“I feel like I'm a misunderstood person overall; people misinterpret the things I say,” Queen Naija tells Apple Music of the title to her debut album. The YouTube star turned R&B singer whose single “Medicine” catapulted her onto Capitol Records' radar has lived much of her adult life in the spotlight and has thus been subject to strangers' opinions, for better and worse. That feeling of being an outsider who feels inclined to answer for it makes for some of the set's more striking moments; songs like “Too Much to Say,” “Trial and Error,” and “Beautiful” sandwich the ups and downs of love with a bit of personal vulnerability. Her voice is pure and natural and imbues her songs, which range from bleeding-heart confessionals to self-confident kiss-offs, with the kind of soul that sticks with you long after the last note. To achieve the effect, she looked to the past for guidance. “I grew up on ’70s through ’90s music,” she says. “I love the sounds. I love how it made you feel. I love what they talked about and all the meanings.” That nostalgia is a through line, as nods to Erykah Badu, DeBarge, and 2Pac appear throughout, but the bliss and heartbreak that propel the album are all her own. “It's the debut, and I just basically wanted to peel off more layers to who I am. I wanted people to get to know me more, get to like my sound,” she says. “I really just wanted to mark my place here in the R&B world.” Intro “These are real-life things that people have said that have affected me, made me want to just prove a point, made me want to go harder. I wanted to start right there to let people know this is what people were saying, now here's Judgment Day. Here's the time to listen to the rest of this body of work that I've been working on for so long.” Too Much to Say “I just thought the beginning of the song, the first few words, goes right with the intro: ‘They told me that I'm running out of time/I ain't lit no more.' So from that on, I just started ranting about some things that I haven't told people. It was all over the place, but it's kind of like I went in the studio and I was just kind of talking about this and that. The hook brings it all together. 'I just got too much to say. I got too much to hide.' It's just too much. Not even the song is fully telling everything.” I'm Her “I recorded that in LA, and it was with [producer-songwriter] Harmony Samuels. I love the beat, and I kind of just wanted to make a song that women can use to empower each other. When I say 'I'm her,' I just feel like we can use it in many different ways. Like, 'I'm that girl that's been through this, I'm that girl that overcame this.' But the song turned out to be more of a 'I'm feeling myself' kind of song. [R&B singer Kiana Ledé and I] were already talking as friends and chopping it up. I was like, 'Yo, would you mind doing a feature for me?' She got it done super fast, and then she sent it back, and I was like, 'Hold on, wait a minute. I'm going to have to go add some more to my verse.'” Pack Lite “'Pack Lite' is, as a lot of people say, another typical breakup song, but just the fact that I was using the [Erykah Badu's 2000 hit] 'Bag Lady' sample was dope. I was working with [producer] Oak. I went to his studio, and he had that beat on just looping, just playing. I'm like, 'What do I get from this song?' And I honestly got a very fed-up kind of woman, just like talking and shit. And so I started saying, 'I ain't got the time, the patience'—something that I would actually hear a woman saying.” Lie to Me “Initially 'Lie to Me' was a totally different song. Back in 2018, while I was writing everything else for my [self-titled] EP, I had a song with A Boogie [wit da Hoodie]. It was a sample that I wanted to use—'A Dream' by DeBarge—but we never got around to doing it. So fast-forward to 2020, I still want to do that sample. So we just revamped the whole entire beat and used the same sample. A lot of women wouldn't like to admit to it, but a lot of them put up with stuff they're not supposed to. People wouldn't agree with it because they would call them stupid, but when you love somebody, sometimes you just put up with shit.” Dream “[Lucky Daye and I] actually did a song together before this called 'Four Seasons,' and that didn't make the album. That was the first batch of music that I was making when I was still trying to find my sound. Still love that song, by the way, but I thought that 'Dream' was better because we were in the studio together, writing it together. It's just kind of like a fantasy thing where you want to keep dreaming about someone, so you don't want to wake up.” Love Language “I heard this beat that stood out to me, and I'd never had a vibe like that one. So I was just driving around in my car and I just started singing, 'I got a little attitude right now/I got a bone to pick with you.' And I just thought about being bratty about wanting some affection. And at the same time, I was reading this book called The Five Love Languages, and I was learning about it. I just thought it went with it—like, 'Do you know my love language? Do you know what I want?'” Without You “This is actually one of the first songs that I recorded when I started redoing my album. So I had a whole album before that, but then this was one of the first songs that like let me start over. [New Orleans producer] Deezle sent this beat, and I liked how different it was—kind of gave me Lauryn Hill vibes. I just was kind of freestyling that song, and I thought Russ would sound great on the beat. It's classic.” Say What You Mean “I was just thinking about certain things and everyday relationship stuff. I got that beat from Deezle, and that was actually one of the last songs I recorded, and we was like, 'Okay, we got to wrap it up.' And I was like, 'Wait, I think I'm going to put this on the album. This is a different feel that I can add to it.' I just freestyled that one, too.” Bitter “'Bitter' was a whole different song. It was written already, and I was like, 'Absolutely not, I'm not doing it,' because the hook was 'This pussy too sweet to be bitter.' I'm not that vulgar. But I really liked the beat a lot, so I asked to try and switch it up and make it to where I can be comfortable with it. It was some things that I kept in there for the feeling‚ like when I said, 'Fuck you and that bitch.' I usually don't curse in my music, but it's kind of like, okay, the girls would feel this. London Jae linked me to Mulatto and he got a verse from her, and she killed it.” One Time “I loved this beat and I loved the hook, but the [original] verse wasn't me, and I need for my music to be me. So I wrote my own verse and decided I'm just going to have a feature on here. In the verse, I'm kinda actually talking about [my boyfriend] Clarence but it's some fiction added for the song. And then I had a feature with Toosii, and it turned out to be really good—he's my labelmate.” Pressure “‘Pressure’ came about from a previous song I already had that didn’t work out. I thought the chords were so good that I wanted to make a different song using them. I then asked Mike Woods to slow the chords down and make it more emotional. I was playing around with words and found that 2Pac’s hook from ‘Can U Get Away’ matched it well, and I thought it was genius to make it a sample. It turned out that the song was about a relationship of two busy people longing to reconnect in the midst of their crazy busy lives.” Five Seconds “This was another one of the first songs I recorded when I was restarting my album. I think I was just being lazy, like, ‘I don't want to write a second verse, let's get a feature.’ And me and Jacquees was already in touch. So he came to the studio, and he just went in and freestyled.” Pretend “‘Pretend’ is actually one of my favorite songs. I feel like it's very tailored to me. I'm a really nice person, and I could be naive sometimes with people—just being super nice, trying to see the good in people—and they still take advantage of me or hurt me. So I'm politely asking, 'Please don't pretend. Just keep it real. I'm going to give you a chance. You don't have to try to lie to kick it.'” Trial and Error “I was going to name my album Trial and Error. I was just really thinking about my journey in life, period. How many times I failed, how many times I just had to pick my own self back up because nobody else would. And that's just like a lesson in life, like if you really want something, you gotta do it yourself. You can't expect people to give you handouts. You just can't be in your feelings all the time and just pitying yourself. You gotta get up, man.” Butterflies Pt. 2 “We was in the studio one day, and ELHAE was trying to create a different song, but ‘Butterflies’ part 1 was just kind of ringing in my ears. I was in a good place. I was feeling it. I was feeling all the love. And I just wanted to reassure the people and reassure myself and reassure that I feel the same way. It was a personal song and just so pretty, and it gave me those feels all over again. I love being able to revisit something and feel the same exact feeling.” Beautiful “I was in the studio with Harmony Samuels. I said that I wanted to do something that sounded different from the rest of my songs. I wanted to do something peaceful, something that you could just stroll along the beach to or really just zone out. That's why you heard the birds chirping and the harp and all that stuff. And then I just started thinking about my journey here and my whole life and how I was scared of certain things and how much I went through and how I never would've thought that it would bring me here to this place. It was for a reason. I didn't see it back then, but now that I look back, the struggle of everything was just so beautiful. The outcome is so beautiful. And I just thought it was a perfect way to outro the album—it sounds like a beautiful ending.”

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