Rising Rap artist Kendrick Lamar’s highly awaited third studio album was leaked early on March 16 and it is taking the public by storm. It was not scheduled to be released until March 23. It generated a Spotify world record with 9.6 million streams in one day. The album follows the very highly touted “good kid, m.A.A.d city” which dropped in October of 2012 and is took some very raw and necessary routes in portraying a very vital message to all Hip-Hop listeners out there.
The album is essentially what some may think as the polar opposite of his primary debut album, using a more funkadelic and soulful take this time around. (Except for King Kunta and The Blacker the Berry) He has been criticized already for trying something new and completely different from what rap is today. But I love it.
It may sound nothing like a raw, hardcore gangster rap album but it is extremely relevant, rough, grim and organic lyrical content. This album comes at a crucial point in time in American history, following the upheaval of the Ferguson and Eric Garner protests. Re-affirming the race problem in this country that really never went away since the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
The most amazing thing about this album and all of Kendrick’s work is the substantial and crucial message behind each and every song and what it stands for. Kendrick is one of the most humble and metaphorical artists around right now and his messages really hit home with me.
You can already see the intensity of the album just by looking at its cover. All the gangstas and hood rats of Compton making their way to the most prized landmark in the nation- the White House. Kendrick says that he wants to go back to his neighborhood and take his people around the world to see things that they are never going to have a chance to see. The cover is a statement.
Now let’s break down the album:
Wesley’s Theory- This track gets the album started on a mind-bending note, emphasizing the lack of education and realization for young up and coming artists who make millions of dollars in the blink of an eye. They are naive and construed by what is happening and as soon as they get money, they don’t know how to manage it and society/government tries to deter their success. Rappers were never taught what to do with all of this success so they have to figure it out on their own and continue to learn as they rise to fame.
King Kunta- This record is perhaps the biggest, in terms of stature on the album. It speaks on Kendrick’s height and fame within hip-hop and letting people know that he is a king but he has a huge sense of integrity. He is a humble king. That’s the thing I love so much about Kendrick. He is a beast and an amazing rapper but he is humble and wants people to know that he is a success, but doesn’t take it for granted. (Basically the opposite of Kanye)
Institutionalized- This track is incredibly significant. Kendrick taps into the idea of how much work it takes to “make it” and how he was raised on the streets. The great line, “Dream only a dream, if work don’t follow it.” He is saying that money changes people but it is important to stay connected with where you came from and remember you got to where you are because you worked hard and don’t let it all go to your head as soon as you get a lot of money.
These Walls- This is a bit of a more complex song, definitely the funkiest of all, sounding a like a Michael Jackson piece. It is obvious that this song is portraying the act of sex and Kendrick is descriptively describing his sexual relations with a woman but he relates it to him as a person. He compares it to the emotions in his mind and the good and evil within the human psyche.
u- The deepest and most depressing song on the album by far. In this song Kendrick delves deep into his own skeletons and regrets as he was gaining fame. Things he did to people like his sister and friend who was dying in a hospital bed. He talks about how he was worrying too much about the money and gaining recognition forgetting about his home and the people he cares the most about.
Alright- Appropriately following the dark depression of “u” alright seeks to escape the troubles of Kendrick’s past and understand that everything is going to be alright in the end. Focused on God having a plan and being able to forgive him.
Momma- It is possible that Kendrick is referring to Africa as “momma’ in this track because he made a visit there in 2014 that was said to be a major influence on this album. It entails Kendrick taking time to reflect and influence others perhaps in Compton and Africa.
Hood Politics- This track is incredible. Kendrick takes us back to when he was younger and the hood aka Compton was all he knew. He brings the negative impact of politics and even compares Compton to Congress comically saying that Compton has its own politics. He also discusses the rap industry and what it’s done to him.
How Much a Dollar Cost?- Kendrick highlights that money isn’t everything and what he has stood for his whole career-stay humble. He ran into a homeless man in South Africa who he refused to give a dollar to. After the man asked him if he read Exodus 41 Kendrick felt guilty. He asks God for forgiveness and is humbled.
Complexion- Such a relevant song when it comes to race. Kendrick highlights the different tones of black in society and how they are all truly one in the same going through the same struggles.
The Blacker the Berry- Easily the most intense and hate-filled and raw song on the album. This song covers themes of racism in a society, but what is truly remarkable is Kendrick’s message behind it, repeatedly calling himself a hypocrite for being sad and sorry for black men dying and racism throughout society but also contributing to this in other ways–like when gang-banging made him kill someone. He is explaining how even people of one race contribute to the profiling of that race.
You Ain’t Gotta Lie- Kendrick is staying true again explaining that once you become famous you need to try so hard to be liked and lie. You need to stay humble and again realize that money and power is not everything.
i- I is a contribution and celebration to oneself. Always love yourself and believe in yourself. It is all about self-expression which he has noticed is absent on the streets of Compton, his hometown. This song offers a contrast to the majority of the album, a celebration and jubilation.
Mortal Man- This song is incredibly metaphorical and mesmerizing. Kendrick realizes that he is becoming a voice for young people and that he needs to influence them positively. Kendrick has a conversation with 2Pac on this track and understands that he wants his young followers to help change the world for the better.
Kendrick Lamar (Compton, California’s Finest) is on his way up fast as an established MC and this album solidified what I and most people with a brain already knew, that he will be one of the top rappers of our generation and of all time.