I don't think I'm perfect. Why do people think I'm perfect?” They were like, well you’re very straight and narrow. You don’t give too much in interviews.”

You just stay in your own lane.

I never thought of it from that perspective. And I had to think about my music. It’s either shining a light on the world or if I'm giving anything about myself, I'll hide it in a metaphor. And if you can't break down the lyrics, then you're gonna miss even understanding me. On another occasion, I was in the studio with No ID. And I started out working with three albums at one time. I was like, “At the end of the day, this Please Don't Cry part of me. I have to do that before I can do anything else.” So I was in the studio with No ID just running through songs. It was early in the creative process. And he was like, “I love these songs. We all know you can rap. But I can't tell you five things about you that I know.”

That was probably a big revelation.

Right. And no ego. I was happy that he even gave me his perspective in the same way my two home girls did. He said one thing in particular: “Let's take Eminem, for example. We know Eminem, he had a bad relationship with his mom and baby mama. His name is Marshall Mathers.” So I went home and thought, “If I really let people see who I am, before I do anything, I gotta start with my name.” When the album comes on, that's what you hear me say first: “I'm Marlanna.” That's the most “me” that I can start with. Rapsody is the rapper. If I'm gonna let you in, you got to know me.

That can be a daunting process, just revealing yourself to the world. Was it an exciting process for you to break down those walls? Or did you feel a little nervous?

It was just so many different emotions. Some days, I would wake up and be relieved that I got to get it out and that I got to express it in that way. But then you think, “The world's gonna hear it, my mom and dad are gonna hear it.” That's scarier. But at the same time, you feel so light. I don't have to carry all these things around anymore. And you get to this point where I really don't care anymore. And that is such a beautiful place to be where I'm so content and as centered with myself.

I'm free and this is my design. First, I had to actually say it, write it down and record it, listen back to it in my voice with my emotion for myself. [The second phase] was sharing it with the people closest to me. The more I did that, the more comfortable I got. Because the reaction was always supportive: “I'm proud of you”, “This is a brave album” or “I'm so happy you did this. Because the same thing happened to me.”

I was just gonna say the same thing. We have our individual experiences, but at the root, we all go through the same thing. After the pandemic, we've all become more empathetic with people's experience and their feelings. So it's beautiful to see when artists have that genuine connection.

And that was super intentional. With every album, I pick something I want to grow. With this one, I wanted to connect with more people. In order to do that I had to be vulnerable. I thought about my favorite albums like [Lauryn Hill’s] Miseducation and [Erykah Badu’s] Mama's Gun. These people are just so giving of themselves. And when I hear it, I don't judge it, I connect with it. So why can't I live in that same space? So it's just all about connection and understanding that again, we're all a mirror for each other.

One thing that I had to learn is that vulnerability is really powerful. I led with fear most of my 20s. I had to really look myself in the mirror and be like, “What are you scared of? What's holding you back?” I have personal goals that I want to accomplish and I had to let that fear dall to the wayside because , once it gets in your head is hard to get out. We're not robots. Yeah, we're human.

There's no AI’s here.

Women and men. We don't give each other enough space at times to just be. Once you can answer the question of why do I feel this way? Now I know how to shapeshift. Vulnerability is a beautiful space. I think you can be with yourself and really get to know who you are. We can create our experiences. For example, my last relationship I was super heartbroken. Me being mad at this person or holding a grudge, that comes from a place of ego.

I had to learn the hard way, girl.

Just because somebody doesn't love you in the same way that you love them back…it allowed me to understand what unconditional love is. If I love you, I should want you to be happy. If being happy isn't with me, then that's just what it is. I don't have to feel negative at the end of the day. It’s really not about me. It's about whatever you needed to fulfill you. And I have to figure out what that better space is for me. And I approach everything in that way. That's part of the vulnerability. And again, just allowing yourself to recognize the full spectrum in the room.

That's such an adult perspective. And I hope that when people read this, they could take that in, because it takes a while for you to get to that point.

I'm not even gonna say adult, just mature. Another thing I've learned is to be nonjudgmental. Everybody has their pace and their process. I get to observe you without judging you and being like, “You're just in this phase of your evolution.” And we all have different evolutions.

You mentioned No ID earlier. Did he produce any of the tracks for this?

No, we were supposed to get in the studio but we just never aligned [due to the pandemic]. But he's still instrumental in even how I approached it. But I recorded close to 340 songs for this album.

Wow. You had a lot to say.

It was so hard to even cut it down. I had so much to say because once you allow yourself to go I just poured it out from so many different places. But S-1 did a majority of it as well as Black Odyssey. They were the last producers that I got in, but they ended up doing almost half the album. Eric G did two, maybe three; I can't remember exactly. Hit-Boy did one and Soundwave did one.

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I want to break down the actual title Please Don’t Cry. I interpreted it as an emotional tug of war.

It’s layered for me. One is I’m telling myself, "Please don’t cry". I don’t like to show emotion.

Me neither. Sometimes, I hide it from myself. I feel the tears welling and I’m like, “Nope, not today.”

Yeah, but why not, right? So that’s one phase of allowing myself to just even tap in with the emotion and show that you’re human. I actually got the title from Pinterest. And this was during a time when I needed words to speak for me sometimes even to express what I was feeling when I didn’t have the words. I came across this quote: ‘Please don’t cry, the pain won’t last forever,’ or something like that. But it’s also the idea of us thinking of crying for sad reasons. But sometimes we laugh until we cry.

It could be celebratory.

Yeah, or being in love so deep that you cry. So it’s taking all of those things and just shining the light on what it means. How do we connect over this in different ways?

The song “Marlanna” sets the tone for the record, because you ask yourself, “Who am I in this reality?” Now that you’ve gone through this album process, are you getting closer to finding that answer?

Yeah, I think every day I've taken a big leap. I'm not chasing accolades, I'm not chasing fame. I'm not trying to please my family, I'm not trying to be a representation for anybody. I'm just trying to be right. I'm the girl next door. I'm you, you're me. That's how I see myself. I was told when you get in this business, especially for a woman, to be successful, they say, “People either gotta want to fuck you, or they want to want to have to be you.” And I was like, “I don't want people to be either.”

I want to be a representation of, I'm the same as you. We're just imperfect. I don't have a perfect body, you don't have a perfect body. We both have bad days. I'm not always right. I'm not always wrong/ But we always move with intention of being good, truthful, and kind in those ways. So that's what it was. I just want people to see me as a reflection of who they are. And you don't have to have this unattainable reach of profession.



You also mentioned in the track that you're not chasing accolades. What would you say is your purpose as an artist?

My purpose as an artist and creative, I've settled in this area era of defining it as I want to be a lighthouse. Where I want to always be a representation of you finding your way back home to yourself. So if I could just be that to help people always see that no matter where you go, there's a light to help you find your way back home — whatever that looks like. That's what my purpose is.

I will say, I feel like your music has always been that safe space. I think of you as not just Rapsody the creative. Like you said, we're listening to a home girl. With this new album, that safe space is getting even bigger and you're inviting even more people in. I think that’s special.

I was thinking about that today. Because, man, I had a great weekend. I shot the album cover. My home girls and I spent the day together yesterday. So it was just we started having a conversation about music. They’re sisters, so they have different tastes. We talked about my album and what songs resonated with each other. Part of the reason I had 330 songs is because I can approach this record as this color palette of music. Not too long ago, I was having lunch with one of my good friends. And he was like, “What I've always liked about you is that you’re a chameleon. I could put you with any group of people, and you're never out of place. You just naturally fall in and fit in line with anybody.”

I'm actually I'm glad you brought that up. Because when people think of Rapsody, they think of you in this one category: “Oh, she's the rapitty rap woman”. You're showing that us Black women are not a monolith. We have so many different colors and personalities. Our moods can shift any time of the day. That's what I love about us as Black women because you can't fit us in a box. And I know people try to fit you in a box as an artist. And this album is continuing to kick down that door.

That's a big thing. People think they have you figured out. You have no idea. I know some people think I'm so serious. When I'm with the homies, I'm so goofy. That's another part of my purpose, to show people that you don't have to allow people to put you in a box. Naturally as a woman in this business, and just being different from mainstream images, I'm always asked the question, “What do you think about women in hip-hop?”

You have to be tired of that question.

But at the same time, it's a conversation that isn't had enough. I love where hip-hop is for women. There's so many dope women out. I see the different styles, different flows, different flavors. But if we talking about a mainstream level, you only get one central image of what a woman in hip-hop looks like. Is there anything wrong with that? No, there's space for that. I love it. I respect that. I love women owning their bodies and your sexuality and then take agency over that. My gripe is never with the women. It's more about the business, the fans and the media, where they don't make space for anybody else.

"3:AM" is one of my favorites on the album. I would love to know your experience working with Erykah Badu for this album.

That was about a two-month process. I've been wanting to work with her. She’s one of my favorite artists of all time. Mama's Gun is my favorite album of all time. What I love about even having us at this moment together is she called me one day: “Sis, what are we doing with this record? I'm ready to put it out. I’m loving it and I see you right now.” I was just feeling so much gratitude. Because I know the times that I've hit her up throughout my career before she was always graceful. That would never happen. I know it was because she knew I wasn't ready at those moments. And she allowed me the space and time to catch up to where it was time. Now it was time and it just made me feel good.

Normally my process of writing records is I'll get the beat, it'll already be done. And I'll either pull from the sample. This time I said, “I want to create differently, I want to do it backward.” I want to create the emotion, whether it's only a piano only drums, I don't need the whole record to be done. I allowed the emotion of what it was to take me where I wanted to be. She FaceTimed me. She was in the bed. It was in the morning. She was in LA, she had a microphone and she was just humming the melody of the hook. Right? I was like, “Oh, shit.”

It's about to get real.

I thought it was amazing that she lived with it some more. And then she sent me another hook with different words. It was dope, just to see her process of not rushing the art.

It sounds super organic.

It even allowed me agency. Lke, take your time. You'll know when it feels good. But if it doesn't feel good, don't go yet. That was just our process. So we weren't in the same studio, but we had a connection.

Creative Direction: Patso Dimitrov Styling: Charlie Brianna Hair: Britney Thomas Makeup: Jourdan Loving PHOTO BY JHALIN KNOWLES
Creative Direction: Patso Dimitrov Styling: Charlie Brianna Hair: Britney Thomas Makeup: Jourdan Loving PHOTO BY JHALIN KNOWLES

I feel the lightness just speaking to you.

Absolutely. Confidence is a battle. Sometimes I’m like, ‘I’m lying to myself? At those times?’

When you lie enough, that’s when you get confident. (laughs)

I was measuring myself to so many fictional things, right? Whether it be numbers or whatever, it wasn’t real. It puts a lot of pressure on you, and it makes you question your powers. I had to find that again. And now I’m confident because I know my place. This is my superpower. It is worth it. And it’s valuable. I had to claim that for myself.

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