Single Review: Jody Watley & Rakim “Friends”

Album: Larger Than Life
Year: 1989

Jody Watley warns her listeners not to trust anyone in the cynical and negative single, “Friends.”

She asks people if they have had someone who they thought was a friend, turn on them and betray their trust. She wants to know if the person was lying or cheating them out of money or love. She notes friends are only strangers and it won’t happen to her again. (“Have you ever been stabbed in the back/By someone you thought was really cool/Did they steal your heart or was it money/Or was it lies they told/Strangers just disguised as your friends/Never again ’cause now you know”).

In the chorus, she sings that people aren’t what they seem. Some are fairweather friends and will only be around for their convenience. True friends are rare to have.(“That friends will let you down/Friends won’t be around/When you need them most/Where are your friends/Friends are hard to find/Friends, yours and mine/I’m talkin’ about your friends”).

Some friends are fake and pretend to like someone. They are resentful and try to discourage the other person to get the promotion at work. (“Smiles they hide behind/Never know what’s on their mind/Could be true deception/Jealousy and envy reign/They never want to see you get ahead/They just hold you back”).

After the chorus, Rakim’s rap is next. However, his message and metaphors are all over the place. He tells people to be cautious. Not every friend is going to be deceitful but there’s always that one person. (“Friends are hard to find, so be careful…But some ain’t that bad, but one might back stab/To get the fake tips of what one might have”). He encourages people to do wrong to others and not to care who they hurt. After all, if person has it done to them, it then makes it right. (“Bite the hand that feeds you/leave the ones that need you”).

With his mangled metaphors, he tells people to ignore those who don’t them to succeed. Those people will make others feel insignificant. (“For those who hold you back and mislead you/To be a needle, don’t get lead on unleaded/The wrong direction, a dead end’s next then”). He tells people to take another route and life is constantly changing. He’ll stand by Watley if she needs him. People do have to have friends around to talk to and get through problems in their lives. (“Heed the detour, life’s like a seesaw/The ups and downs, and I’ll bet there’ll be more/Potholes and obstacles in our path that’s righteous/At times you need a hand to fight this/Way of life, straighten up..”).

He wants people to take the calm approach to life and be a good friend to others. (“…take the door to the placid/and don’t you act two-faced/’cause jealous and envy and you still act friendly/you could find the end and pretend to be”).

After Watley’s chorus, Rakim raps again. He talks about a girlfriend who would be affectionate but now avoids, cheats, and doesn’t listen to his opinion. He’s aware of what she’s doing and now they fight all the time. He wonders what happened to when she used to be nice to him. (“Used to me kiss me, tell me you missed me/But now you try to glaze me, play me and diss me/Uh, wide awake, ready to break, so we argue/What happened to the kisses, why’s and how are you’s, yours and mine/I’m talkin’ about your friends”).

Watley closes the song with the chorus.

While the single is vastly superior (and the opposite of) the current 2005 single, “Hold You Down” with Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe. It’s actually listenable, which gives it the edge. However, “Friends” is hateful, making Watley seem as unkind as the former friends she’s encountered. Rakim is wishy-washy which makes his advice unbelievable.


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