In my earlier article, I’d spoken about the album DAMN by Kendrick Lamar and this is a continuation of that article.
Best Rap Song, Music Video and Performance
In this article I’d like to dissect the ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Music Video’, ‘Best Rap Performance’ awarded to Lamar.
HUMBLE starts off with a rock chord compressed bass-like tune followed by a heavy bass line complimenting the following verse:
But now I’m counting this,
Parmesan where my accountant lives,
In fact I’m downing this,
D’USSÉ with my boo bae, tastes like Kool-Aid for the analysts”
In the first few verses, he talks about going through the struggle of being in the streets, how coming up has helped him shed light on the issue and how he’s got everything he wants as of this moment.
The music video was directed by Dave Meyers and The Little Homies. It incorporates switch in sides: in traditional media, the white people were dominant on the screen and black people were generally on the sides, but in this music video there’s a reversal of roles. If you go back to the 60s and 70s, we see that most of the traditional media had white males in the lead role.
(On the top left there is a white male amongst the crew; image courtesy: Google Images)
The music video and the song references a mustard selling brand called Grey Pupon which has come to mean being privileged. Grey Pupon has been featured on multiple occasions in rap music. He also refers to the famous TED-Talks and Evian.
(An image of the 80s Grey Pupon add on top versus the replication of the same in the music video below; image courtesy: Google images)
My favourite line off of the whole song is:
“My left stroke just went viral,
Right stroke put lil’ baby in a spiral.”
Also, this line happens to be the most sung line at his concerts apart from the chorus.
In this song, Kendrick Lamar boasts about his abilities and asks other rappers (probably) to stay humble. But the way I interpret is that this is a sort of open letter and a note-to-self about being humble and grateful about the things he’s earned in his life. Contemporary rap is filled with rap artists boasting about the material things they have and just speak or rap about those things rather than speaking about core issues, whereas Kendrick does a healthy mix of both. He also talks about how everyone now just expects everything to be absolutely perfect that we use things that make us ‘look’ perfect. He expresses these issues in the verses:
“I blew cool from AC, ay, Obama just paged me, ay
I don’t fabricate it, ay, most of y’all be fakin’, ay
I stay modest ’bout it, ay, she elaborate it, ay”― Kendrick Lamar
Towards the end of the music video, he uses influences from Leonardo Da Vinci’s 15th Century painting ‘The Last Supper’ and emulates it with him in the place of Jesus and his crew as the other members on the table.
(The top picture is Leonard Da Vinci’s 15th Century artwork ‘The Last Supper’; below is the replication of the same; image courtesy: Google images)
All the above reasons were strong enough for Kendrick to bag the ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Music Video’ awards.
Now coming to the ‘Best Rap Performance’ award, this award is presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) of the United States to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regards to album sales or positions”.
Kendrick Lamar has a strong stage presence with very minimalistic features on the stage. The lights he uses are quite unique in their own way as opposed to most rap artists and he has a strong production team. It was only natural that he would win this award. The following images represent the production his team had done for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival 2017:
(He created a special stage a little in front of the main stage and had LED lights around him to make it a visual delight; image courtesy: Google Images)
Kendrick Lamar live at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival 2017; image courtesy: Google Images)
Best Rap Collaboration
Kendrick and Rihanna collaborated on the track entitled LOYALTY. In this song, Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna muse on the value and necessity of complete loyalty and honesty in both platonic and romantic relationships. The song marks the first collaboration between the two artists. In the outro, Rihanna references the struggle of staying humble within success, which may be a nod to the first single from this album, HUMBLE.
Needless to say, Kendrick Lamar is one of the most important artists of this century and will continue to be relevant in the future given the nature of the content that he chooses to highlight with the skills that he’s got. It’s a long battle upwards but we’ll get there with a little love and compassion.
“Racism is still alive, yellow tapes and coloured lines” ― Kendrick Lamar