SiR Lays Down His ‘Heavy’ Burdens: The R&B Star Talks New LP, Rehab & Kai Cenat Controversy

Four years ago, two-time Grammy-nominated R&B crooner SiR guest starred in Issa Rae’s Emmy-nominated cultural phenomenon Insecure. In that episode, titled “Lowkey Movin’ On,” SiR and fellow TDE artist Zacari perform their single “Move” ahead of Issa’s career-shifting block party; it’s one of those priceless TV moments where a fictional story pays tribute to the real city in which it takes place, this one being Inglewood, CA. Now, with the release of his deeply introspective and self-confrontational new LP, Heavy, SiR is lowkey moving on from a life-altering five years of destruction and healing. 


Heavy – a harrowing project that features contributions from Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson .Paak, Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad – marks the official follow-up to 2019’s Chasing Summer, a record that boosted SiR’s career to a new level of fame and success while also serving as one of the strongest efforts from that era of contemporary R&B. Where Chasing Summer was an ode to languid, sun-soaked West Coast soul – bookmarked by collaborations with Jill Scott and Kendrick LamarHeavy is much grittier. 

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the past half-decade has been nothing short of monumentally transformative for most of the world. For SiR, those kinds of world-shifting events served as mere backdrops to personal crises that threatened to upend the very life he built for himself. “I was taking the attention I was getting and using it the wrong way for selfish purposes and eventually that started to affect my home life in a way that I couldn’t talk about,” he says. “The only way I knew how to medicate or get through all of it was to self-medicate. And we know what drugs do. Don’t take long, you know? I have to learn these lessons the hard way.” 

As a result, TDE CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith held up the release of SiR’s new record until he was sober, both literally and emotionally. “We always going to put our best foot forward at TDE, that should be an understatement,” SiR says. “We’ll wait five years if we got to. When we come, we come correct. We had to take a step back and reevaluate.” That approach has drawn ire from some TDE fans – remember how some fans reacted to the delays leading up to SZA’s SOS? — but it’s proven to be an effective one. SiR’s stint in rehab brought him back home to himself. The poems he wrote during his stay and during group therapy meetings turned into the 16-track opus that is Heavy. Last week (March 22), SiR broke down his five favorite Heavy tracks — from “Ricky’s Song” to “You.”

Below,, SiR unpacks his approach to album sequencing, the impact of gospel music and his faith on his new LP and that sticky Kai Cenat controversy.

Heavy is your first full-length album in five years. Obviously, much has changed in the world and in your personal life during that time. Talk to me about the time since Chasing Summer. 

The last five years were hectic for me, man. I’ve been through a lot. I was struggling with addiction and I had to sit myself down. A lot of people always look at the whole TDE thing, and they think that Top holds artists back or anything like that — Top just ain’t gonna release nothing unless it’s time for it. Or unless you’re ready. If you’re unhealthy or you’re not prepared or your music ain’t it… he’s gonna let you know. And I had a lot of growing to do. 

The pandemic was rough on everybody. I hate to even bring it up. It’s been such a long time, but it was hard on so many people. I got the s—t end of the stick, and just wasn’t taking good care of myself. I needed some time to sit down and get my s—t together. Once we actually got me healthy, then it was time for us to start telling the story because it wasn’t like I went through it by myself. There’s so many people dealing with the issues I was dealing with. I think it was important for us to show people my humanity. As artists, we always get put on these pedestals and [thought] so highly of us, but, man, we’re human just like anybody else. And we go through things. Sometimes we make it out, sometimes we don’t. 

I was blessed to make it out and be able to have a second chance at life. I just wanted to show the world what I was going through, but the only way I really get a chance to tell my side of the story is through my music. So we did a great job of being as transparent as possible with where we’ve been on wax, and where we’re going on wax. I think that for my fans especially, I just wanted them to know that I wouldn’t have never waited this long if it wasn’t for good reason. They’ll never have to wait this long again on music for me. I have a playlist right now that I’m working on. It’s great music, hopefully, we’re looking at 2025. But with the music that I’m dropping now, I just want fans to know that this is who I was. It’s honest. There’s pain in there, but it’s good pain. It’s beautiful pain, and I hope I’m putting this out for people to relate to, and I hope that I was so connected that it spreads like wildfire and people understand it because they’ve been through it or they’ve seen somebody go through it. 

Why was it important for you to get so honest and so specific at this point in your artistic journey?

It wasn’t like I wanted to. I was going through it with most of these songs. Most of these are poems that I wrote while I was in rehab or stuck somewhere that I didn’t want to be. In some type of meeting or some type of therapy or whatever. [The songs] came from the actual places. It’s not like I waited until after and wrote the song; I was going through it when I was writing these songs. And it’s the only way I really know how to write things. All the stuff that people love from me comes from such a personal place. The only real way I know how to share my art is honesty. I’ve tried to write cool lyrics and write a single or a banger, but it just doesn’t work out for me trying to do it that way. I feel like I’m always going to have to find it in here before I get anything that’s worth listening to. 

When did you know that you had an album in the works? When did these tracks start to coalesce into Heavy? 

We been sitting on this playlist for damn near two years. Even last year, we were just biding our time because there’s been so much change in the music industry. There’s so many new artists coming out, we didn’t want to just drop in dead space. We want to make sure that everything we do has purpose. It’s crazy to say it’s been five years. So much music has come out. So many things have happened. But I think we picked the timing based what we had to say, too. We wanted to make sure that we dropped it in the right space and I think it’s the perfect time for this to come. 

You’ve previously noted some similarities between Heavy and Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, because of both albums’ focus on mental health and personal growth. Were there any specific moments on that album that inspired you? What other albums did you look to (if there were any at all) to prepare to take yourself to that headspace? 

You know what’s crazy? There’s another album that I just learned about recently, Heavy by Jean Deaux, and didn’t know it existed. But the similarities… her cover and everything looked exactly like mine! You know what I mean? I say that to say, I feel like with creatives, there’s a pool of creativity that we all pull from, and sometimes we pull the same ideas and have the same thoughts coming from the same place.

I feel like there are so many similarities on The Big Steppers. I wasn’t listening to it when I was writing my music, but listening to it made me realize that whatever [Kendrick] was going through, I was going through. Wherever he was pulling from, I was pulling from. And saying with Jean Deaux. 

I think that that’s the coolest thing about creativity, you can see your own creativity shine through other people and what they were doing or saying. I definitely feel like this round of music is so personal to me that it’s going to connect with other people and there are going to be so many similarities seen because mental health is a big conversation. Personal growth should always be a big conversation. I’m just making myself a part of that conversation, that’s all. 

Let’s talk about “No Evil.” That was a very different sound for you, especially for a lead single. What went into picking that track to introduce Heavy?

Man, that was the curveball of all curveballs. [Laughs.] I think with that one that, that was a huge risk. I mean, making it the first single and taking that chance, the ode to D’Angelo, it was all risk, but a risk that paid off. That’s one thing you got to know about me — I’m not scared to fall on my face. We’ll take the chances. We’ll learn from them or we’ll win. And this one just so happened to be a win. We were already confident in the vocal and confident in the production and stuff. The visual and the timing of it was what we were most worried about, so having it work out feels really good. It was a scary moment for me, for sure. 

The vocal on “No Evil” really is ridiculous. There are flashes of Prince and Lenny Kravitz and D’Angelo in there, you’re in full rock star mode. What do you tap into emotionally or mentally to pull off a vocal performance like that? 

Oh man, straight up Metallica rock energy. It took a couple of times to figure that out. I started real soft and was like “That’s not what I’m saying, what am I saying?” Let’s yell. [Laughs.] The emotion had to fit the statement. And that song, it’s really about drugs of choice. It’s not about being an actual superhero. I flipped it on its head. It’s a poem I wrote in rehab based on the fact that I see no evil in you having an issue. Flipped that s—t on his head and it just became such a powerful thing.

Now, “Karma” with Isaiah Rashad. There are a few really dope moments like the percussive alliteration in the hook and this line: “Wish I never bought the game my uncle sold me/ It’s a little too late to save the old me.” Talk to me about the writing process for this one.

“I need to stop treating h–s like I need them,” that’s the first line I came up with. When I heard the music, I knew I wanted to do something that was true to me. I knew I wanted to do something that was correct for me and where I was at that point. I rented a studio on the east side and it was my own space. I was sitting there getting high all the time, not really working. And I wasn’t taking care of myself. This song came out of that time. So, it came out of turmoil; those lyrics came from the depths of my heart. I was trying to be playful about it, but when you really listen to it, that’s a cry for help. It really is. And it’s me being aware, and for a lot of people, self-awareness is what they lack. It’s me being aware that I got issues and I got problems and if I don’t fix them I’m going to have to pay the price. There is no measurement on how big a sin is. A sin is a sin and you have to atone. It was me being transparent.  

And we knocked it out of the park. That’s another one where I’m talking crazy. I remember thinking, “I don’t know how my female audience is gonna take this. I don’t know how my audience is gonna like me being this transparent. How dudes are going to like me putting them on blast?” It’s kind of similar to “The Recipe.” 

As soon as I played it for [Isaiah Rashad], it was a no-brainer. He got it. So, “Karma” is special and the lyric is what I needed to say. A lot of these lyrics is what I needed to get off my f—king chest, you know? I want to normalize my life. I don’t want to be SiR, I want to be Darrell. Most times I’m SiR, because I get paid to do it. I got to remember that and respect it, you know. So having those lyrics where I’m showing the world that I got an ugly side, and y’all want to see me healthy and happy? Keep me that way. 

There’s so much gospel coursing through “Brighter” from the melody to the way you arranged your background harmonies. How did gospel, and your faith in general, manifest during the creation of Heavy? 

I think if you’re really listening to my music, you notice that all of my harmonies, all the stacks, all that stuff is choir-based. My mother is still administering music at our church, Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church. Pastor Beverly “BAM” Crawford still out there. She’s at the helm. I’m a [preacher’s kid] through and through. Can’t run from it. I think it’s a part of my job to hold on to my roots and to show where I come from as much as possible. There are slight nuances that people miss, and they won’t know that it comes from where I’m from. But the people that know me hear it. 

“Brighter” is like the most obvious Easter egg. If you can’t tell I grew up in the church from this song… [Laughs.] It was meant to happen, and in the direction that the album was heading, I needed God at the tail end because that’s where we were headed. We were headed from the dark place into the light, and it worked out perfectly. It’s perfect placement. Just a week ago, I changed the order one more time to make sure that “Brighter” had its moment.

What is your approach to sequencing an album?  

I turned in this project [the week before it came out] I changed the order 8 days [before]. I’m telling you! It’s because it’s an emotional push and pull. The best records that I’ve heard are roller coaster rides with peaks, lows, great endings and great beginnings. Steady beginnings, you know? So, I always try to mimic the albums that I love most as far as structuring them. Now, mind you, mimicking what the structure is is one thing. Trying to copy the order and the speed and the tempo… stay away from that. You’re structuring it based on your preferences. So, it comes from having done it a few times. 

With this one, in particular, I took my time. I wanted to do it in an emotionally charged order. If I were going to go dark, I want to start dark and continue on that path until we started to feel an emotional change. If I was going to start light, we’d probably end with “Ignorant” and start with “Brighter” you know? But this was the order that I think the album dictated it be in. 

Heavy boasts a lot of familiar collaborators. How do you go about securing collaborations for a project? 

A lot of phone calls, man. I gotta call these people personally, because we don’t do the whole reaching out thing. I will never buy no feature — unless it was like I got another Dot verse or I’m getting a Cole verse. But even with them, I would want to be there directly. I want to be in the studio. I would want it to happen organically. My features always happen organically, and I’ve tried, man. I’ve reached out to so many different artists, and I don’t know what it is… just business, I don’t know. 

I think the people that that rock with me have always rocked with me and it makes it easy for us to make records that will stand the test of time. I don’t chase features and they come naturally and that’s the best way to do it. 

How does it feel putting out your first project in five years? Especially since the music industry has changed so drastically since Chasing Summer. 

I feel like a new kid on the block, honestly. There are a lot of fans that have stuck around and have been by my side for sure. But a lot if people don’t know who I am still and that’s crazy to me. I hate to say it like that — that makes me seem so arrogant. With all of the impact that we made over the last few years, I definitely feel like we could be getting bigger opportunities, and maybe there’s something in the heavens that’s keeping me out the door. Maybe it’s not my time yet.

But I love the adventure of being discovered. I’m putting this music out, and people are like, “Oh, s—t, wait! He’s got six albums. He got an actual following. They don’t go nowhere. Like they really love him. If I say something bad about him, they’re going to go off on me.” That’s a blessing to watch. And the new fans are sweet, and I tried my hardest to communicate with them and be online on my phone. My manager tries to get me to actually work on my Instagram, but I’m just scrolling. [Laughs.]

But in those periods, I’m commenting on people’s pages, I’m trying to talk to fans as much as possible and, with the new singles and so many new people coming, it’s been beautiful to see myself be reintroduced to my old fans and introduced to new fans. 

Speaking of being on socials… we gotta talk Kai Cenat. A few weeks ago you tweeted some commentary on the Omah Lay concert situation and Kai’s role in the aftermath. That was met with some pretty swift backlash. How did you handle that? 

I shouldn’t have took it down, because when I realized what people were actually mad at — and I realized it before we apologized, mind you — I was like… y’all mad at me because I know who he is? I just was at the All-Star Weekend with the kid! There was a lot of people not knowing and me trying to save face.

At the end of the day, I f–ked up. I’m human. I make mistakes. I really regret that it came out like it did. There’s so much confusion in the situation at the end of the day, nobody really knows that I know what happened. They think I’m ignorant to it. The fans that were tripping, when I really looked at them, they weren’t followers. They were just random people on the Internet and all of my actual followers were like, “Why didn’t you stand on business?!” 

I think we live and we learn. I didn’t bat an eye, not like it messed my day up or made me feel like I should be worried about my rollout being messed up. That wasn’t the feeling that I got off of it. It was actually very laughable. That whole situation with the Omah Lay concert bleeding over into Kai Cenat, I’ve learned that in the realm of having an opinion on those type of things, it’s best not to. Just leave it alone, shut the f—k up and mind your business. That was my lesson, and thank God it went as light as it did. Could have been way worse! I’ll be more mindful next time. 

Are there any plans for a tour to support Heavy? 

Tour is looking like July, August — and we are excited to paint a different picture. It’s not going to be Chasing Summer. It’s not going to look anything like anything anyone’s ever seen from me. I’m so healthy and so happy. This is the healthiest I’ve been in a long time, so I’m just excited to go out and show my fans this side of me.

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