This is the first in the LOVEP interview series. I’ve been doing interviews for some time now. For most of that time, I wrote questions I thought I was expected to ask. Things like the artist’s top five albums, their inspirations, or where they are from. While such questions have their place, after a while the answers all sound the same and can largely be discerned from the music itself. What I find more intriguing are the beliefs that back the music, those thoughts that functioned as inspiration but weren’t explicitly explained. The music can speak for itself, this series aims to give a voice to the romantic that exists within the musician.
Don Kew is another in a long line of underappreciated hip hoppers. Mid-summer 2016 he released a five-track EP titled Amour. Over production from P. Soul, Kew leads listeners through the rise and inevitable fall of a relationship. We begin with Kew admiring a girl he has only ever met in his dreams. Not long after, this dream girl is realized. That said, she soon drives him to write off love entirely. Throughout the project, clips of this dream girl find her doubting the sincerity of his affection. She wonders if he loves her, or the thought of her. In the end, she remains nameless as if to suggest the latter was true.
The humble Don Kew will tell you this was merely a tactic to keep the narrative relatable, that any implications were inadvertent. Maybe, but really it’s no longer up to him. In art, the creator is only responsible for deriving one half of a piece’s meaning. The audience brings just as much to the table when evoking significance from a piece as the artist. In my experience of Amour, the implications, intended or not, present an aptly poignant portrayal of love and relationships.
You may come away from Amour with an understanding disparate from my own. Even so, the interview below is worth a read, mostly because Don Kew really stepped up and engaged with the questions. In speaking so openly, however, he did want to offer this disclaimer to readers: “I’m not an expert on love or relationships, I just started thinking about it a lot and this project was the result of my analysis.”
“She” finds you expressing affection for someone you have yet to meet. What role does that initial attraction play in the overarching narrative of a love? Do you find that initial feeling to be more or less pure than feelings that develop after actually meeting the object of your affection?
I would argue that the initial attraction to anyone that you don’t know, whether that be a physical attraction or otherwise, plays a very significant role in that relationship from that point on. Personally, I find myself attracted to aesthetics and ideas so whatever initial feelings I have towards someone aren’t hindered by things I might see as flaws because I choose to only see what I’m interested in. The initial feelings you have towards someone are the most pure because you have no real reason to be attracted to them; you just are. I don’t think we as humans really know why we love who we do so that initial feeling is as pure as it gets. After that, you enter the world of relationships where love is only part of the equation.
You say “I’m sick of having no one around.” To what degree do you think love is more or less just a mutually beneficial way to stave off loneliness?
I would say a relationship rather than love fits this description best. From my viewpoint, relationships can be used as a crutch whereas love can’t. You can always find someone that is equally lonely as yourself and form a relationship centered on that sole fact that you’re both scared as fuck of being alone. From my experiences love is a perpetual emotion that has varying degrees of intensity and it isn’t something you can really depend on. Love has different meanings for virtually everyone which is why I find the concept so interesting. Someone could live their entire life and never experience love as they’ve determined love to be in their minds. I think people seek relationships in hopes of finding love, and in some cases they become so enamored by the idea of love that they stop really trying to find it and just want the world to perceive that they have. I’m personally pretty content with being alone because I’m fun as fuck, but I think it’s part of the human condition to want to share your life with someone you love.
In “Dream Girl,” you have met the girl you dreamed about on “She.” What do you make of expectations versus reality? Can people ever really live up to the idealized version of them we create in our minds before actually meeting them? Have you ever met someone who you loved more than the person you imagined?
In this song I was kind of trying to portray that sense of disbelief that arises when something you never really thought would happen actually does. Yes I had all of these ideas of what she would be like and how our relationship would play out, but all of that is irrelevant now and I’m face to face with this woman at a loss for words. In past relationships, I’ve made the mistake of putting people on pedestals and setting myself up for disappointment because I blur the line between expectation and reality and try to convince myself, at least initially, that the reality of that person actually matches my expectations. The fact of the matter is nobody is perfect and comparing people to perfection or even your expectations is pretty unfair. The idealized versions of people that we create in our minds are often inaccurate and unattainable, so no I don’t think people can live up to ideas created by our imaginations. I would say I’ve only loved oneeee person in a romantic sense and yes, I loved her more than the idea I had of her. I say that mainly because the person I imagined didn’t have any flaws or unique characteristics…I like the imperfections in people.
Before a relationship, we hold onto an idealized version of our partner. During the relationship, we are exposed to their reality. Then, when the relationship ends, we seem to replace the reality we have come to know with the ideal we conceived before meeting them. Why do you think we do this? Why do we perceive the best possible version of those we love only when we don’t have them?
I think this question is best suited for someone who understands the human brain (or claims to), such as a psychologist or other professional but I’ll answer anyways.
I think it comes down to an inability to accept people as they are. I don’t know if that is an innate behavior or what but I think a lot of people find it really difficult to acknowledge that sometimes shit just doesn’t work out and people often aren’t what you make them out to be. When you’re able to really get to know someone and learn about why they are who they are, it’s hard coming to terms with the fact that they might be way different than you might have imagined and it’s frustrating as fuck. Sometimes those differences make it difficult to maintain as close of a relationship as we’d might hope, so I think we cling to the idea that they might conform to our ideas for our sake. As we do that, I don’t think we take into consideration that the best possible version of someone probably isn’t what we would like it to be.
On “Ecstasy” you present love as a drug the effects of which will inevitably fade. Do you think all love is destined to dissipate? Or do you think, when the love is true, it is sustainable?
The ecstasy song wasn’t really meant to be a metaphor for love more so a stage in a relationship but I think it still applies. Revisiting the idea that love has varying levels of intensity, no feeling lasts forever. My experience with ecstasy was really interesting because I only took it once but it I felt this incredible and intense elation that I really can’t put into words. I knew that the feeling wasn’t going to last forever so I wanted to experience everything that I could in that state elevated state of being. Once I woke up and was back to my normal self, the come down felt fucking awful and I never wanted any part of it again. When developing this story, I assumed every batch of ecstasy must be different and give you a slightly different high, so I just used that concept to describe my experiences with women and relationships.
I likened this feeling to the sensation I get when I’m just so enamored with someone that I can’t tell if it’s just a physical attraction, love, hate, adoration or what have you…I just know that I really like the feeling and don’t want it to go away. That being said, it is nearly impossible to get a true grasp of a situation when you’re not in a sober state or thinking correctly. When you’re not really in control of yourself, you do stupid shit…hence the saying “love makes you do crazy things”. I was really just trying to emphasize how everything may seem better when you have a mutual infatuation with someone, but that infatuation doesn’t always last and if you try to hold on to that feeling for too long, I’d argue it becomes unhealthy.
I think all love is true, I just think that a sustainable love is one that you’re always wanting to go back to despite the come downs and negative side effects associated with it.
“Wasting time” seems to suggest that the end of a relationship discounts the time happily spent together. Do you think love that ends in heartbreak is a waste of time?
All in all, I don’t think any relationship, especially if it’s a loving one, is a waste of time. I do think holding onto something that no longer fulfills you is definitely a waste of life though. In the project, I was mainly trying to convey the idea that a lot of times when relationships end we’re faced with the question of, “well what the fuck have I been doing the past two or so years?” The frustration that comes with facing the end of a relationship leads to a lot of emotions and thoughts and I was just trying to portray that sad confusing period of trying to determine whether or not to hold on or let go.
On “the birds” you say “can’t you see that we were meant for one another / now I look in tinted mirrors tell myself I never loved her.” If a love comes to a bitter end, does that mean it wasn’t really love at all? Or can that which ends still be considered love?
I really don’t think love ever ends. As I mentioned previously, I think it has varying levels of intensity and it may diminish but it never goes away. That whole song is actually based on a quote that I’ve always really liked, I never did look up the author though.
Obviously, the whole quote deals with an idea much bigger than love but that line “Monogamous love breeds contempt” is something that has always stuck with me for some reason. The whole quote deals with change and things ending. Our entire existence is based on the fact that things change; it’s the one thing that is inevitable. So, why should we hold ourselves prisoners to the fact the only acceptable love is with one person for 50 fucking years? The song kind of lost its way, but I still think it was an effective ending. If a relationship with this person I thought I loved, and thought I would be with forever did not work, either I have zero idea what love is or I love doesn’t exist…in essence my conclusive statement for the project would be as follows:
“I have no idea what love is, but it’s confusing and it’s not for me.”
Throughout the EP, we get clips of a female responding to your narrative. Among other things, she expresses a fear that the love you feel is not unique to her: “Is it me that you want? Or is it the idea of me that you want? This she you described, your dream girl, how many people fit that description? Because if it’s just me then, I’m gonna need you to say my name.” You never do address this girl by name which suggests the love you felt really was towards the concept of company rather than her company itself. What are the intended implications of framing the love this way?
Honestly, I initially thought it would just be a really cool way to transition between songs but I think we inadvertently made the project a little deeper than intended with her added narrative. I never mentioned her by name because I wanted her to remain an idea, I didn’t really want to humanize her too much as I thought it might make the project harder to relate to for listeners. That being said, I think men and women see relationships and love way differently so for any women that might have listened, that additional insight gave the project a little bit more depth. I agree with your comment that the structure of the project definitely suggests certain things, but I’d be lying if I told you it was done purposefully.
I think it’s kind of like reading a book for a class and then your teacher explains themes and ideas from the book assuming that the author intended to pack all of this super intellectual ideas into one story. Ever think, maybe they were just trying to write a dope story and a bunch of scholars over analyzed it? That’s not to take away from the talent and genius of some authors but I think that even they would be surprised to learn about the analysis of their work and that speaks to our desire as humans to find meaning in everything. You’ll find something new every time you read or listen to something, but you never know what will stick with you.