When Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album, released on May 13, one of the album’s standout songs quickly became “We Cry Together”, as its raw theme was the somewhat unusual format. . (The song sounds more like a radio play or a rap battle than a traditional hip-hop song.) Taylor Paige (Zola, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) takes on the role of Lamar’s star-crossed lover – his initiator and muse – and today the surreal song has come to life with the worldwide premiere of the short film. the same name is six minutes long.
The almost nondescript music video (made less so by the dramatic alteration of the album’s eighth track, in which an argumentative couple trades both things for nothing), is produced by Lamar’s creative collective, pgLang, and shot with live sound and uncut in one shot – a fitting approach for an album embodied in blues and Blackness, interwoven with elements of both free and jazz music.
“We Cry Together” (song) was recorded in February 2020 and the accompanying short was filmed a few weeks later in mid-March, just a day before the mandatory quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. broadcast. Directed by Jake Schreier, Dave Free and Kendrick Lamar, “We Cry Together” (film) has a limited, week-long premiere (one screening per day, pre-recorded by phone) at the Royal Laemmle Theater in West Los Angeles in June. Since then, it has qualified for Oscar consideration in the best live-action short category.
Taylor Paige spoke to CHEAP about the creative process behind the creation of the parallel song and the short, Los Angeles as a setting and artistic collaboration came about because, says Paige, “on a spiritual, soul level level Ours come from the same planet.”
What do you think about “We Cry Together” requires a short film, as opposed to being a music video in the traditional sense? What feels cinematic about this song?
I think besides being a short film, it’s also an experience; You’re like a geek in this couple life but it’s also a reflection of the sounds of the world. Whether it’s arguing with your siblings or people on the internet… I don’t think there’s a receptacle for it, it just is.
How many of these have you done? Are you moving quickly through each reset to maintain integrity or is the process more computationally and drawn out?
I think we did like eight times. I don’t think anything can feel drawn when you’re with Kendrick and Jake. We just have that in the bag. And we know what we’re doing.
Kendrick and I really know each other very well. Like, he’s so committed to the truth, and so am I, I feel like there’s a lot of freedom in that. We recorded the song before [filming], in February 2020; there’s something really vulnerable and intimate and honest about being in the studio with the person who wrote it. So by the time we shot it together, there was a level of comfort and energy that felt like we are here. Only this knows.
Music is a frequency, and the way you move through the different moods in a song – especially in one listen – is like you’re turning anger and hurt into sex and passion, and all these different things. That’s what really impressed me about the album in general, but especially this track and now this short film. As an actor and performer, how does it feel to have to go through that multitude of emotions in the span of six minutes?
So liberate. Again, people to me are crazy people, people who are committed to telling the truth and being present, and being honest. Honesty isn’t always pretty, and it’s not always perfect.
I think I’ve drawn from my personal experience in relationships, but also my experience with the world and how it frustrates me. Like, what’s going on here? What are we doing? What are we talking about? What are we prioritizing? We’re not related, we can’t really hear each other. It’s just frenzy. I feel like on the day [of the shoot] I said, ‘God use me as a vessel to let all of that through because I feel like we all have power.’ This was more than two years ago when we were all scratching our heads about the world we live in. And now, even two years later, I think we’re at an even greater breakthrough.
Kendrick has done a wonderful job using his spirit and personal experience to be able to transform what has been calcified in his life, as well as his inner and outer worlds. friend.
The context of the looming pandemic confinement makes this all the more poignant because this short film is set against the architectural backdrop of a house. And that’s where we were quarantined, with all the pressures and boiling emotions.
All emerged. I was so excited to be on the cusp of quarantine because I said, ‘Great. The entire world must reflect at once. We cannot outrun ourselves; We’re not even allowed. Maybe there’s going to be some healing, maybe we’re resetting. ‘
But the funny thing is that it all happened before the world closed. For someone like Kendrick, an alchemist, a psychic, a vessel – he doesn’t breathe or think or share in a linear way. [So these themes] then, now, in the future. It doesn’t even really get your brain working, it’s felt. That is its spirit.
Think back to your time in the studio, do you feel like these lyrics are like a script? How does it feel to step into the role of a “rapper?”
Our mutual friend who invited me to join the project was very confusing; I was just informed that I had a rehearsal, so I thought I would make a music video. When I got there, we sat at the table and Kendrick was wearing a ‘Be Here Now’ shirt, which is [a phrase popularized by] Ram Daas, one of my favorite spiritual healers. We started talking about life and were speaking the same language. Then Kendrick said we’re going to record a song tonight, and then we’re going to shoot a live video in one go. [soon after].
I was reading the lyrics and we started going to the bar. Anything that feels a bit weird coming out of my mouth, we kind of transform it: add ad-libs, chat about human relationships, our existence, egos , heal the soul. I think I got there at 6pm and we were in the studio until 4am with his engineer, just bouncing off the wall because there was so much energy, and it was so much fun.
Was there a particular moment you and Kendrick talked about actually acting and emphasizing during rehearsal? Do you choose certain elements to emphasize or describe in a certain way to deliver the message?
I don’t remember the specifics but he is a sentimental person so let us find out [those moments]. Many times when we rehearse on the day of the shoot, it’s more about containment so we have the freedom to do whatever is about to happen. I find that I am very emotional – very angry and then almost indifferent.
Do you feel like filming with live sound on set has immersed you in the world of song? How has that changed the experience for you?
Yes, because it is real and life and I live to treat life as art. Since it was live, we had to remain flexible. I didn’t try to do what I did last time, I actually have the freedom to see what happened.
You and Kendrick both seem to be very visual artists and performers. With that said, do you trade any tangible lessons in acting and rapping together?
It feels like it’s really just because – I keep saying this and it sounds cheesy – but I believe there’s a lot of freedom in being honest, so when you get into your art, [it’s just real].
How does the release of this movie move the story of the entire album and its launch forward?
It is performance art. I think for me personally, you hope the art you put out reflects the world we live in. In the same way, to me, a good healer is someone who helps you to remember the tools you already have inside to heal yourself, I hope when you watch it you are thinking about relationships. your relationship, the way you present yourself, the way you talk to someone.
It’s been two and a half years [since we filmed] now. But even then I knew it was special and would resonate with so many people. I know the feeling I feel doing it like this is authentic because all I have to do is appear who I am and be real.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.