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L'Rain's Latest Album 'Fatigue' Explores The Power Of Change

Taja Cheek, who records as L'Rain, performing on May 12, 2019 in Arcosanti, Ariz.
Tim Mosenfelder
Getty Images
Taja Cheek, who records as L'Rain, performing on May 12, 2019 in Arcosanti, Ariz.

Updated June 28, 2021 at 4:36 PM ET

What have you done to change? That's the question that musician L'Rain, also known as Taja Cheek, poses on the opening track of her new album fatigue, which was released June 25.

The album's title is a note on the difficult nature of transformation: "I think change is hard, and healing is hard. And it can be a tiresome process. And the title is somewhat pessimistic, I guess, but I wanted to open up a space where people could be OK with not being OK," L'Rain says.

The artist's 2017 self-titled debut album centered on her grief, following the death of her mother.

"I think grief now is just embedded into the project, where my mother is always present and always a part of how I think about music and how I think about my art," L'Rain says. "But I know that grief is a process and that my relationship to it is always shifting and changing."

She insists that even though there's pain, there's joy, too: L'Rain is able to "inhabit a lot of different truths at the same time" and remember happy moments from the past while living in an uncertain present. She says many marginalized people have this experience "where [they] can be grieving and also dancing and remembering and singing and crying."

"That's just kind of the reality of life – and especially life for me, I think, as a Black woman," she says. "The joy is always there. And my mom, I think, also really exemplified that in a lot of ways where, you know, she had a lot of hardships in her life, but she was never without gratitude. And that's something I really am trying to incorporate into my own life."

Family — and sense of place — are constants in her life and work. She was born and raised in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, where her grandfather owned a jazz club on Nostrand Avenue in the 1950s. L'Rain's music is about remembering her family's collective history as well as her own personal history: She says her music is an attempt to hold onto those special, little moments that so often slip our minds.

"Throughout the whole album, there are lots of audio recordings that I take periodically throughout my life just to remember what happened and to have an opportunity to relive it," she says. Mid-way through the album, one of the tracks, "Love Her," is just a recording of her and one of her best friends, a former roommate. "She would always sing in the apartment when we were together, and we would make up these silly songs. And that's one of the songs that she made up."

At first, neither of them had really remembered that day, but when she played the recording for the first time, L'Rain says, "I was immediately transported back to that day and how happy I felt with her at that moment."

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Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.