Watch this right now. Just do it. You don’t need to thank me.
If you want to see an artist at the peak of his powers absolutely nailing the zeitgeist, click play.
The brazen mixture of politically, socially, and psychologically aware lyrics with an incredibly nuanced and evolved delivery; the dark and deeply funky production, shot through with an entire jazz band’s worth of all-star live players; the live-wire theatricality of the entire endeavor… all of these parts coalesce as Lamar’s ambition and talent meet in in the stratosphere.
It’s both incredibly audacious and earnest to a fault. The album feels embarrassingly personal at times, the rapper spilling his demons in a drunken crying jag. At the same time, everything’s wrapped in a sense of universal struggle, the intrinsic knowledge that we’re all in this together. There’s no wonder that it’s proven as divisive as it is beloved.
So this little film dropped today and blew me away. He’s had his share of quality music videos, including Never Catch Me, his collaboration with Flying Lotus, but this is the first time a video matched the heights of his solo material. That is to say, the artistry on display is profound.
The video starts in San Francisco, floating in the grey haze of the Bay. As we hear a complete version of the poem interlocking every track on the album, flashes of earlier tracks flit in and out of the backdrop. I’m hearing Cartoon and Cereal most prominently, cracking through like a broken window. The song hasn’t properly begun yet, but at a minute and a half into the clip, a black man under arrest starts to run. The cop’s gun is drawn and we hear a resounding POP.
Cue the titles and a brief fantasy sequence, as we hear part of an unknown new track, bouncy and effervescent. Kendrick and friends are cruising in an old sedan, literally being carried on the shoulders of the police. The title song fades in, and we awaken from the dream.
The video haunts a mixture of surreal performance footage and twists on classic tropes, delivered in high contrast black and white. It’s evocative and beautiful, but most of all, it’s capped off by a hypnotic sequence that left me breathless.
Be sure to watch to the very end. A single smile has rarely been so poignant.