Kendrick Lamar released his highly anticipated third studio album this past Good Friday. Before everyone gets upset, I’m not counting “Untitled Unmastered.”
Lamar is one of the few artists that causes massive hype whenever he drops something, yet no one knows where he’s going to go next. This 14-track record is a product of the times but also has the ability to age well from its timeless topics. In typical Lamar fashion there is more depth than just beats that sound like butter and clever lyrics. There is a story, but this time it’s a little more broad.
The record starts off with a story being told by Lamar. It speaks of a blind woman struggling and he tries to help her only for her to then kill him. It seems that the blind woman is a representation of Lady Justice. The statue is a woman blindfolded holding a scale. From her killing Lamar, it shows the disproportionate killing and much higher sentencing of black people in the criminal justice system. In the track, vocals by the album’s producer Bekon say “is it wickedness, is it weakness,” which provides the crux of the album, with these two themes recurring throughout.
Two weeks before the album came out Lamar released the track “HUMBLE.” The release of this track led several to believe the album would have this new trap-like, aggressive sound. That was half correct. The tones of the album go back and forth between the themes of wickedness in the tracks “DNA.,” “HUMBLE.” and “XXX.,” and weakness in the tracks “LOVE.,” “PRIDE.” and “YAH.” All of the tracks that represent wickedness are hard in rough in tone. They are more fast paced and have crushing high hats and snares. The tracks that represent weakness are soft, smooth and lush. A lot of the words and syllables are waned out and almost act as ballads, while the wicked tracks are quick, potent bars full of vibrato.
A lot of people believe that this is his best project yet, making “To Pimp a Butterfly” fans upset. However, this is the album that is going to put Lamar over the edge. His skill set and technique for the craft of rhyming and song making are second to none and I don’t think no one can adequately disagree with that. But what makes a great artist has always been their ability to connect with as many people as possible. This album is a much easier listen like “Section.80” and much easier than the content of a “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
With the rise of consciousness, Lamar’s ability to produce socially aware and smart music makes for a good listen. Lamar has gone beyond the role of artist and has become a leader for the social movement at large. Proving that to do so, you don’t need to be out in the street protesting and that providing the anthem for the battle will suffice just fine.