Kendrick Lamar has been cooking something up for a while now; everyone could feel it. The past few months have been like tectonic plates building up pressure before an earthquake, you know something’s coming, but you don’t know when. We got our first nibble at an upcoming album Thursday morning, when Lamar cleared his Instagram page, and posted an all black picture with “IV” centered in it. This can only be taken as a reference to an upcoming album, which would be his fourth.
The new single, “The Heart Part 4,” is the fourth installment in a series that has spanned his career. This new track puts my brain in a pretzel. It begins with a synth-filled intro that is like nothing I have ever heard from the Compton artist before, and it goes in five different directions for the following sections. Kendrick’s confidence level is the highest we have seen since his “Control” verse in 2013, as he repeatedly reminds us that he is the best rapper in the world. The latter sections of the song simplify the background sound, to focus on Kendrick as he talks about the current president and the complex political and social climate in the United States today. “The Heart Part 4” will take a few days to truly get a grip on, but the early signs point to great things coming from the TDE member.
The musician has been on a bit of a run so far in his career. 2011’s “Section.80” was hailed by critics and fans alike as a promising debut and a sign of great things to come. It’s hard to avoid hyperbole when talking about Lamar’s sophomore and junior efforts, but trust me they deserve it. “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City” (2012) was a day in the life of a young Lamar trying to avoid the pitfalls of growing up in his hometown of Compton, California. The album garnered “instant classic” status by achieving worldwide success, lead by hits like “Swimming Pools” and “m.A.A.d City,” while also being an introspective concept album, with tracks like “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.”
Kendrick’s next LP, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was a dense, 16-song opus, which topped Rolling Stone’s 2015 Albums of the Year. Although the album was praised critically, the album challenged his fan base by moving towards a more jazz-influenced sound. Last year, Lamar released a collection of unreleased tracks and songs he performed live named “Untitled Unmastered.” The album was originally written off as the b-sides to “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but has become much more widely respected since it’s original release. The album proved that even Lamar’s throwaways are capable of being a great project, as it was cited as Pitchfork’s 20th best album of 2016.
Looking forward, I have no idea what this album will bring. The common sentiment from those I talk to is that people hope Kendrick goes back to the rap sound of “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City,” as opposed to the in house instrumentation and jazz infused sound of “To Pimp a Butterfly.” From a lyrical perspective, Kendrick seems to be approaching this album, which comes at a perfect time for socially conscious rap, from a more personal direction.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lamar said, “We're in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God. Nobody speaks on it because it's almost in conflict with what's going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system.” Whatever direction this album goes, it will be must listen music for any hip-hop fan.
Here are a few features from Kendrick in recent months to hold you over until the album comes out:
The Weeknd (feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Sidewalks
Thundercat (feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Walk on By
Mike Will Made It (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane & Rae Sremmurd) - Perfect Pint
Danny Brown (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt) - Really Doe
Isaiah Rashad (feat. Zacari & Kendrick Lamar) - Wat’s Wrong
Schoolboy Q - THat Part (Black Hippy Remix)
Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.