KB takes creative risk with lullaby on ‘Tomorrow We Live’
Kanye West discouraged KB and some of the artists who helped craft his new album, Tomorrow We Live, this past New Year’s Eve.
Months earlier, KB, singer-songwriter Natalie Lauren and producers Joseph Prielozny and Dirty Rice had created “Fall in Love with You,” a song written for KB’s unreleased LP to his baby son, Kevin Burgess Jr. On Dec. 31, West released the single “Only One,” a song written to his baby daughter, North.
“Man, everybody’s going to think we stole [“Fall in Love with You”] from Kanye,” Prielozny said.
More than potential accusations of theft, though, KB and his team debated if they should include “Fall in Love with You” on Tomorrow We Live because the song deviated so far from hip-hop norms — as well as whether or not it fit the concept of the album.
“I cannot remember the last time I heard any artist, let alone a rapper, albeit non-traditional, admit that every day they re-fall in love with their child,” Brian Zisook, also known as DJ Z, of DJBooth.net said.
When Tomorrow We Live dropped on April 21, “Fall in Love with You” sat at track No. 5. COBRA, the nickname that KB, Lauren, Prielozny and Dirty Rice gave their crew, determined that the song was too moving — and meant too much to KB — to remove it.
The Story behind the Song
About four months after the birth of his son — who he commonly refers to as KBj — KB joined Lauren and Prielozny on a plane to South Africa to work on Tomorrow We Live and tour for a couple weeks. They started several songs in Africa, one of which was “Fall in Love with You.”
In a Cape Town studio, Lauren started to sing a rough version of the chorus of “Fall in Love with You” as Prielozny strummed his guitar. KB liked what he heard.
At that point, the lyrics were generic enough to write the song about his wife, Michelle, or his son. Away from KBj for the first time, KB chose his son. They wrote most of the hook that day and finished “Fall in Love with You” back in America, which involved recording KBj’s first word: “Papa.”
As much as COBRA loved the song, the team wasn’t always in consensus to include it on Tomorrow We Live.
“Rappers don’t like to show the soft side of things,” Prielozny said. “KB was hesitant about it being on his album, and we kept pushing him to do it because who cares what everybody else thinks? If it makes us feel good, which it did, then we should [include it].”
They knew listeners would either love the song or hate it, and Lauren said some of the album’s first listeners weren’t fans.
“A few people got to hear the album early,” she said, “and so in the process of me talking to some other creatives, they were like, ‘I love the album, but, you know, the song KBj, y’all need to take that off. It doesn’t fit.’
“I’m like, ‘Nope. It’s not coming off. … Why didn’t you tell KB that?’ Nobody would tell KB that. Everybody would tell us on the side.”
Others who heard Tomorrow We Live before its release had the opposite reaction, though, saying its quality stood out.
Despite mixed reviews, as well as the abnormal amount of vulnerability that KB — a rapper — would display by singing a loving lullaby, “Fall in Love with You” stayed on the album.
“If hip hop is truly a representation to somebody’s life and being a father is one of the most important things in life, then it should be talked about,” Dirty Rice said. “And more than anything, it’s something he can show his son when his son gets old enough. How many kids can say they got a song written about them from their father?”
The Heart behind the Song
I’ll come running when you call on me /
Over mountains, underneath the sea /
Bet your bottom dollar I will be here
These rhymes in Verse 1 of “Fall in Love with You” were not experienced by KB after his parents separated. When KB was 13 years old, his mother moved with him to St. Petersburg, Florida without his stepfather. This had a dramatic effect on the teen.
“I always felt safe because of my father,” KB said, “so without him being there, I felt very unsafe.”
Unsafe and in an identity crisis, KB struggled with depression and drug use before he became a Christian years later.
KB learned the importance of a father through his anguish birthed by fatherlessness. This has made him determined to be the father who he once needed — and he isn’t just saying that.
“A lot of rappers hated not having a father,” KB said, “and when they get a child, they say very profoundly and confidently, ‘I don’t want him to get what I had to go through.’ Yet many times, more than not — I’ve seen in my own circle in Florida — they find themselves perpetuating the very things that their father did to them, mainly because your intention means nothing if it’s not connected to a plan and a willingness to carry that plan out.”
KB’s plan involves what he believes would have been a valuable step in his own maturation: A rite of passage into manhood. He has selected an age when his son will attempt challenges over the course of a weekend, after which the men in his life will judge whether or not to crown him a man.
“I’m trying to live in a way that when that day comes, it won’t be weird, like ‘Why in the world would I want you to knight me? You’ve been living like an idiot. You don’t love my mom. I don’t have anything to look up to,’” KB said. “And I can’t make my son admire me, but I’m going to live in a way where I’m not going to give him a reason to walk away from God or walk away from the responsibility to be a man.
“I am the interpretation of God in my house to my son. He can’t read the Bible. He barely understands anything, and he won’t be able to stay still long enough in church for a while. What he knows about God, he’s going to get from how I treat him. … I begin to tell lies about [God] if I don’t live a certain way, so I want to be sure that he looks at his father and he gets a glimpse of what God is like.”
The reception of “Fall in Love with You” has been as COBRA predicted. Some listeners love it — others not so much, but, in the words of Prielozny, “Who cares?”
“The song sounds like a hit record, and, with the right push and selection,” DJ Z said, “it could become a real winner for him and the start of something big in his career.”