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Lana Del Rey & Quavo’s “Tough” Lyrics, Explained

The country-trap collab is a salute to Americana vibes.

by Carson Mlnarik

Lana Del Rey and Quavo’s long-awaited country-trap salute to Americana is finally here. The two artists had spent the last few months teasing their collab and its pastoral visual before debuting it live at Del Rey’s June 20 show at Fenway Park. On July 3 — just in time for Independence Day — the track arrived on streaming. And it doesn’t just go hard — it goes tough.

The two artists co-directed the bucolic visual alongside Wyatt Spain Winfrey. And while its “Tumblr in the South” aesthetic and use of vivid, western iconography was to be predicted, its lyrics are somewhat unexpected, revealing a deep loyalty to familial roots and personal histories between both performers.

Sonically, “Tough” is a callback to the hip-hop influences Del Rey charted on her debut record Born To Die. She opens the track with a picturesque chorus, comparing her inner hardness to “the scuff on a pair of old leather boots,” “blue-collar, red-dirt attitude” and “a .38 made out of brass.” The references provide credit to both her low-budget roots and the intimation that her next project Lasso will be a country record.

On the other hand, Quavo’s contemplative verse takes him back to a hard childhood in Atlanta, and one that hasn’t necessarily gotten easier in adulthood. “Still shinin’ like a diamond in the rough / And that’s hard if you ever lost someone that you love,” he raps, a seeming nod to the loss of his Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff in 2022. Nevertheless, he pleads the case for perspective in the face of grief, adding, “It’s not something that you wanna do, it’s just somethin’ you goin’ through.”

While “Tough” is a slight pivot from Del Rey’s last record Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, the singer’s devotion to sharing specific memories and her family’s roots (like on “The Grants”) remains strong. There’s a playfulness to the duo’s chemistry — like when Quavo invites her to take a ride and she giggles along in the outro — but underneath the twangy guitars is a shared allegiance to where they come from.

For both artists, acknowledging one’s own history is, perhaps, the key to strength. In the bridge, they say as much, singing in unison: “If you come from where you come, then you were born tough.”

Listen to “Tough” by Lana Del Rey and Quavo below.