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The Many Faces of Kendrick Lamar: The Heart Part Five

Huddled under the covers in the room of my adolescence - surrounded by the poster-filled walls of UVA’s football team, Derrick Rose, and Kobe Bryant; I patiently waited for the clock to strike twelve. Not to stumble upon Cinderella’s glass slipper, but to sonically navigate through a depiction of blackness that I had not yet contemplated at fourteen.

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly was critically acclaimed, earned the rapper eleven Grammy nods, and even became the soundtrack for growing indignation within our country. Through the P-Funk sample of Parliament/Funkadelic within its intro track, Wesley’s Theory, I questioned the spending habits of my community. Beyond the dismal cries of U, I contemplated the different meanings of survivor’s guilt and one’s ability to mask depression. It became less of an album and more of a courier - delivering wisdom packaged within complex rhyme patterns and thought-provoking verses. Yet, this isn’t about the various meanings and accomplishments that Lamar garnered in 2015. It’s about how he successfully transported me back to this period in time with his newly released single, The Heart Part 5.

If you’ve been a fan of Lamar since his early work, this latest single is a part of a well-received tradition - the “warning” tracks before a new project is set to release. Serving as the predecessor to his 2010 mixtape: Overly Dedicated; The Heart Part 1 displayed an earlier, more aggressive, and more ambitious Lamar on the brink of heightened exposure. Part 2 (the only portion of the series that is included in a project) serves as the opening to Overly Dedicated. The track is a melancholy experience, introduced with a monologue from late photographer Dashiell “Dash” Snow (he is also one of the few that the whole mixtape is dedicated to) and taking you through the bitter realities Kendrick faces while navigating through Compton, his spirituality, and his thoughts on death.

Part 3 (the only installment of the series that includes feature verses from fellow T.D.E. members, Jay Roc and Ab-Soul) transitions us to a period where Kendrick has already “made it”, dealing with the responsibilities of the world’s expectations. It also comes before, arguably, a top-five contender for greatest albums of all time: G.O.O.D. Kid M.A.A.D City. That leads us to what some conspiracy theorists thought would be the last installment of the series: The Heart Part 4. Part 4 would include an array of subliminals, production switches, and Lamar in rare form. By ending the track with, “Y’all got ‘till April the seventh to get y’all shit together!” he left us all in deep anticipation for the Pulitzer-winning DAMN - the last solo project in the past five years. Now, here we are, and yet again, Lamar did not disappoint.

Over the soulful sample of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, Lamar introduces you to the culture - a combination of deception, violence, self-sabotage, and a never-ending cycle of trauma. Yet, hard-hitting lines such as, “I done seen n***** do seventeen, hit the halfway house/get down and get his brains blown out looking to buy some weed” are only the tip of the iceberg. The real beauty is within the face swaps and the various messages Lamar may be trying to convey within them. Regardless, the long-awaited Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers is coming this Friday, May 13th, and if this thought-provoking single is any sign of what lies ahead, I'll be huddled under the covers once again, ready to navigate through whatever world Lamar is willing to show me.

Written by: Bakarii. @therealbakari_ on Instagram. @BakariiKennedy on Twitter.

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