Song 1: The Heart Part 5 – Kendrick Lamar

“The Heart Part 5″ is an incredibly unique song, presented through a variety of different perspectives that Kendrick Lamar takes on as he ventures through the minds of various prominent Black figures such as Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, Jussie Smollett, and even O.J. Simpson. In doing this, he’s able to weave together a tale of being Black in America. What’s more interesting are the ways in which many of these characters he takes on don’t seem to have much in common with each other, most evident through his inclusion of O.J. Simpson and even Kanye West (though this song was made and released before his turn towards problematic and anti-semitic behavior, the verse still focuses on his struggles with bipolar disorder and exploitation in his early career). Through this project, I hope to be able to dive further into the relationship between these characters that may make up a greater message, which will be challenging for me in a way that I think will push me to look beyond the surface level analysis of the song.

Released in 2022, this song portrays commentary on being Black in America just two years after George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests of the pandemic. In this sense, it’s far enough removed to have allowed for reflection and growth from such a time but still incredibly relevant in a time where we haven’t seen much change after two years of protest and hard work. The result is an equally passionate, yet meticulously developed monologue in which Kendrick, through the voices of these other perspectives, rants about the ways that the culture around these voices has negatively shaped their lives, a story all too common in the country’s Black population.

Additionally, there’s also a music video for this song that features Kendrick facing the camera head-on and performing this song, as deepfake technology morphs him into each person the verse is written for. This is another interesting facet of the song’s message, because it also speaks to use of such technology and the inauthenticity of celebrities’ images in media.

This is a song that floored me with it’s ingenuity and creativity in the way it manages to weave many perspectives together to create one cohesive experience that takes listeners on a journey that sticks with them far beyond their first listen.

My only concern for this song lies in the complexity of its lyrics, with many cultural references that I’ll have to research more so that they don’t go completely over my head.


Song 2: Lockdown – Anderson .Paak

Personally, there aren’t many songs that directly mention the pandemic and manage to do more than make me slightly cringe. “Lockdown” is one of those songs, though. Released in June of 2020, Anderson .Paak uses his classic jazzy, R&B, and rap roots to create a song that tries to grapple with the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in a time where people aren’t supposed to be leaving their houses, let alone taking to the streets to march and protest.

This is one of the central themes of the song, shown even in the song’s title, which references the pandemic but also serves to be a metaphor for the ways in which .Paak believes the Black community is limited, with lines such as “Judge gotta watch us from the clock tower.” This dynamic is what draws me to this song, because it’s the only time I know about where social demonstrations were as prevalent and important while overcoming adversity that literally restricts people from coming together, physically but also metaphorically.

The song takes an interesting stance too, not just protesting the killing of innocent Black people and police brutality, but calling out those who claim to sympathize with the Black community without taking any action or supporting the movement in more than conversation. I think this will lead me to consider something I haven’t really though much about throughout my life. I’m aware of the ways in which virtue signaling is more meaningful than action in our culture, but I’ve never explicitly considered the ways in which apathy and general indifference in supporting a movement can harm the movement more.

There also exists several remixes released for this song that include verses from a few prominent rappers that stay on the same subject, as well as an acapella of the entire song. There’s also a music video featuring .Paak’s son that I can analyze, too.

My concern for this song is that the lyrics are too direct. There isn’t much room for interpretation, and while this may make it a more effective protest song, I’m not sure it’s got enough content for me to analyze for 10 weeks. That being said, I can also rely on the music video and the remixes to augment this, so it’s something that I could probably work around.