RH Inspired By: Naledge “Happy Birthday To Me”
“Happy Birthday To Me, just seen a quarter century/Black educated, never seen a penitentiary/but I’ve seen pepper spray and them handcuffs/guess that’s what some would classify as bad luck/I see it as a case of me just having bad skin/aka black skin, racist cop high tech lynching of the Black man.”
It’s approaching midnight at Chicago’s Soundscape studios on a hot night in early August. Naledge of Kidz In The Hall is in the microphone booth laying down new tracks for his upcoming mixtapes, and his long awaited solo debut. While his group’s last release, The In Crowd, featured heavily danceable numbers about traveling the world, or just driving down the block, the song Naledge is recording at the moment takes a noticeably different route. There’s no Tribe Called Quest bumping through the speakers, there’s no paper trail, and there’s definitely no in crowd present as Naledge raps reflectively about the events of the past year through someone celebrating their birthday solo at a neighborhood tavern.
Naledge was also solitaire when inspiration for the song first struck, but he wasn’t at a bar. Rather, an Arizona jail cell housed the early stages of the bitter-sweet and introspective track. “It’s like I’m rambling, but I’m making a lot of sense. It’s the moment of clarity for the drunk person, that’s what the song is really. It’s one very long moment of clarity,” Naledge told us a few weeks later after mastering the song that was produced by Statik Selektah and is the first piece of work from a forthcoming solo mixtape with DJ Mick Boogie.
In connection with Naledge’s 25h Birthday, we present the premiere of “Happy Birthday To Me” exclusively in this edition of RH Inspired By. Continue below to hear and download the song, as well as get the full inspiration behind it, and share Naledge’s birthday gift to himself.
Naledge: “Happy Birthday To Me” (Produced By Statik Selektah)
“Everybody talks about their New Year’s Resolutions, but to me, your birthday is the time when you reflect more. I had time to think a lot when I was sitting in a jail cell in Arizona. I was just like, ‘damn this is the perfect time to just evaluate the stuff that’s been happening over the past year. That was where the record started, just me reflecting on some of the things that have been going on for me in the past year, whether it be traveling the world or doing rap records. My life has changed a lot, literally over night.
“You start off just wanting to get a record deal then you get a record deal. Then you want to put an album out, then you put an album out. You want some recognition, then you start getting that recognition, the train moves out the gate and it doesn’t stop. You always tell yourself you’re going to stop and reflect, or going to stop and do this, meet with family and talk about this, or go on a date with this girl, or do that and it doesn’t’ happen cause you’re so busy and everything moves at a rollercoaster pace. At the end of the day, a lot of this industry life is built on celebration, these super-duper highs. You get off stage and you feel so high, it’s such a climax. Then you go to an after party and you feel even higher. You feel these ultimate highs and you wake up the next day and you come crashing down. Only to go back up and do it all over again.
“Happy Birthday To Me” is written in the perspective of somebody’s who is rambling drunk. I don’t want to simplify the words, because it’s almost like when people are drunk they say the realest s**t. But it’s also when most people aren’t taking them seriously. I’m trying to take the perspective of somebody who is just being fully honest and fully blunt, but it’s almost a stream of consciousness and it’s brutal honesty moving from topic to topic. The irony is that it’s a celebration, he’s saying “happy birthday to me”, but he’s by himself while drinking at a bar. That’s the mindstate I put it in, even though I wasn’t drunk when I was writing it, it was artistic vision. I just saw this scene of me at a bar by myself drinking and being like, ‘let me reflect on this year. The good, the bad, and the ugly.’
“I never write when I’m drunk. I know how it feels to be extremely wasted and partying by myself, but I’ve never written a song like that. It was me sitting alone, literally sitting alone in a jail cell. And people don’t necessarily understand that I went straight from a club to a jail cell. That’s what inspired the idea. I was on this ultimate high, just 2 seconds ago I’m in this VIP Lounge drinking champagne, partying with my mananger and the people in AZ who brought me out. Me and Bobby Fresh were talking about the things I had going on for the next year. We had a Rock The Bells date and all these ultimate highs going on. The DJ’s playing your record and you’re feeling great, less than an hour later it’s crashing down. I combined a whole bunch of elements to create a story. I really didn’t even write it. I didn’t even have anything to write with. It was me freestyling things in my head, when I got out of jail I jotted down notes of whatever I could remember. When I got on the plane I formulated the lyrics, and I freestyled the hook when I was in the studio.
“I was telling you about “Inner Me”. I can make those types of songs easily, but sometimes you don’t realize how much people listen. For me it was therapeutic. That’s the stuff I write on a daily basis but don’t release because Kidz In The Hall is Kidz In The Hall, not Naledge. It doesn’t make sense for every song to be about my personal life or my personal issues. When people ask me, ‘what’s the difference between Kidz In The Hall and Naledge?’ well, there you have it. That type of a record is an extension of “Inner Me” but it’s revisiting it at a different point in time. The perspective is very much me by myself, inside myself and inside of my own head. I’m allowing you into that mental window, but it’s from the perspective of a drunk person on his birthday. I feel a lot of people can relate, cause a lot of people go to bars by themselves.
“As artists we get disconnect from the real world, and from, I don’t want to say normal people, but people that have 9-5 jobs. They go to work everyday during the week. They might go to happy hour, and if something goes wrong during their day, a lot of people go to the bar. It’s not always a party. Technically, a fest is anytime you go out and celebrate an occasion. But not every birthday is a good one. But people seek to make their birthdays good, it’s almost like a contradiction. I’m celebrating and I’m having fun, but I’m also taking serious s**t that’s happened in the last year and kind of poking at it. It’s like I’m rambling, but I’m making a lot of sense. It’s the moment of clarity for the drunk person, that’s what the song is really. It’s one very long moment of clarity. “