72 hours after the release of The Heart Part IV, Jeff and I sat down to discuss the series as a whole to break down how we each viewed every part.
To many individuals, music is all they have. When people go through any situation in their lives music is something they always turn to. Everyone has a genre they enjoy or helps the shift of emotions. The beautiful thing about music is the form of expression through lyrics. There’s nothing like putting on some headphones and having lyrics pierce through your heart. Each verse is it’s own sonnet and each line paints a vivid picture in our minds. Artists are humans beings just like you and I which is why they’re able to touch these parts of our hearts.
“See y’all don’t understand me
My plan B is to win ya hearts before I win a Grammy”
– Kendrick Lamar
Artists like Kendrick Lamar are more than just rap artists or musicians. These artists are our modern day Shakespeares. The way Kendrick Lamar expresses his emotions through his song lyrics is something ahead of his time, something that’ll one day be studied the same way Shakespeare is studied today. The last time we saw a poet with the same caliber was Tupac Shakur and his words still live today even after his death over 20 years ago.
Kendrick Lamar recently released part IV of his “The Heart” series (I really believe this is his final installment because in the heart we have 4 chambers). Before we discuss part IV, let’s take a look back at where it all started to understand why this series is so important across the board, both musically and poetically.
“The Heart, Part 1”
Release date: April 2010
Here we have a very young Kendrick Lamar who clearly expresses where he is in his career. Around this time Kendrick was still in the background not really recognized nationally but clearly expressed he wanted more.
Flow to my heart, hit the flo’ when i’m dying
Heart of a lion, tell em get in line
And pass the baton, I won’t pass it back I ain’t good at dimes
If the bitch bad I could pass you a dime
Haters better duck like I’m passing a pond
Know I’m the king and I’m passing you pawns
Pad on the heel that’s a passion of mine
Problem is I shine like two mics under heavy strobe lights
I’mma need two mics just to get my point across
I’mma get my joint across, country y’all gon’ want me
It’s fascinating to feel his passion and motivation of him wanting more not only for him but for his city of Compton. All throughout the verse he mentions his upbringing in Compton and although he mentions being “Just a lil’ Compton n*gga,” listening to his words you know he was destined for more.
“The Heart, Part 2”
Release date: September 2010
This is by far one of the best songs Kendrick Lamar has ever written. From the moment the song starts we get an old Dash Snow interview where he expresses how music is one of the few things in his life that keeps him alive. From the interview alone we can get a feel of the sense of direction of the song.
You should either hear me now or go deaf
Or end up dead, die trying and know death
Might end up dead, swallow blood, swallow my breath
Fuck a funeral, just make sure you pay my music respect nigga
I mean that from the bottom of my heart
You see my art, is all I have
And victory tastes sweet, even when the enemy can throw salt
Kendrick is really starting to understand what the power of music can do for people. He challenges himself to speak about social issues going on in the country and uses his experiences to provide transparency with his words.
But little did they know, I’m tryna change the rules
That we’ve been confined to, so the corporate won’t make decisions
Uppity bitches, handling business
Killing our dreams, stealing our vision
Each verse is a perfectly constructed rhyme scheme with either an AABB, ABAB, ABBA, or ABCB format and the further Kendrick gets in his career, the more complex his rhyme schemes get. This is something similar we’ve seen in the past from artists like Eminem, Notorious BIG, Rakim, etc.
“The Heart, Part 3”
Release date: October 2012
Right before his major album debut “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” Kendrick ran into a couple issues regarding the release. His album was leaked a few days before his official release and the internet went nuts. Usually when an album leaks days prior, the record sales plummet, but “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” went on to be a monumental album in the rap community and finally gave Kendrick the credit of “Greatest Rapper Alive.”
Days prior to his release of the album, Kendrick releases “The Heart, Part 3″ (you start to see a trend, usually when something huge is getting ready to happen we see another part added to the series). In part 3, Kendrick has an array of topics, but the main focus is the external pressure consuming him.
When the whole world see you as Pac reincarnated
That’s enough pressure to live your whole life sedated
Find the tallest building in Vegas and jump off it
But I could never rewrite history in a coffin
We see this all throughout the song,
Cause when the whole world see you as Pac reincarnated
Enough pressure to make you just open the Book of David
And pray to God that ya make it or live your life in the matrix
Cause falling off is a sickness, I heard that it’s quite contagious
People compare Kendrick with Tupac, those are pretty substantial comparisons and trying to live up to those expectations can eat up any man or woman. Regardless of the expectations, Kendrick continues to express his heart and try to make a positive impact to try and change the youth culture of Compton.
Just like anyone chasing a dream, the whole TDE crew went through their own set of circumstances just to get to where they are now but in spite of those obstacles they stuck together and created more than just a label — a revitalization of the west coast.
Make the decision, ride the beat or ride in a hearse
Now Punch is my mentor, Top Dawg is the coach
Jay Rock is my older brother, I was there when he wrote
His name on his record deal, we had figured the coast
Would live on a pedestal, once the shit hit the store
Found ourselves scrambling, tryna figure it out
Soul told me that the record shop ’bout to go in a drought
Q ain’t got a place to stay, and ’bout to sleep on the couch
We eatin’ off each other tray, the dollar menu amount
As we go down further into the song, we notice Kendrick’s label mates Ab-Soul and Jay Rock join in to show TDE’s versatility. Although each artist has their own persona and fan base, when they come together TDE becomes a force that can’t be reckoned with — your modern day Roc-A-Fella. Even through the trials and tribulations, no one can top the Black Hippy crew.
“The Heart Part IV”
Release Date: March 2017
Part IV is simply beautiful. Filled with double entendres, homophones, similes and metaphors, this is possibly Kendrick’s best work of art. The moment the song was released, everyone perceived it to be a diss song, but if you’re a Kendrick fan (or listened to The Heart Part II ) you might’ve heard this line before:
We used to beefing over turf, fuck beefing over a verse
So quickly, you realize that this isn’t a diss track. Instead you can see Kendrick showing his versatility within his multiple personalties. On one end, you have the humble Kendrick and on the other you have the Kendrick that wants it all from the success to the recognition.
The earthiest slash thirstiest nigga you know versus this
Scum of a land that transcend two surfaces
One of the beautiful things about Kendrick is that he’s always used his platform to talk about social and political issues. Some artists don’t feel entitled to have a voice when it comes to anything outside of music, but here Kendrick expresses the world’s true colors.
The whole world gone mad
Bodies is addin’ up, market’s about to crash
Niggas is fake rich, bitches is fake bad
Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab
Donald Trump is a chump
Know how we feel, punk? Tell ‘em that God comin’
And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to somethin’
Electorial votes look like memorial votes
But America’s truth ain’t ignorin’ the votes
Part IV shows that Kendrick is ready to step into the role of “Greatest Rapper Alive” and challenges anyone that gets in his way to get in line.
Look at the crowd, they— (Nah, I don’t like that)
Look at my smile, I’m smirkin’
Calm but urgent (That ain’t the style, fuck!)
So many verses, you live in denial (Fuck!)
So many verses, I never run out (What?)
You makin’ him nervous, the music is loud
Ho, Jay Z Hall of Fame, sit yo’ punk-ass down!
(Sit yo’ punk-ass down!)
This last verse is a perfect example of Kendrick’s dedication to the craft. Most artist of the new era throw a couple words together and call it a verse, but we hear K.Dot constantly revising and refining his craft (you hear the stylization of crumbling paper in the first couple of lines) until he gets it perfect. Towards the end of the same verse we hear Kendrick’s sister Kayla Duckworth mention to him that his accolades are enough to put him on top of the food chain but quickly he interjects and reminds her that Jay-Z is in the Hall of Fame.
We could go on and on breaking down every song, every verse and every line just to dissect the true meaning and intentions of Kendrick’s verses. Lyricism has always been a huge part of hip-hop but as we move forward it’s somewhat becoming a lost art form. Thankfully we have artists like Kendrick who keep pushing the boundaries and instilling the importance of further thinking.
“The Heart Series” is a beautiful demonstration of a man’s journey throughout different phases of his life. Let’s just hope that Kendrick is here for a long time so that we may continue enjoying the words of our modern day Shakespeare. Sit down and dissect each line yourself and truly understand an artist’s message.