Hardo and Deezlee, who make up one of Pittsburgh hip-hop’s most formidable partnerships, deliver a painfully honest reflection on the carceral system.
“Depend on Me,” inspired directly by the two artists’ life experiences, takes the form of a back-and-forth between close friends–one locked up and the other free. Backed by plucked acoustic guitar and ghostly vocal samples, Deezlee (the outside man) handles the first two verses, offering material and emotional support while mourning the violence still surrounding him (“I’m tired of having moms and baby moms always crying on me”), while Hardo brings it home, providing grim dispatches from inside prison walls (“Bring my knife outside my cell when I’m coming out”). Far from a cold-eyed street tale, the track is a candid, even vulnerable, examination of the fallout that comes from imprisonment. Gut-wrenching details are everywhere; Deezlee sings, “I heard you grew your dreads/I’m wondering what you look like,” while Hardo spills his heart: “Bust my gun instead of raise my son/That’s what these tears about[…]COVID got us twenty-three and one/We barely coming out[…]Found out my peoples died through a letter/Fuck this haunted house.” Both artists come through with a sense of purpose, resolving to pursue their own goals regardless of external influence. Many are eager to dismiss people who have been charged with crimes as dangerous, irredeemable, or morally compromised, but it’s impossible to understand the circumstances that compel these actions without having experienced them firsthand, and cruel to suggest that the suffering that results is somehow deserved; as “Depend on Me” makes clear, pain is pain.
Check out the accompanying video for a more fleshed-out look at the track’s inspiration.