Singled Out: Solving midwxst’s ‘riddle’

Listen to the Singled Out feature on midwxst’s “riddle”

WNXP’s Singled Out series is where we unpack the story of how a piece of music was created. “riddle,” a track off of midwxst’s better luck next time. EP, a recent Record of the Week, made an excellent candidate. It’s an emotionally graphic vignette that plays out at a breakneck pace, with an intensity heightened by how he harnesses the expressive power of hip-hop flows, emo outbursts and monstrous bass drops.

Listen to the audio version of the feature above, and read midwxst’s telling of where his head was at when he created the song below:

midwxst: I realized that, to be honest, there’s not a lot of Black artists, especially with my age or my age demographic, who are able to talk about being vulnerable and talk about expressing emotions and talk about all the things that you might not expect a kid to talk about. But I do, because I know that there’s people out there who understand, who feel who can relate to what I’m saying, who have been in the same shoes. And you don’t really hear that a lot, especially in the Black community, because a lot of times in Black communities, Black men are brought up in a sense where it’s like, “Oh, you have to be strong, you have to be resilient, you can’t show weakness, you can’t show that you cry. Boys don’t cry.” Or all this is very macho-man attitude to things, when in reality, I think it’s more manly if anybody comes out and talks about things that are that are impacting them in a negative way and speaks out about how they feel.

I wanted to create a story, in a sense. I want it to be this a relationship that’s really argumentative, really rocky, really toxic, because that’s how my previous relationship was, in some aspects. We’d have small arguments over stuff that didn’t even matter. And towards the end of it, and it was just so overwhelming to the point where I wanted to create that sonically.

[Producer] Lunamatic was just playing really, really, really pretty riffs and chords. [singing guitar figure] I was like, “Wait, play that again,” and they just went off. They played three different versions. I started humming the melody on the hook. [singing wordlessly] I was humming that, and then I trying to put words to it. I was like, “I’m stuck, like, I don’t know what I want to say. I don’t know what I want to do.” I said that out loud. I was like “Stuck. Stuck in the… stuck in the middle. Oh, that could be a good first line.” And then after that, “I don’t want to hear lies, know that you’re going to belittle. You’ve been tearing me apart, rip me little by little.” Like that whole hook, I wrote all that first.

You hear these stacked vocals. You got me in your left ear, your right ear. You hear the harmonies, and I did that because I wanted the hook to be the biggest part of the song. Like, this is the part of the song that stuck out the most. And then we then added the triple kick, and it made it stick out even more because it gave it space. It’s like you hear the initial [bass] drop, then it gives the space to breathe. But then it comes right back in and it suffocates you. And I love it. It’s emotion. It’s anger. You can hear that I’m very, very emotional about this topic.

But everything else I built around the hook. You hear me talking about how I’m indecisive on what I want to do in this situation, because I like the surface level things of it. But then when you get down in deep into it, it becomes a problem, because there’s so much conflict, there’s so much tension, there’s so many things going on beyond what people see.