In the song and video for "Hardest Song Ever," released this week, Locksmith recounts the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Though he's able to tell the story with clarity and candor now, that wasn't the case until recently.
"You almost erase it from your mind, but it doesn't totally go away, of course," the Richmond, California, native told MTV News. "I didn't even know that it shaped my consciousness, because I had put it in my subconscious, and it was so early on in my life."
After years of burying the painful memories, Lock began confronting this part of his past two years ago, and wrote the song shortly after that. It's set to appear on his new album, A Thousand Cuts, which will be released April 15.
"My music has grown to be very personal, [and] everything just lined up with where I'm at as a human being to be able to make this kind of song and have the strength," he continued. "And to be like, 'Yo, what happened to me is not my fault.' So I can be able to express it and talk about it, and have a positive effect on people if I can."
The video, which was directed by Young Gunz and also features Leah Tysse, who sings the hook, handles the heavy subject with the necessary delicacy. In addition to Lock rapping, a number of people face the camera and hold signs with phrases like, "Forty years later, I'm alive, thriving, and well."
"It took months to come up with the idea of what we wanted to do," he said, adding that it was inspired by a website that pictured victims of sexual abuse holding up signs with words that their abusers had said to them. They then flipped the idea. "Why don't we take quotes from the positive things? The things that helped them overcome it?"
He plans to release a short documentary in the coming weeks that focuses on these individuals — each of whom was affected by abuse in some way.
It's a subject rarely touched on openly among men, let alone within hip-hop, but Locksmith's purpose wasn't to break new ground. "I wish I could say I was trying to be some kind of pioneer, but I wasn't," he admitted. "It was for selfish reasons. For my own growth, I had to do it."
Still, it turns out it's already impacted others, too, even if that wasn't the initial intention.
"I was a little nervous, but once I released it, the response overwhelmingly was positive," he said. "People were sending me personal inbox messages like, 'Yo, this happened to me.' I knew it affected a lot of people, but I never knew the magnitude of what would happen."