Keisha Frazier & I met shortly after “The One – Artist Showcase and Competition.” She was the obvious choice with incredible flow, style, and positive energy. Before a production begins, a deep conversation has to take place to find out where the artist is at in life and what they want to communicate. The strange synchronicities and parallels between our lives that were revealed were mind blowing.
Keisha, an out gay black woman born and raised in Kansas City with her father not present, was once kicked out of her home for coming out to her Christian mother. Fast forward … she became involved with a woman who had a son that Keisha loved like he was her own. Unfortunately, her partner had a change of heart and wanted a “normal” life and wanted to give her son a father.
Myself, I grew up with a gay mother who was in the closet and no father present. Throughout my life my mother’s various relationships would come and go. I was nearly a sophomore in high school before we finally had a conversation about her being gay. The Midwest is like that … you learn to constantly pay attention to the subtext of interactions because everything you really need to know lies in the realm of the unsaid. The more of an outsider you are, the more you must be quiet and pay attention because it may be your family who treat you like the enemy.
These experiences are difficult for Keisha and me to talk about, but there are so many parallels that keep unravelling that the conversation moves as if we are being pulled by gravity itself. The difficulty in discussing these things are a result of our feeling of responsibility and love for our mothers. Responsibility because we see how our mothers, both very loving and hardworking people, were driven by fear to make their decisions. Our narrative is not simple in the least. We’re not trying to play a pity card. We don’t want to demonize our families. We don’t want to be known for a singular facet, in Keisha’s case, sexual identity and in mine, being the child of a gay mother. So why even talk about it?
Honestly, this is a very difficult piece for me to write and I know it was difficult for Keisha to write these lyrics. Like I said, we don’t want to demonize or misconstrue our mothers, and yet it is suffocating as an artist to bottle your feelings up because when you are blessed/cursed with the ability to see as an outsider … the gift you have to give to the world is your nuanced and complex perspective. This isn’t about our mothers. This is about religion. This is about group identity. This is about a very real fear of being unloved and marginalized. And if we don’t tell our stories … no one will gain from our wisdom.
How could I as a producer encourage Keisha to be courageous and tell her story, but refrain from mine seeing as they are so intertwined? I can’t, and as much as I’d like this to just highlight Keisha’s greatness, it would be a form of cowardice on my part if I didn’t go into my own story as well. When she reads this, I hope that she understands my position is rooted in my admiration of her courage to be vulnerable and honest in her art.
It would be easy and understandable for KLOV to reject religion or God altogether, but what is her first line and chorus of the song … “But I know one day that things will be ok cuz I prayed everyday this pain would go away, but I learned in life there are things you cannot change. But I pray one day we’ll be on the same page and I hope to God that day won’t be too late cuz I don’t want to see ya laying in that grave before you change.” I really want you to see the serious depth in these lyrics. For one, she hasn’t let religion define God or take away her sense of belonging in the world. Secondly, she’s stoic and realizes that there’s only so much she can do to change her mother’s perception of God and sense of morality, BUT … she does not lose hope because she prays for her. She doesn’t hate her or resent her. What she does do is understand that her mother is acting out of fear. She empathizes with that sense of fear because she, too, has felt it her whole life.
This empathy is echoed in the last part of the first verse but is paired with her courage when she says, “deep inside I felt so different didn’t think it would cause this friction. You said that I was out here sinnin’ cuz I know we grew up as Christian, but what can I do where do I go when momma won’t let me come back home ‘till I change but I remain the same I guess there’s things you cannot change.” Amazing mirroring of perspective!!!! Literally this line gives me chills with its depth.
I won’t spoil the rest of the song, but suffice it to say its meaning only increases and perfectly illustrates how marginalized people feel about societal rejection that … no matter how hard they try to reach some standard of “acceptability” from the outside world, it will never be enough so long as a shred of our genuine selves remain. This is not hyperbole … conversion therapy, skin bleaching, “good hair”, the threat to end DACA … it goes on and on. The fight for marriage equality is not about marriage in and of itself … it’s a desperate symbol that says, “Please see us as caring citizens who want so many of the same things the hetero-normative world wants as well. See that we are not so different. See that we are good neighbors and friends and can raise loving families.”
Meanwhile Black America has done everything for hundreds of years to be seen as bright, as caring, as incredibly patient and still we have a significant portion of our country who, without having hardly any experience loving or even knowing any black people, immigrants, or LGBTQ people … will ignore the incredible advances in art, science, technology, and humanitarian efforts that have made everyone’s lives better. And despite all of this, they continue to demonize and oppress through policy and of course violence.
It’s 2020 and the Supreme Court finally ruled that sexual orientation is not a reason to be fired from a job. This was a huge worry for my Mom and I growing up. Over the years I’ve made very brief public statements detailing this part of my life and it has always created a lot of nerves. I’m not trying to out my Mom. I have craved my whole life for her not to live her life toeing the line, perpetually nervous about who might “find out.” It could have been that the wrong hateful person discovered the truth and tried to get the state to take me away. It’s extremely plausible. I grew up in Kansas after all. For us to stay together, we had to play it safe and be quiet and use pronouns like “roommate” and it is exhausting. And I’m white. So … just think of how brave Keisha has to be.
“Cannot Change” is out now on all streaming platforms. It’s been an incredibly soul fulfilling song to make and I encourage everyone to celebrate our diversity and enjoy Keisha’s genius. She wrote these heavy lyrics in a flash while I finished the beat and made my jaw hit the floor. Stay strong everyone … make your hearts bigger than you think they could ever grow.