I would listen to ¨I’m Real¨ many times at night in my room on my record player. At first Kendrick Lamar seemed out of place on my turntable but soon after I realized he went with wood and big dials that could be turned loud or quiet. He went with the needle and his beats were real.. well, more real in vinyl then on youtube where everyone else tried to grab my ears with their own songs, louder and louder. The chorus of the song says “I’m real, I´m real, I´m really, really, real, look in the mirror and know I’m there, my hands in the air, I’m proud to say yeah, I’m real.” It brings me back to sitting on my bed listening to this song. Every word was getting pushed into me: I had become a piece of blue silly putty and each time the chorus would come around I melted.
This was not too long ago. The thing I wanted to do the most at that time was to shave my head. At first the idea spoke to me because of fashion. I wanted to look like the women in magazines who wore big earrings and big sunglasses and had big beautiful bald heads. The idea morphed over time and went through many phases.
One day I was walking to one of my favorite coffee shops to draw and read. I liked to get lost in something that felt like it had purpose. I had new shoes on and they were causing the worst blisters of my life. The backs of my new white shoes had spots of red and all I wanted was to finally be able to make it where I was going. A man in a rusted, ruddy, low to the ground car slowed down next to me and craned his head out of his window yelling “beautiful girl.” He had a dark face that was fuzzy with a beard, and looked to be as old if not older than my dad. I made a face… it was an unhappy face, I felt exposed, I felt embarrassed because men across the street were now looking over at me. I hated feeling like a big pink worm just wriggling on my hook for fish. I felt slimy. And in this moment I wanted to feel unconventionally attractive, I wanted to do something just for myself that wasn't for the pleasure of any man or woman. I wanted to shave my head.
At swim team I would work out with girls that I did not yet connect with. I felt different. I wanted to see the looks on their faces when I would emerge without my hair; they would have to see who I actually was, not what men or women saw on the street or passing me in the hallway at school. So at night in my room I would listen to “Real” by Kendrick Lamar and long for the feeling that I as a person was real. I wanted to be intimately real with myself the way I am when I’m drawing or the way I am when I’m swimming so hard I forget what I’m doing and all the blood rushes to my head. What I mean is I wanted to be myself and I wanted it to be raw. I would sit in my room after my parents had gone to sleep and start to feel a franticness awaken in my body. I watched videos of people shaving their heads, I had dreams night after night of myself doing so. Usually in one of the dreams someone would come up to me and exclaim “ What beautiful hair you have!” and then I would laugh, gently touching my golden hair, then reaching for a buzzer and saying “Oh yeah you like this?” as I would make the hair fall to the floor. I realized eventually that the want to get rid of my hair was partly me feeling that I wanted to feel “real”, or fully in control.
The line of the song, “The reason I know you very well ’cause we have the same eyes can’t you tell” also spoke to me so much at the time because I was having my first real relationship. I loved this person a lot and sometimes it was a lot to bear. The line spoke to me because I had probably spent more time looking at that person’s eyes more than any others, I felt like our eyes had become one or overlapped. I felt like I was looking at myself when I was looking at him and if something ever happened in this relationship or went wrong with this person I realized that I felt like I was loosing a small piece of myself. And quite possibly I realized I was having some of the most “real” feelings that I’d ever felt. Does it make you real if you share yourself completely with someone? Does it make you real if other people can attach to you and call you their own? Or does it make you truly real if you are the only one deciding the factors for your life. I didn’t really know. I wanted to feel ultimately that I had control in that moment, and that was listening to my music loud and thinking about my hair falling to the ground in long golden sheets.
Listening to this song made me feel like I was burried deep inside a well and that I was building a way out one wooden rung at a time. This song made my bed warm with my own body heat and not his. This song decided that it went better on vinyl than out of a phone speaker. And that is why I chose ¨I’m real¨ by Kendrick Lamar. Thank you and goodnight.