Ask her to describe her voice and she might say it feels like, sounds like, soul. But when it comes to defining the essence of music, itself, Lalah Hathaway can go on and on… “Music is so textured and layered,” she says, “and it is an absolute entity in my life. It’s three-dimensional, it’s tangible, and when I die, I’ll say goodbye to it, just as I will to everyone standing around my bed.” In the four years since she’s blessed the people with a set of songs, she’s been “working, writing music and living a very, simple life. Many people think that you’re just lounging between albums, but that time for me was about trying to find a place to land that will give you the opportunity to create something artful, something mindful,” Lalah notes. With SELF PORTRAIT, (Stax Records/Concord Music Group), her fifth studio album, including the Joe Sample duet, and on which she co-wrote and co-produced, Hathaway is poised to express who she is, where she is, today, at this very moment. For starters, she is an artist, of course, but she’s also a devoted daughter, culture junkie and a good friend, even. But not necessarily in that order.
“This album is like a movie of my life over the last couple of years,” she says. “The portrait I see of myself is of a very confident, smart woman who is extremely funny, independently wealthy and well-traveled – all things that I am to a small degree., she laughs. “Every day, I realize that I’m walking toward the woman I’m going to be. She’s there. I can see her. ” Leading the 12-song collection is “Let Go,” a dance-oriented, up-tempo number she produced with Rex Rideout and wrote alongside Rahsaan Patterson. And just as the title suggests, the song is about acknowledging and releasing whatever’s not working to make room for the next experience. “I’ve had to let go of quite a few things, quite a few situations and a couple of mindsets,” she admits about the origins of her first single. “Every so often, I have to remind myself to just let some stuff go – from people and relationships to an old pair of jeans.”
Lalah Hathaway: Little Ghetto Boy (Music Video)
While it might seem that “On Your Own,” which re-teams her with Rideout and Patterson, is inspired by a past heartbreak, in fact, the idea for the song came to her in a dream. “My father was singing to me and telling me that I could make it on my own,” she reflects. Keeping in step with the theme of family, she journeys back to her childhood with “Little Girl,” which she co-produced with Rideout and penned with Patterson and Sandra St. Victor. When she reminisces about growing up under the watchful eye of her mother, she’s always felt the presence of her father in her life. On “That Was Then,” which she produced with Rideout and written with St. Victor, Hathaway recalls her former self and how much she didn’t know way back then. “I called Sandra in Amsterdam on a Tuesday and said, ‘I don’t know what to write,'” she says. “She was there, helping me craft the melody, by Friday. She’s a baaad girl.” Closing out the album is the Hathaway-produced, “Tragic Inevitability,” a song that stands out for her because of its fluidity. “My friend told me that she got some love while listening to this song, which horrified me and made me happy at the same time,” she remembers. “The track was sent to me by two cats from Amsterdam, Wiboud Burkens and Manuel Hugas, whom I met with Sandra. I just wrote the words that came to me.” As she sings about the things that will no longer be, you might actually feel soothed because, after all, the only constant is change. Life is funny that way.
Lalah Hathaway: Little Ghetto Boy Lyrics:
Little ghetto boy, playing in the ghetto street
Whatcha’ gonna do when you grow up
And have to face responsiblity?
Will you spend your days and nights in the pool room?
Will you sell caps of madness to the neighborhood?
Little ghetto boy
You already know how rough life can be
’cause you’ve seen so much pain and misery
Little ghetto boy
Your daddy was blown away
He robbed that grocery store
Don’t you know that was a sad, sad old day?
All of your young life
You’ve seen such misery and pain
The world is a cruel place
And it ain’t gonna change
You’re so young
You’ve got so far to go
But I don’t think you’ll reach your goal
Young man, hangin’ by the poolroom door
When, when, when you become a man
You can make things change,
Hey-hey, if you just take a stand
You’ve got to believe in yourself & all you do
You’ve got to fight to make it better
Then you’ll see how others will start believing, too
Then my son, things will start to get better
Everything has got to get better,
Everything has got to get better