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I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too:
“I hope Kendrick Lamar has a master plan.”
You began following him closely after that. You witnessed the waves Kendrick made off of those two tapes. He inspired you, and he was inspiring many others. You played Kendrick’s songs everywhere you went. When you got home, you watched the videos. Months passed, and you made all of your closest friends fans of him too.
Then Kendrick confused you for the first time. He made a song for a video game. You were confronted with just how much trust you were putting in the rapper. You were worried by all of his new affiliations.
“This artist is so much than this–is he really trying to tell us that he’s inspired by a video game?”
That thought was easy enough to push aside, but then Lamar was featured with some bigger rappers that didn’t seem to match up with his own music or message.
Keep in mind the master plan. Do you trust Kendrick?
His steam was reaching maximum pressure and all of the attention was pointing one way. Kendrick was making major pushes to promote his debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records. He cleaned up “Swimming Pools (Drank)” by releasing the official video with an edited version of the track.
If you listen to the unedited track by itself, Kendrick paints a picture in your head. Your own visuals are probably more explicit than the conservative footage chosen for the video.
Kendrick’s safely crafted debut video would guarantee airplay on MTV, and his partnerships with major rappers and corporate brands would guarantee maximum exposure and cashflow.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of his choices on the come up, Kendrick has maintained his image as Compton’s “good kid” in a “mad city” because of his friends in Black Hippy (Top Dawg) rap collective.
The truth is that Kendrick had a life before all of this. Before he ever met Dr. Dre, before Snoop Dogg and Game passed him the West Coast torch onstage, Kendrick spent more than 20 years in Compton. Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar were friends before any of them got airplay, and they’re lucky to have each other. They remind each other to be genuine.
But the question was never about verifying street credibility. It’s about verifying the message. Kendrick is blowing up, but he’s also just a person–a person who has never experienced wealth. Wealth is something all people are allowed to chase. But does cash flow inevitably compromise the message?
Kendrick Lamar purposefully knows he is leading a movement of young people, inspiring the hearts and minds of a large chunk of the next generation. It’s a generation which is currently rising to power, and a generation which Kendrick was already a part of before his career. If he’s lucky, his fans would rather be open to more inspiration by Mr. Lamar than pass judgment on his choices, or assume they know what’s going on in his head. Let’s just keep listening.
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