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Meaning of ‘The Need to Know’ by ‘Wale’ feat. SZA

Released: 2015

Features: SZA

“The Need to Know” by Wale and featuring SZA is an intriguing exploration into the complexities of friendships developing into romantic relationships. The R&B and hip-hop infused track speaks on the confusion and tension that sometimes arises when lines of friendship begin to blur and emotion comes into play.

When Wale spits, “Tryna keep it low / Keep ’em all on that need to know / Tell everybody that we’re just friends,” he’s expressing the attempt to keep his burgeoning feelings for a friend covert. The term “on that need to know” here is hip-hop vernacular implying there’s a secret to be kept. This scenario is later depicted as more complex than what appears on reality TV shows – “that platonic shit’s for TV shows.”

The lyrics, ‘Could somebody tell somebody / I’m somebody and I’m sorry / But somebody gon’ need to go,’ signifies the dilemma Wale endures. He is trying to communicate his feelings without ruining the friendship. He admits his affection for this person is so strong, it might cause others in their lives to step aside (somebody gonna need to go).

When we hear ‘No telephones in the afternoon / I know that overthinkin’ only leads to subtweetin’, the lyricist acknowledges the obstacles of digital communication. He’s avoiding calls to prevent any impulsive actions, such as “subtweeting” or subtly posting about their situation on Twitter.

SZA’s hook is an open-hearted confession. Her lyrics ‘I’m not tryna pressure you / Just can’t stop thinkin’ ’bout you / You ain’t even really got to be my boyfriend’ encapsulates the experience of developing unintended feelings for a friend. She wants to get to know him better in an informal context – “We can hook up / We can hang out, we can just chill.”

Finally, the statements ‘I mean let’s say, what if we did? / Is that like the end of the world or something?’ reflect the protagonists’ inner debate on moving beyond friendship. The song ends on an ambiguous note with the repetition of the chorus which signifies their ongoing dilemma.

In “The Need to Know”, Wale and SZA poetically dissect an almost universal experience of friendship filled with romantic tensions, one that resonates with any listener who has wondered if a friendship could or should be more.

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