The lineage that I chose for “Collect Calls” is mass incarceration/recidivism and desperation, a call for help. For instance, my lineage looks like this: “Locked Up” by Akon⟶“Do your Time” by Ludacris⟶ “Too Many Years” by Kodak Black ft. PNB Rock⟶“Collect Calls” by Kendrick Lamar. The main theme of all these songs is incarceration, but of course, you can’t talk about incarceration within the United States without referring to it as mass incarceration. All of these songs are sung by Black artists and often refer to the mass incarceration problem that the Black community in the US faces. Most of the songs also refer to recidivism and gang violence that many people have to face.

For instance, the lineage starts with Akon’s song “Locked Up”. This song calls out mass incarceration and the horrible living conditions people who are incarcerated have to face. But something that this song really have in common with the rest, and especially with “Collect Calls” is reaching out for help and expressing vulnerability. In this song, Akon sings, “Can you pay me a visit (they won’t let me out) Send me some magazines (they won’t let me out) Send me some money orders (they won’t let me out, no) Pay me a visit, baby (they won’t let me out) ‘Cause I’m locked up (they won’t let me out) Where’s my lawyer? (They won’t let me out)” We will see that for the rest of the songs this theme is predominant and very consistent. 

For the next song, “Do your Time” by Ludacris we also see two of the themes. First, we get to see mass incarceration. In one of his verses, Ludacris sings, “But then I’d take ’em right back to see Martin Luther’s dream I’d dream that I could tell Martin Luther we made it…But half of my black brothers are still incarcerated…Locked up in a cell block, lost from the shell shock”’ In this verse, Ludacris goes in depth when talking about mass incarceration especially by naming MLK. Later in the same verse, Ludacris expresses the theme of desperation and recidivism. “Look up in my mailbox, I get letters from my cuz and every week said he wanna hit the streets”. In these lyrics we can see how he mentions that his cousin wants to “hits the streets” meaning go back to his old life because while he’s incarcerated he thinks there is no other choice.

For the last song, “Too Many Years” by Kodak Black ft. PNB Rock we get to explore that theme of desperation and vulnerability a lot more. The song starts with PNB singing, I done gave the jails too many years…Years that I won’t get backAnd I swear I done shed too many tears…For n***** that I won’t get back”. This song relates to all the other ones in the way it speaks of incarceration. In a vulnerable way because they know it’s a huge issue. It shows vulnerability because it speaks on an important issue that is personal for them and it hurts them because not only they have experienced incarceration they have many loved ones who are going through it. 

This lineage left me understanding the song I chose a lot better. This is because I never took the approach of vulnerability before, and this approach even connects to the genres. They sing songs about mass incarceration and even if it looks like in some of the songs they are glorifying this lifestyle, they are doing the complete opposite. They are singing from experience, from vulnerability, and almost from desperation as a call for help in bringing awareness to this ongoing issue.


Isabella Colina Hidalgo