Kendrick Lamar Details The Deeper Meanings In His We Cry Together Song

Kendrick Lamar’s 2022 double album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is filled with poignant moments and personal revelations. Songs like “Auntie Diaries” and “Mother I Sober” examine unconscious bias and the generational effects of abuse, respectively. “Father Time” revisits the complicated lessons Kendrick learned from his father while growing up, and “Savior” reveals Kendrick’s feelings about fans trying to make him Rap’s messiah.

Perhaps the most intense moment on the album, however, comes with song #8 on The Big Steppers. The Alchemist-produced “We Cry Together” features Kendrick Lamar and actress Taylour Paige assuming the roles of a couple in a heated and deeply uncomfortable exchange. The pair verbally destroy each other for more than 5 straight minutes with allegations about infidelity, inadequacy and more. Given the autobiographical nature of much of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, including Kendrick’s admissions about infidelity on songs like “Die Hard” and “Worldwide Steppers,” it is not a stretch to believe that parts of “We Cry Together” are also drawn from Kendrick’s real life experiences.

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Shortly after the release of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers in May, Kendrick premiered a short film for “We Cry Together.” The visual played in a single theater in Los Angeles for a short stint, possibly to make it eligible for Academy Award consideration, and eventually debuted on digital platforms in September. The video features Lamar and Paige acting out the brutality of their verbal performances. Neither the theatrical or digital release of “We Cry Together” came with any additional context about the song’s origins, and, to date, Kendrick has only spoken about the album once. Earlier this week, however, Kendrick and his longtime friend and business partner Dave Free held a private screening for the short film and, gathered to discuss the project with actress Tessa Thompson.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the origins of “We Cry Together” were very unorthodox. “The crazy part about this joint is that it started with the film first and the music — putting it on the actual album — came after,” said Kendrick Lamar. “The idea was always to capture this writing, not no song, the writing and the film and the texture and the cinematography of it in order to get the full experience out.”

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While “We Cry Together” feels quite literal and “in your face,” Free and Lamar spoke to the deeper meanings they were seeking to convey with the song and short film. Free said the goal of the project was to explore topics that “we as a society kind of shy away from,” adding that “[We were like] let’s find super intense moments that have a lot of atmosphere in the room. And as we went through the process we started talking about how this should be a film.” Free also noted that the visual was shot in one take, back on March 15, 2020. Notably, the video for Mr. Morale’s “N95” was filmed in September of 2020, so the seeds for the album were germinating well before its May 2022 release.

Kendrick built on Free’s point about delving into uncomfortable subject matter. “The main trigger for writing the dialogue was basically the state of the world within the last five years for me and seeing my frustrations about how nobody, and none of our cultures or belief systems, can ever come to an agreement,” said Kendrick. “So, in writing that I say, ‘OK, how can I make this feel personal but also holding up a mirror as a collective concept, rather than just a personal concept? I wanted to do that with all the emotions involved … I wanted to bring that drama, because at the end of the day, whether we like it or not, the good, bad and the ugly, the pros and cons, that’s what makes everything evolve. Being able to put that in our face allows us to accept that, in order for us to evolve as humanity.”

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Kendrick also spoke to how certain visual choices in the short film, like revealing at the end that he and Taylour Paige were on a set, underscored the themes being explored in “We Cry Together.” “Ultimately, the main thing is, [showing] people that we can actually identify with, not only from our culture but from cultures all around the world. I think we all have individuals out there that feel like they can’t find an agreement — whether it’s their surroundings, or whether it’s their psyche that puts them in that environment. So the environment played a huge role, that’s something we definitely wanted to bring to life along with the script. It was just as important as the individuals that were actually spewing out the insults.”

Earlier this week, nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards were announced, and Kendrick Lamar garnered 8, including for Best Rap Album and Best Album, overall. The next day, in a tacit celebration of the moment, he released his video for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers‘ “Rich Spirit.

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#BonusBeat: Ambrosia For Heads provided an in-depth analysis of the hidden meanings in Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers in a recent episode of its What’s The Headline podcast.