Rap Song of the Week is a round-up of the hip-hop tracks you need to hear every Friday. Check out the full playlist here. Today, Kendrick Lamar returns with “Savior” off his new album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers.
In the second half of Kendrick Lamar’s double album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers, he focuses on breaking free of other people’s expectations. Due to the Compton rapper’s position as a public figure, fans look to him to lead the conversation about racial and social issues, but just like Charles Barkley, Kendrick doesn’t want to be their role model — nor should he be.
On “Savior,” Kendrick makes his case while pointing to other Black celebrities like J. Cole, Future, and LeBron James, who are also expected to shoulder the burdens of the Black community. Although each person has inspired the community in their own way, that doesn’t mean they’re willing or equipped to be the next Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., or Muhammad Ali.
Calling out the hypocrites who waste time arguing about what it actually means to be pro-Black, Kendrick makes the valid point that doing so actually undermines the cause. The same goes for calling out public figures for being silent on social media: “I seen n****s arguing about who’s Blacker/ Even blacked out screens and called it solidarity/ Meditating in silence made you wanna tell on me.”
According to Kendrick, potential blowback has left many rappers afraid to speak up about their own beliefs (“Scared to be crucified about a song, but they won’t admit it”) and getting treated like NBA superstar Kyrie Irving, who was widely criticized for taking a stance against vaccine mandates.
He also makes the argument that just being alive as a Black man in America living through generational trauma and racial injustice is a protest in itself. “One protest for you/ Three-sixty-five for me,” he spits. “But that’s how we all think/ The collective conscious/ Calamities on repeat, huh.”
Besides, Kendrick is a flawed man and he knows it, nor does he have it in him to do the dirty work behind the scenes. “Yeah, Tupac dead, gotta think for yourself,” he plainly states. “I never been sophisticated, saving face/ Being manipulative, such an acquired taste.”
So, instead of putting himself out there, Kendrick’s been focusing on his spiritual health, protecting his soul “in the valley of silence” while putting everything into Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers. Whether or not fans agree with what Kendrick has to say doesn’t matter. The man has unburdened himself, and they can either take it or leave it.
Leikeli47 – “Free to Love”
Making a comeback of her own this week is Leikeli47, whose new album, Shape Up, finds her in a place of self-actualization. On “Carry Anne,” the rapper protects herself by letting go of a partner who was holding her back and promises that making up for breaking her trust will take real work.
Namir Blade – “Mephisto”
Inspired by the demon Mephistopheles in German folklore, Nashville standout Namir Blade addresses the idea of giving up ideals in exchange for wealth and influence on “Mephisto,” packing quotable lyrics over gospel production. “Everybody got a method, why the hell would I change mine?” he asks.
Big Gigantic feat. Vic Mensa and Mick Jenkins – “Just the Same”
Production duo Big Gigantic recruit two of Chicago’s finest on “Just the Same,” which features Vic Mensa and Mick Jenkins pushing each other to the limit with multisyllabic rhyme schemes. Mensa clarifies he “ain’t ever been signed to Ye,” while Jenkins says all of his success was premeditated.
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