We Need Kendrick Lamar’s Music Now More Than Ever
Revisiting K-Dot’s genius in the midst of unprecedented times
As Black lives haven’t mattered and cities that were one-time citadels of Black excellence have been roiled by manic, racist antagonism, I’ve kept an ear open and eye out for one note of salvation: King Kendrick. The Negus. The good kid in a “m.A.A.d city.” The un-pimped butterfly. And I’ve heard nothing.
Maybe the age of pop-aspiring rap was so choked with snap-trappers, marble-mouthed mumblers, and turnt-out turn-ups that we were too devoid of our souls to receive the power of a cultural statement from Kendrick Lamar in the mainstream. So, thirsting for his voice, I dived into his catalog and found, as expected, all of the words I need to salve the wounds of my currently quite tenuous Black existence.
“LOYALTY.,” his collaboration with Rihanna from 2017’s Damn., sounds more like a call to stay true to my school. I mean the old-school way we as Black folk handled White antagonism on black-and-white newsreels. The time before Judas betrayed the Black Messiah, and at all points between the moment James Earl Ray’s bullet pierced the Memphis sky and Jesse Jackson proclaimed “I Am Somebody” to tens of thousands of Black revelers at Wattstax.
“King Kunta” hits differently now that DMX and Black Rob have transitioned. I’ve had the basslines from “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem” and “Whoa!” playing on repeat in my head for weeks. The production of Kendrick’s 2015 single smacks of James Brown’s “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” and it reminds me that I’m more likely to die on my feet than live on my knees.
When I hear “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” in its 12 transformative minutes, I close my eyes and see what I think…