It all started out with Davy Greenberg mentioning a new video he shot for Eryn Koehn titled “Her Pain,” a record where the singer puts her spin on BJ The Chicago Kid and Kendrick Lamar’s “His Pain.” Things went from simply viewing the video to being blown away by Eryn’s pipes and intricate details in her lyrics. From there, the focus shifted to her YouTube, where more gems were found (see: “Take It All” and a masterful Nat King Cole cover), before finally winding up all the way impressed and wanting to know more about “Her Pain,” which the Detroit-born, Chicago-based singer was willing to share in her own words.
BJ and Kendrick’s “His Pain” is one of my favorite songs. The first time I heard it I cried. Every time I heard him telling his story I was thinking about my own story. So I pulled the instrumental for the track from YouTube so I could sing my own words to the music. I wrote lyrics and immediately recorded it on GarageBand. What I recorded that night on my bed was the same thing I took to the studio for the final.
A great deal of the lyrics are about my mother and how she set high expectations for me as a black woman (I’m only half, but she made it abundantly clear that the world wouldn’t really notice that). A few of the lines like “I’m from the Murder Mitten” and “where murder killed religion” speak to Detroit’s title as the most dangerous city in the U.S. And then some of the more difficult parts of the lyrics are about the trials I faced and the struggle to hold myself to those standards.
Here are a few of my favorites.
“Liquor stores next to churches”
Growing up it was always said that Detroit had more liquor stores and churches than any other city. I don’t think that’s a fact but I’ve always thought it was true. I went to church in Conant Gardens and there was a lounge across the street. I followed that line with “you call it juxtaposition” because people who didn’t grow up in Detroit just don’t understand. It’s the norm for us
“This affliction is lack of supervision,
Lack of inspiration, too much television.”
My mom never had cable television. For the longest time we only had a terrible TV from the 1970s that you had to go up and turn a knob to switch channels (all three of them) and a phonograph that she’d play the same four to five gospel or old-school R&B records on. It wasn’t until about 2003 that she upgraded to a TV with a built-in VCR.
“She played a good villain
Always spoke with conviction
Protecting us from gangbangers and politicians.”
She not only protected us from the proverbial criminals, she also protected us from the liars whom I refer to as politicians. At that time my father was bad at keeping promises. We’re great now but there was a time when my mom kind of needed to protect my brother and me from the lies.
“Taught me about strong men and about strong black women
Ms. Angelou, Ms. Parks, Ms. Truth, Chaka Khan
But not Oprah ’cause she only helped black people in Africa.”
My mom always used to bitch about Oprah on our car rides through the city. “See all this blight! Why can’t she help the black people right here in her backyard!”
“So why am I here with blood drippin’ from my nose fear running down my face
My lovers hands grabbing my throat?
Unprovoked he choked all love and trust out of me
Baron of any emotion on the floor he left me.
19 years old all I saw was 19 years flash before me.
So that night I smoked two joints,
Stole a fifth for myself and made a toast to infidelity.
Broken and lonely I drank to blur these thoughts
Hoping you’d show me.”
This one’s kind of self-explanatory but basically I was in an altercation that left me with a new perspective and appreciation for life.