All hail King Kendrick:
What more is there to say? How much more praise can we heap on King Kendrick? He’s the truth. He’s hip-hop’s savior. He’s the mastermind behind Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city, two of the best rap albums of the past decade. His earth-shattering contribution to Big Sean’s “Control” tore a new one in the egos of industry superstars like Drake, Meek Mill and A$AP Rocky. And he’s back again, bolstered by a blistering soul sample, dropping some much-needed street knowledge on the masses.
In a genre plagued by trend-hoppers, pig-headed misogyny, tired flows, lackadaisical production, the intelligent positivity of “i” is exactly what rap needs right now. It’s almost as if Kendrick took his multiple (undeserved) Grammy losses to heart by deciding to one-up Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at their own game. Don’t get me wrong, “i” won’t be nearly as successful as “Thrift Shop” or “Can’t Hold Us”, but this single has ambition to match its mainstream appeal.
Speaking of ambition—somehow Kendrick always manages to have his cake and eat it, too. He pays tribute to his checkered past while advocating for a better tomorrow, pens dizzying flows alongside catchy choruses, drops a Platinum-selling 70-minute concept album, and slings his addictive raps with the swagger of a dope boy. Look back no further than the good kid single “Backseat Freestyle”, an ignorant banger of a track that left longtime fans scratching their heads until they realized the rapper had adopted the role of a 16-year old, desperate for the approval of his peers.
“i” continues this diametric pattern much like the way it references the lyrics of “Real” and “HiiiPoWeR”, but don’t mistake continuity and consistency for resting on one’s laurels; there’s plenty here to raise eyebrows. Producer Rahki puts a frenetic spin on the Isley Brothers’ “That Lady”, matching Kendrick’s mile-a-minute rapping in a refreshing way. Lyrically speaking, Kendrick chooses wisely to eschew the familiar subject matter (his Compton upbringing, the travails of early Gen Yers) in favor of an immediately universal message, resulting in his catchiest single to date:
“I love myself (The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs)
I love myself (But it can do what it want whenever it wants and I don’t mind)
I love myself (He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
I love myself (One day at a time, sun gon’ shine)”
It’s the most unapologetic slice of sincerity we’ve seen from Kendrick to date, a daring move that’s already lost him some credibility among the more jaded Internet rap nerds. (They should be more than satisfied by the fast and furious flow Kendrick adopts on his final verse.) Nevertheless, the one word shared by nearly every Twitter critique is “unexpected.” And really, who else but a member of Black Hippy would place a JAZZ BASS GUITAR SOLO at the end of a single?
Kendrick’s revealed next to nothing about the follow-up to 2012’s awe-inspiring good kid, m.A.A.d city, and yet the surprising sound of “i” provides plenty of reasons to get excited. So what are you waiting for? Hit play, put a smile on, shake your booty, and witness a legend in the making.
Is anyone else in the Singles Party as much of a K.Dot fanboy as myself? Find out on Pop-Break.com.