Soundtrack to Life
I’ve followed Kendrick since 2011. Admittedly, I didn’t really like him at first, I was more of an Ab-Soul fan and listened to Long-Term mentality constantly. I could of swore by Soul and thought his project was the best thing since Food & Liquor- just my thoughts.
I will always be a huge TDE fan because I have grown spiritually and emotionally with their content. But out of all the artist on the label, Kendrick is the artist I grew with the most. It’s pretty amazing honestly. As I reflect on my musical relationship with Kendrick, I realized he paints chapters of my life through storytelling.
Section 80: “Chapter 6” Kendrick captured my thoughts as a 20 year old trying to see 21. As a kid, I’ve always heard that turning 21 was a success because so many young Black men don’t make it.
Ridin’ with them boys and girls and we’re high
All we want to do is have a good time
Young, wild, and reckless is how we live life
Pray that we make it to twenty-one (One, one, one)
Oh, we make it to twenty-one (One, one, one)
Kendrick Lamar- “Chapter 6”
Good Kid Maad City: charted my post college chapter. It was an album that spoke to a hustle and grind mentality that I had as I began my journey as a teacher in North East Charlotte. It was Kendrick’s first full length album and I felt that he had to establish his sense of personal credibility.
To Pimp a Butterfly (TPAB) was rough, not by content but by emotion. Kendrick shared his perspectives on self-love, identity, and self-worth. Oddly enough, I was struggling with similar themes and it was the first time I broke down over a tack -“U”. Maybe it was my Quarter life breakdown or just societal pressures watching countless Black men and women being gunned down by law enforcement on the news and social media. Regardless, TPAB uncovered ugly truths about humanity and self.
Damn, this album was needed! Kendrick explores very dense ideas of the human condition. He dives deep into themes of loyalty, fear, pride, humanity, and love- so much so that these are the album titles. At 29, Kendrick understands his worth, wealth, fears, and himself. He addresses similar themes in TPAB but he seems to have wrestled with his demons and angels and comes to many challenging opinions around religion and his personal identity.
I’m not a politician, I’m not ’bout a religion
I’m a Israelite, don’t call me Black no mo’
Kendrick Lamar -“YAH”
The album is laced within prayer, religion, with particular attention to Deuteronomy 28, a chapter that is popular within the Black Hebrew Philosophy.
Essentially, the idea proposes that Black people and those connected to the Diaspora (also Hispanics and Native Americans) are God’s chosen people. Black Israelites propose that the root cause of their suffering is White oppression, in particular. The goal is to follow God’s law (primarily set in Deuteronomy) to reclaim a sense privilege and unity.
Growing up in a pro-Black (pro-Self) community I was exposed to Farrakhan, the Black Israelites, and have been to countless services at The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Atlanta. I am very, very, very familiar with the philosophy and rhetoric and I have always struggled with these themes and how they sit with my overall identity and the world around me. I actually found a sense of understanding with the track “DNA” on DAMN.
Kendrick shares about the multiFACEtedness of man, how love, peace, pain, and joy all exist within his DNA.
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA
I was born like this, since one like this
Kendrick Lamar -“DNA”
Because we are multidimensional, our identity is created not only from our past experiences but also our present and future conditions. Personally, I am a product of many of these teaching but I also define how they show up in my life.
In the end, I have a lot of speculations about what the themes of the album actually mean and I am sure that at certain points of my life, I will have different interpretations. This is what makes music, art, and poetry truly beautiful.