Translation by Robert Gahwiler:

Original Text

"Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"

[Sing About Me]

[Intro:]
When the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

I said when the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

[Verse 1:]
I woke up this morning and figured I'd call you
In case I'm not here tomorrow
I'm hoping that I can borrow a piece of mind
I'm behind on what's really important
My mind is really distorted
I find nothing but trouble in my life
I'm fortunate you believe in a dream
This orphanage we call a ghetto is quite a routine
And last night was just another distraction
Or a reaction of what we consider madness
I know exactly what happened
You ran outside when you heard my brother cry for help
Held him like a newborn baby and made him feel
Like everything was alright
And a fight he tried to put up, but the type
Of bullet that stuck had went against his will
As blood spilled on your hands
My plans rather vindictive
Everybody's a victim in my eyes
When I ride it's a murderous rhythm
And outside became pitch black
A demon glued to my back whispering, "Get em"
I got em, and I ain't give a fuck
That same mentality I told my brother not to duck
In actuality it's a trip how we trip off of colors
I wonder if I'll ever discover
A passion like you and recover
The life that I knew as a young'n
In pajamas and Dun-ta-duns
When thunder comes it rains cats and dogs
Dumb niggas like me never prosper
Prognosis of a problem child
I'm proud and well devoted
This piru shit been in me forever
So forever I'm a push it, wherever whenever
And I love you cause you love my brother like you did
Just promise me you'll tell this story when you make it big
And if I die before your album drop I hope -

[Hook:]
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

I said when the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

[Verse 2:]
You wrote a song about my sister on your tape
And called it section.80, the message resemble Brenda's Got a Baby
What's crazy was, I was hearin about it
But doubted your ignorance, how could you ever
Just put her on blast and shit
Judging her past and shit
Well it's completely my future
A nigga behind me right now asking for ass and shit
And I'm a need that 40 dollars even if I gotta
Fuck, suck and swallow in the parking lot
Gonzales Park, I'm followed by a married man, a father of three
My titties bounce on the cadence of his tingling keys
Matter of fact he my favorite cause he tip me with E's
He got a cousin named David and I seen him last week
This is the life of another girl damaged by the system
These foster homes, I run away and never do miss em
See, my hormones just run away and if I can get em back
To where they used to be then I'll probably be in the denim
Of a family gene that show women how to be woman, or better yet a leader
You need her to learn something, then you probably need to beat her
That's how I was taught
Three niggas in one room, first time I was tossed
And I'm exhausted
But fuck that "Sorry for your loss shit"
My sister died in vain, but what point are you trying to gain
If you can't fit the pumps I walk in?
I'll wait
Your rebuttal a little too late
And if you have a album date, just make sure I'm not in the song
Cause I don't need the attention bring enough of that on my own
And matter fact did I mention that I physically feel great?
A doctor's approval is a waste of time, I know I'm straight
I'll probably live longer than you and never fade away
I'll never fade away, I'll never fade away
I know my fate, and I'm on the grind for this cake
I'm a get or die trying, I'm eyeing every male gender with intentions of buying
You lying to these motherfuckers, talking about you can help with my story
You can help me if you sell this pussy for me, nigga
Don't ignore me nigga, fuck your glory nigga, this bullshit...

[Hook:]
When the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

I said when the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

[Verse 3:]
Sometimes I look in a mirror and ask myself
Am I really scared of passing away
If it's today I hope I hear a
Cry out from heaven so loud it can water down a demon
With the holy ghost till it drown in the blood of Jesus
I wrote some raps that make sure that my lifeline
Rake in the cent of a reaper, ensuring that my allegiance
With the other side may come soon
And if I'm doomed, may the wound
Help me mother be blessed for many moons
I suffer a lot
And every day the glass mirror get tougher to watch
I tie my stomach in knots
And I'm sure not why I'm infatuated with death
My imagination is surely an aggravation of threats
That can come about
Cause the tongue is mighty powerful
And I can name a list of your favorites that probably vouch
Maybe cause I'm dreamer and sleep is the cousin of death
Really stuck in the scheme of, wondering when I'm a rest
And you're right, your brother was a brother to me
And your sister's situation was the one that put me
In a direction to speak of something that's realer than the TV screen
By any means, wasn't trying to offend or come between
Her personal life, I was like "it need to be told
Cursing the life of 20 generations after her soul"
Exactly would have happened if I hadn't continued rappin
Or steady being distracted by money drugs and four
Fives, I count lives all on these songs
Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you'll be strong
Fighting for your rights, even when you're wrong
And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I'm gone
Now am I worth it?
Did I put enough work in?

[Hook:]
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

I said when the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me

[Skit]

[I'm Dying of Thirst]

Tired of running
Tired of hunting
My own kind
But retiring nothing
Tires are steady screeching, the driver is rubbing
Hands on the wheel, who said we wasn't?
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst

Dope on the corner
Look at the coroner
Daughter is dead
Mother is mourning her
Strayed bullets, AK bullets
Resuscitation was waiting patiently
But they couldn't, bring her back
Who got the footage? channel 9
Cameras looking, it's hard to channel your energy
When you know you're crooked
Banana clip split his banana pudding
I'm like Tre, that's Cuba Gooding
I know I'm good at
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst

How many sins?
I'm running out
How many sins?
I lost count
Dreams of ballin like Spalding
But only shotty bounce
The reaper calling
I'm cottonmouth
Money is power, yours is ours
Lay with a snitch, die with a coward
Hope we get rich, hope we can tower
Over the city with vanity with the music louder
The same song
A black flower
I'll show you how to
Dye your thirst
Dye your thirst
Dye your thirst

What are we doing?
Who are we fooling?
Hell is hot, fire is proven
To burn for eternity, return of the student
That never learned how to live righteous but how to shoot it
Tired of running, choirs is humming
Tell us to visit, we lying about coming
Now back to business, loading the guns in
Back of the Buick, your hood is feuding
And the beef is bubbling
It's no discussion, hereditary
All of my cousins
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst
Dying of thirst

Too many sins
I'm running out
Somebody send
Me a well for the drought
See, all I know, is taking notes
On taking this life for granted
Granted, if he provoke
My best days, I stress days (Lord forgive me for all my sins for I not know...)
My best days, I stress days
Say "Fuck the world, " my sex slave
Money, pussy and greed what's my next crave
Whatever it is, know it's my next grave
Tired of running, tired of running
I'm tired of tumbling, tired of running
I'm tired of tumbling
Backwards my mama say
"See a pastor, give me a promise
What if today was the rapture, and you completely tarnished
The truth will set you free, so to me be completely honest
You dying of thirst
You dying of thirst
So hop in that water, and pray that it works"

[Skit/Outro]
 

Translation Rationale:

Poetry is a significant way to express emotion, but poetry is not limited to traditional means such as Shakespeare’s sonnets or Whitman’s free verse styles. This extends also to music, and when these lyrics are a focus of the artist, excellent work can also be found within it. For my piece to translate, I chose a specific section – the “Dying of Thirst Portion – of Kendrick Lamar’s song “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”. This stood out to me because I am more interested in the poetic aspects of music than traditional poetry, and the album which contains this song is what helped me listen more closely in music for substantive lyrics; I thought the section I chose to use was most relevant because I felt it felt more poetic than other songs I explored. For the translation, I decided to create a collage-inspired image and focus on the thematic aspect of the work and the narrative it was painting. I found this to be the most important aspect of the song, as the formal aspects serve as a vehicle for the thematic aspects to be conveyed. It is mostly intended to tell a narrative rather than display those formal aspects.

The song fits into an entire story told on the album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”, which is the story of K-Dot (Kendrick) falling into and attempting to climb out of the cycle or drugs, alcohol, and violence that has plagued the city he grew up in, Compton. Throughout the album, Kendrick uses skits of tape recordings and voicemails to tell the story as it progresses, and the music complements these skits by either filling in other details or diving into the internal struggles that Kendrick is experiencing throughout. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” is the second to last track which is telling this story, and thus has had the preceding tracks to lead to this buildup of internal strife. The “Dying of Thirst” part of the song follows a skit in which K-Dot’s friend is lamenting over the death of his brother, and sick of this cycle; this is the last line of the skit: “Fuck! I’m tired of this shit! I’m tired of fuckin’ runnin’, I’m tired of this shit! My brother, homie!” Ominous background vocals introduce this part of the song, adding to the dark tone set by prior events, and it’s paired with an upbeat bassline that sets up the accumulation and subsequent climax of K-Dot’s internal struggle. The only relevant formal/structural aspect of the song is the triplet of “dying of thirst” at the end of each verse. This aspect, just as the rest of the internal conflict described throughout the album, is representative of the desire to escape his current lifestyle and adopt a new one, the one he really wants. This cycle is broken as the conflict is resolved in the song; in the final verse, instead of a third “dying of thirst”, he adds “so hop in that water, and pray that it works”. This is the last utterance in the song, and is followed by a skit in which K-Dot and his friends – almost as a last-ditch effort – are enticed by an old woman to accept Jesus into their lives and finally leave behind the crime and mischief.

In my translation, I chose to focus on what I felt was the most important aspect to take away from the song without going into a full-depth analysis. This aspect was the struggle of escaping the life he had been leading throughout the album, and that last hope of diving into holy water of the Lord; willing to do anything to get out of the deadly cycle, no matter how little of a chance he had. The collage-style images were my best shot at displaying these many different facets of K-Dot’s troubles in a simple image, because with this I could deliberately choose images and words within the bodies and objects that accurately depicted those facets. For example, to me, the focal point of the image is not Kendrick, it is the person chasing after him. He represents everything Kendrick is trying to escape and is the cause of all of Kendrick’s conflict to this point; each image was chosen to represent a specific characteristic of the struggle. Gang activity, burglary, marijuana, alcohol, and drive-by shootings are all explicitly chosen to be depicted in the person’s image. Other than the bible and cross, Kendrick’s images are less carefully chosen and I only chose the others because they were relevant to him and his future successes. The diving board was chosen to represent the leap of faith he was making, as it is a long shot that he will make it into the small bucket of water, but he goes for it because of everything the (holy) water represents, noted by the words contained in the bucket. Other tracks that were considered when creating this image and would be useful for further context are “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, and “Real”. Now some shortcomings of the style of translation I chose. Motion would have been very effective in adding to the feeling of trying to escape and being held back (perhaps an animated version of my abstract art translation plus the themes addressed in this one). Also, due to my artistic ability and struggle of portraying depth in a two-dimensional piece, three dimensions or better detail in the diving board/bucket combination would have provided a better depiction of my vision for this piece. In a similar sense to the animation idea, a digital storytelling/music video would have been able to properly describe the entirety of the story described in the song. Overall though, I am very pleased with this translation and I feel it accurately reflects what I wanted to achieve.

The process of planning and creating this image did open new avenues for me in the ways I think about translation and helped me realize that there are many ways to approach translation in a way that effectively relays aspects of a work. With my translation and seeing others’ translations, I think translation across mediums, when thinking about content, themes, and emotions, is the most effective, interesting, and diverse method to translation. Intralingual, interlingual, and other creative linguistic translation (i.e. Eunoia, Zong!) styles certainly have their place – retroactively writing drafts for instance are interesting – and when used well can create effects just as powerful as translation across mediums.

 

 

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