The Story Behind The Kendrick Lamar And Rihanna Collaboration
Of DAMN.’s 14 tracks — each one anxious, berserk, and beautifully intransigent in their own right — “LOYALTY.” might be the most measured: equal parts pop, funk, and brooding rap hymnal. “It’s so hard to be humble,” Rihanna intones across the song, which was co-produced by Terrace Martin, DJ Dahi, and in-house TDE beatmaker Sounwave. Read more…
Like at several other points on the album, the bad gyal-featured track finds Kendrick Lamar in exceptional form, as strident and unyieldingly sincere as ever: “Tell me who you loyal to,” he questions. “Is it money? Is it fame? Is it weed? Is it drink?”
When I reached the Grammy-nominated Martin in the days following the album’s magnanimous release, he was eager to speak about the bones of the track. “Loyalty represents some unconditional, agape love type shit,” he said over the phone from Los Angeles. “Loyalty to me is the first base of life. Real brotherhood. Real sisterhood. Real human being shit. Real everybody shit. With Kendrick, that song represents a lot because he and I are loyal to each other. And we’ve been loyal to each other throughout every project.”
Below, Martin details how “LOYALTY.” came together in a serendipitous manner.
TERRACE MARTIN: Kendrick first approached me about this particular project in the middle of To Pimp A Butterfly. Because we were already saying like, “Yo, you know we are trying to do what we didn’t do before.” So we knew that the more extreme we went on Butterfly — musically and using influences from different genres of older music — that he was gonna use a different, opposite energy for the next record.
“LOYALTY.” came about because I was working with Rapsody and 9th Wonder. 9th Wonder has a producer under him named Khrysis, who sent me a record to play on. It was a Bruno Mars sample off 24K Magic. I was like, “Whoa, that sounds crazy.” I said, “I wanna replay it, reverse it, change the key, add a third harmony — do all these things to it. But still make it sound just like the sample, but with a different edge.” I turned the sample around, set it up, and then hit Sounwave. From there, me, Sounwave, and DJ Dahi got in the studio and started to put drums on that motherfucker. Right there, on my mama, Kendrick said: “Imma get Rihanna on this.” That day. Right when the drums started, he looked at me saying, “Aye, I’m gonna get Rihanna on this record.” [Laughs]
Collaborating with Dahi and Sounwave was beautiful. ‘Cause I don’t believe music should ever be done alone. I don’t believe music is a selfish thing; I don’t believe in none of that. I love doing music for other people. So I was welcoming that ‘cause I love new ideas, and Dahi comes from a whole different direction, and Sounwave — that’s my creative brotha. We been creating together since this shit started. That’s my personal homeboy. Like, that’s my real friend. You know what I’m saying? We’ve done 12 records together, Grammys together, everything together. Been through the paint together with TDE.