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Closer Than They Appear

Lyric Jones

“Closer than they Appear” is kind of a play on the warning label that’s on all of our vehicles, I believe every last car has this, but it’s on the side view mirror when you’re driving, it says “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” I’m very big with wordplay and double entendres and double meanings with just my writing and just my themes in general. But that kinda came to me randomly when I was just kinda thinking about how often we see that label. It’s kind of in front of us all the time, but we ignore it. We look through the mirror and we know it’s there, we see the label, we understand it, but it’s a constant.


That kinda felt heavy to me because it reminded me of how I thought I was becoming in the industry. Everyone knows I’m there and knows I’m rapping. “Lyric’s gonna do her thing, she’s gonna do shows, she’s always gonna push through,” and I kinda felt forgotten a little bit, kinda felt in the distance. But everyone was confident that I was gonna push through without realizing that I may need help in certain avenues or arenas or I might need that amplification from somebody or a co-sign or what have you.

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Interestingly enough, me connecting with Phonte who executive produced the project, he also was that object being closer than he appeared to be. He’s one of my favorite artists and has been pretty much since the beginning of when I started making music in high school with Little Brother to his evolution to Foreign Exchange and his solo career. He felt distant but he felt there because we had so many common friends and common denominators. 


Me feeling the theme of “Closer Than They Appear” being an artist and then feeling that way about him and then other milestones in my career, it just was like a triple, quadruple entendre in a way to where I was just like wow, this is very timely and still to this day, after dropping the album, I’m still seeing things that are closer than they appeared to be.

This is different than how I’ve usually done projects. Usually the title of the album or theme and everything comes way later. I just start creating and then I come up with how I’m going to tie everything together. This was out the gate, this is the name of the album, this is what I want the energy to be. So now, while in quarantine and while everything of 2020 is happening, through the process of this album, I’m trying to let whatever ideas come to me relate to “Closer Than They Appear,” relate to that album.

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With the song “Face to Face,” honestly, that was very difficult for me to write because I knew what I wanted to write about, but I wanted to write it in a way where it wasn’t preachy and it wasn’t like redundant of how depressing of a time this is and I still wanted to have movement and for people to see themselves in my music. I saw something on Instagram about how it’s so important for us as creators and musicians to leave room for the listeners to see themselves and find themselves. 


When I saw that clip and I was thinking about that and then thinking about “Face to Face,” seeing yourself, all the parallels of all these motifs with mirrors and things of that nature, I thought about something Phonte as well said to me about how America now needs to look in the mirror. Now we can’t run from shit no more. Now a mirror is being put in front of America and you have to deal with yourself. You have to deal with the racism, the bigotry, the terrible laws, our cultural issues, politics, everything. Now we are being forced, we have no distractions, we’re all in the house, you’re being forced to have to deal with this.

So that is the angle that I wanted to take and then relating it to being just me, a single woman, by myself having to digest this as a creator, a single Black woman seeing these things in the end of May with the death of George Floyd, beginning of June, how am I going to talk about this and it be a unique perspective.

Death has been so normalized in a scary way and I’m just kinda like here and existing — I felt that way when I was writing. I’m not Kobe Bryant, I’m not Andre Harrell. These are people who left some incredible impact on the world and they’re gone from whether it’s COVID or illness or Kobe had a tragic helicopter accident and that was January! That was this year. And Chadwick Boseman. Just thinking about so many people that I felt belonged here. And then it’s like what am I doing? It’s like why am I still here? Just to make raps that people aren’t going to listen to? Or might? How is that changing lives? What is my real impact here? So that’s why I say on “Face to Face,” “Many ain’t beaten the odds/Often faced with that coulda been me/Fuck the facade.” 


Then I had to kind of just sober up and say I’m taking it one day at a time after that. That was what just the anxiety of I could be next or did I do everything that I had to do in the world? Did I say everything that I had to say? Because not only COVID, but the police might kill me or I might get in a tragic accident. You feel scared to leave the house at this point.


I’m still dealing with the survivor’s guilt. It’s a process to overcome it. Definitely therapy (which I think every Black person should have for free), definitely conversations with friends and loved ones, the occasional entertainment from social media when I can sift through the noise. Definitely watching a lot of TV and just enjoy watching “Girlfriends” or just something to enjoy myself as much as I can while I’m home in my own space, in my own thoughts. I’m an only child, so I spent a lot of time growing up in my own room and my own imagination, so it’s not new for me to be by myself and alone, but as an adult it is, it has been, for this long, for a year. So I didn’t anticipate where my brain would go. So right now, I’m just taking it a day at a time.

Another song that tells my story is “Angelina.” It originally was sent to Phonte via Phil Beaudreau who produced it and was singing on there. And that already had the first verse on there. So I loved the production. That was the first track of all the beats Phonte played for me where I was like, “We have to do something to this.” But I didn’t want Phil to take his verse off, I didn’t want him to change anything. So I sat back and said, how can I just being me, playing around with themes and ideas, how can I make this relatable to me? Who is Angelina? Why would somebody be writing about her or what is it? 


So this is kind of a reach, some people are getting it, but they call Los Angeles residents Angelinos. So me being a girl, I just called it Angelina, I had a little flip on that. Because if you’re in LA and you’re from LA, you kinda know the Angelinos. When you read newspapers or see whatever from the city, they’re saying, “Angelinos X,Y and Z.” So Angelina, I made it singular and I just personified the city of LA as a friend, as a homegirl that kinda led me astray, I guess. It was cool hanging out with you, I actually even moved to LA because you said this was such a great place to be. 

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Jake Gravbrot

I very quickly started to see a lot of shifts and changes that might not really align with me anymore. So the chorus was basically kinda just me I guess at a point where I felt like I was moving everywhere, maybe running from something. I lived in Boston, then I moved to Atlanta and now I’m in LA. I feel earlier in my LA journey, I could have moved back to Atlanta, but I just had this fear of failure or fear that I didn’t work hard enough to give LA a try. So I stayed.


I think my mindset when I was writing is I was at the point thinking it’s time for me to move again. Eight years, is my work done here in LA? Is this somewhere where I’ma forever be? So that’s why the chorus is just kinda saying whatever decision I make, wherever I go, I’ll fly, I’ll be straight. It was kind of just a best friend relationship, sometimes you outgrow those friendships whether it’s childhood friendships or whatever and I was trying to discuss it to myself through the record if that was what LA was or not.

Things were feeling very temporary in LA whereas the two cities I lived before just felt like such longstanding relationships and friendships and events would last longer. If somebody would start a weekly event, it would be for a long time, it wouldn’t just be for a month. Everything just felt so Pop-Tart, microwave and I’m very not that. I’m very much about longstanding true blue friendships and people type person. I got homesick a lot and lonely and still deal with that occasionally. The debate in my head of what to do now is where the premise of “Angelina” came.

But “Closer Than They Appear” also celebrates the stability I do have in my life, including Rah Digga. She does the ad-libs on “Want to Say” and the idea to have Digga standing behind me in a way was very symbolic because that’s what she’s been for the past five or six years or so. She’s just been in my corner, very supportive, any idea whether it be crazy like, “Let’s go on tour” or “Let’s do this random song,” she’s pretty much down and rolling and supportive and tells people about me and shouts me out and just this figure that’s saluting me in the forefront, but also holding me down from behind, too. 


That was Phonte’s idea to have Digga do the ad-libs. I didn’t think of that at all. The immediate thing I would think is maybe she’d do a verse or something like that. But he was like, “Nah, let’s have her do some crazy ad-libs on this Tribe-ass beat, I think that would be hilarious and super dope.” Digga, she was in the middle of moving, she just moved completely and did the voice notes on her phone of those ad-libs. So great example of how she’s gonna make it happen. Then she came out to LA, we shot a video for it. 


I love the symbolism of that because it’s very realistic, it’s not a lot of fluff on this album of people that have no importance. It’s some significant figures in here and some relationships that are longstanding. Sy Smith on "Once More with Feeling" is another one. She’s somebody who I have admired and been a fan of just as long as I’ve been a fan of Phonte and just having the surprise of hearing her vocals when I got the mix back, I almost started to shed a tear because it’s so beautiful how she sang it.

I typically have been a very ambitious, go-getter, finding the fine line between being aggressive and annoying and persistent and I follow-up all the time and text everybody and make everybody my friend. I think with age and experiences tied in with how exploring the theme of "Closer Than They Appear" has changed my perspective, I think I’m a little bit less of what I used to be, not in a bad way, but just more quiet and more contemplative, more letting things just come. My whole career is “Go get it, go grind, go grind, go do this, do that.” That’s been what they tell you at festivals and panels and you talk to mentors and they tell you that you gotta be “Argghh” in everybody’s face. 


That might be cool for the 19-year-old Lyric, but at 32,33, I’ve planted those seeds, so now I’m just at a point where I gotta just let them grow. I gotta let them grow and if they don’t, they weren’t supposed to. I’ma keep planting, but probably not the same way. It’s probably I’m at a point where I’m gonna just watch my harvest now and sit back and sip wine and see what happens and enjoy it.

Listen to "Closer Than They Appear" below.

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