Gainesville music artist Dennis Walton Jr., known as Azazus, turned to cousin and fellow rapper Jeshua Oneal to introduce a new single on Thanksgiving.
The artists released “Need a Friend” Thursday on Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music and more. Oneal, who is based in his home state of Alabama, joined Azazus to work on the song about mental health awareness. The single was remastered from a version originally released in July.
“Need a Friend” tackles mental health struggles and details the necessity of finding support. Oneal said the artists were inspired by their own battles with anxiety and depression.
“A lot of people don’t want to speak about anxiety and depression,” Oneal said. “We were just letting people know, ‘Hey, it’s OK. You’re not alone.’.”
The song’s more mellow track lays the groundwork for the duo’s hard-hitting lyrics. Azazus’ verses paint a somber portrait of reaching one’s breaking point, with lines like, “If I'm ever on your mind, you probably wish I'm pushing flowers,” as he conveys the need for a genuine confidant.
Oneal’s part contrasts Azazus’ sobering vocals in a run that complements the sound and demonstrates the familiarity of the artists. Oneal carries the theme of questioning one’s support system, challenging fake followers with the observation, “Smiling in my face/Whole time they just wanna take my place.”
Azazus said “Need a Friend” not only calls on individuals to be open about their own struggles with mental health but also to expand their awareness and compassion to those around them who might need it.
“The younger generation, we’re very aware of a lot of things, but it’s like, ‘Do we really care, though?’” Azazus said. “It’s OK to be empathetic. Still care for people. Don’t just be a robot and not feel anything.”
Azazus and Oneal each promote their music on social media, including TikTok. “Need a Friend” is one of many sounds made available on the app, where the artists boast a combined total of nearly 60,000 followers.
“Need a Friend” was first released on Facebook in September 2019, when Azazus and Oneal said they were surprised by the outreach concerning the song and the impact its message had on listeners.
“They were like, ‘Wow, this really helped us get up this morning,” Azazus said. “I was like, ‘I didn’t really expect you all to feel this much of a relation from just me sharing my stuff.’”
“We have people that actually look up to us,” Oneal said. “If I have that attention, and I have that power, I need to make some good of it.”
“Need a Friend” is streaming on all platforms now.