I’ll never forget the day I heard “Momma Knows” by Elijah Blake. Not the first day I heard it, that day has long since left my recollection, but the day I really HEARD it and listened to the words versus humming along while my mind was elsewhere.
Nine years young, I should be sleeping alone.
Momma prayed for a good man to help keep house and home.
But while you were away momma, this house was in flames.
Truth is such a bitter taste when the fruit is of the family
Let’s try some truth tonight, how ’bout some honesty
‘Cause when he touched me, I played sleep, and I closed my eyes as the tears were drowning me.
You knew something was wrong, something was different about me that morning.
Yeah you knew, you knew, I couldn’t bring myself to say who
When I heard that verse driving down Roscoe Blvd. in LA, I had to pull over because I couldn’t see past my tears. This Black man, just bared his trauma for the world to hear, an act that, pre #metoo movement, I never saw the likes of.
“I would say 90 percent of my friends have all gone through it [sexual assault], and they’ve never spoken to it,” he said.
Elijah Blake is a 2x Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, penning tracks for artists including Trey Songz, Keyshia Cole, Rick Ross, Rihanna, and more. His last project, Audiology, made a die-hard fan out of me, and I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with him (virtually, of course) to talk about his newest project and reflections about his journey toward healing.
BlackLove.com: One thing that is impressive and impactful is your vulnerability and honesty in your music. I’ve laughed, and I’ve cried to your songs. Is vulnerability a skill you have in your personal relationships as well?
Elijah Blake: In my personal relationships, I’m learning to be more vulnerable. I’ve always had to be the strong one in the family. I was raised in a single-parent household, so I couldn’t show when I was hurting or areas where I felt weak. It’s easier to be vulnerable in my music because it’s subjective. But I never write anything unless I’ve gone through it personally or I’ve helped someone else through it.
BL.com: Because you’ve been very honest in your music, it’s no secret that you’ve been through some dark times. What has helped you through those moments, and what has helped you to heal?
EB: Learning to talk about them. My last relationship didn’t work out. I thought I was going to marry her. When you begin to think about marriage, you want to know the person as deeply as possible, but I felt she was holding on to certain things. One day we had a conversation, and she told me she was molested at a young age.
I was able to talk her through that and her emotions because she’d kept it in. I watched how liberating that moment was for her to feel both heard and seen in such a transparent way. It made me realize I wanted that same freedom. So I told her about me being molested as a kid.
As a Black man, you always fear that people will look at you and say, “What did you do wrong?” even if you were just a kid when it happened. For me, if I would have seen any of my idols say “I went through this, and I’m okay,” that would have made me be able to tell my mom this happened to me because I would’ve had a reference point. It made me realize there’s something bigger than just love songs. Let me talk about what I feel Black men are afraid to speak on so that they can have a reference point.
BL.com: I don’t believe people realize how pervasive sexual assault is among not just women but also men.
EB: I think that’s why we’re targeted. With young Black men, there’s a stigma that comes with vulnerability. You’re afraid, and you feel you’re responsible for what happened. We’re always taught to be strong and not show any signs of weakness. So a predator will see that and go towards our demographic because they think we’ll never say anything, and carry it forever.
When I released “Momma Knows,” fortunately and unfortunately, I’d have football players, basketball players and people in the church DMing me saying “Bro, I cried like a baby in the bathroom to your song because my molester still goes to my church and I still face them every Sunday and have to act like I’m okay with my wife and kids around me.”
I would say 90 percent of my friends have all gone through it [sexual assault], and they’ve never spoken to it. I wouldn’t have known had I not done the song “Momma Knows” and opened up that channel.
BL.com: Can you talk to us about what inspired the track, “Frenemies?”
EB: Being in the music industry, I will work with certain artists with solid women on their hands and I’m thinking, “take care of her, nurture her” and as soon as she leaves the studio, some other girl is coming in. It’s just like, “damn, you really can’t trust nobody, you know?”
BL.com: Well, you’ve had a long time to get cynical in the industry. You’ve been in the game since you were 16-years-old, right?
EB: Yeah, with Trey Songz writing sex songs!
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BL.com: At 16! Wow. You were writing and singing about love before you probably knew too much about it, so talk to us about where it comes from. Who taught you about love?
EB: My mom is a hopeless romantic. She’s from the islands, so she’s very traditional, very old fashioned. I have a big family and we all just love each other, and I’ve always wanted that for myself. I’ve always wanted the white picket fence and the wedding. I’m a lover at heart and those types of things contribute to how I write.
BL.com: You’ve said your past projects were a very different version of Elijah. Who is Elijah in your new single, “Frenemies” and, I’m assuming, a larger project to follow?
EB: Yes. The new project is called The Neon Eon, and it’s about appreciating the age of the internet. Because of the internet, music is one big gumbo pot of colors and genres. We’re not limited to just one. Now you have Roddy Ricch or Lil Nas X going number one on the pop charts. Before, the pop charts were reserved for Katy Perry and people like that.
We’re coming out of that now. We’re in an age where all of these colors come together, and you can experiment. So I want to have fun. I’m a big kid. I’m always joking, I’m always laughing and with this project, I want to show people the happier side of Elijah Blake, the more jubilant side.