By Christian Peeney
The King has returned.
Ahead of his highly anticipated fifth studio album, “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers”, Kendrick Lamar dropped a new single titled “The Heart Part 5” along with a music video. Other than some features with his cousin Baby Keem, this is the first time since 2017 that Kendrick has dropped new music.
Kendrick flawlessly raps about “the culture” over a sample of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”. He discusses the glorification and desensitization of violence in the black community. He paints a story of a 17-year-old kid getting shot and killed during a drug deal, sparking short-lived GoFundMe campaigns before the inevitable next massively publicized murder. The vicious cycle continues, and the community lives on as normal because that’s “the culture”.
The song’s music video is relatively simplistic, depicting Kendrick rapping to the camera as he grooves back and forth. Further into the video, Kendrick uses Deepfake technology to morph his face into those of famous Black celebrities. These faces include Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kanye West, Kobe Bryant, OJ Simpson, and, most significantly, Nipsey Hustle. The unity of these men through Kendrick’s lyricism further represents this idea of culture uniting the community. The face morphs sync up to specific lyrics; Kanye comes in when Kendrick discusses bipolar disorder, and Will Smith comes in when mentioning how “hurt people hurt people”, referencing his slapping of Chris Rock at the 94 th Academy Awards.
Much of the final verse of the song transpires as Kendrick’s face is morphed into the late Nipsey Hussle, who died in 2019 after being shot by a former gang member. When viewing this final verse from Nipsey Hussle’s perspective, it takes on an entire new meaning. Through Kendrick, Nipsey tells his family that he’s happy in heaven and, more significantly, forgives his killer. He notes that he saw “the pain in [his killer’s] pupil” and that he “completed [his] mission” though he “wasn’t ready to leave”. It brings a sense of closure to his sudden death and harkens back to Kendrick’s “interview” with the late Tupac at the end of To Pimp A Butterfly. Through Nipsey’s perspective, Kendrick highlights that in a culture of violence that prematurely ends the lives of so many, their legacy lives on.
Listen to “The Heart Part 5” now: