Critically acclaimed and notoriously elusive rapper, Kendrick Lamar, after starving his fans for four years without new solo material is prone to overfeed the thirsty fanbase, one can imagine. Lamar wasted no time after dropping his latest body of work, ‘Mr. Morale and the Big steppers,‘ to put out a single and an accompanying video for the song, named after a COVID-19 recommended nose mask.
The album dropped on Friday the 13th, of May 2022 and the video came just a day after. and explores a variety of subjects from the artist’s personal life. The album includes several COVID-19 references while the video for ”N95,’ is replete with religious and racial references, and a Baby Keem cameo appearance, directed by Lamar and Dave Free, both of PgLang.
Kendrick’s fanbase, ”the Kenfolk;” have been raving about the video since it dropped, and rightfully so, considering Kendrick Lamar’s history of dropping music videos that are often as creative and polarizing as his music.
Let’s get right into it, below are several hidden messages in Lamar’s latest work of art.
1. The Pseudo-Jesus Walk Scene
The video begins with a young negro boy watching Lamar suspend over the surface of a body of water, at first glance, it looks like he’s walking on water, but as the camera zooms in, it’s clear that Lamar is rather ”floating” over the surface of the water as opposed to walking on it.
This scene interpolates the overarching theme on the album, of Kendrick stripping himself of the ”Savior-complex” that both black America and Hip Hop community have placed on him since his debut album, ‘Section.80.” Even on the intro to the song ‘Savior‘ on the album, Kendrick can be said saying “Kendrick made you think about it, but he is not your savior.
The young black boy in the video represents black youths who look to Kendrick as a role model, more like a savior.
The media posits him as that savior, hence from a distance it looks like he is walking on water as the biblical Jesus did, but a closer look shows that it is just an illusion, and the gloomy look on his face shows how tiring the savior complex can be for plain old Kendrick Duckworth from Compton.
Being viewed as a savior leaves one open to heavy scrutiny and unfair criticism, hence Kendrick’s cross-like gestures while floating over the water.
2. This Shit Hard
The phrase ”This shit hard,” appears on the audio several times and little more scanty and calculated on the video, juxtaposed on the black and white screen in repetition, in red ink. This, in the song, can simply be an affirmation that the song and its instrumental are dope/ hard-hitting.
On the other hand, in the video, the red-inked phrase appears on the screen in strategic scenes; first at opening the first scene, ushering in the scene of Lamar floating over the water with the looking up to him. This buttresses the message that upholding a not necessarily self-imposed savior complex is a difficult task i.e. ”this shit hard.”
3. Music Video Scene
Two scenes follow in quick succession; the first is a black and white generic rap video scene of Kendrick and a model, while the following lyrics can be heard on the audio;
”Take off the car loan
Take off the flex and the white loss
Take off the weird-ass jewelry
I’ma take ten steps
Then I’m takin’ off top five
Take off them fabricated streams
And them microwave memes
It’s a real world outside (take that shit off)”
These lyrics continue the message of the song, to not believe the hype in mainstream media, the scene looks real until a hand enters holding a clapperboard to reveal that it is indeed a video shoot and not real. The luxury and glam of the scene are all ‘fabricated.’
Kendrick disappears and reappears in and out of the scene several times like a glitch, this shows he is uncomfortable being in it, he doesn’t fit in. and this also shows that this media hoax has existed before him and will exist after him, he is not the main product, Kendrick comes and goes ”the scene,” the hoax (Hollywood) remains.
Lamar’s non-desire in being a part of the hoax is displayed in his straight, gloomy facial expression while performing in the scene.
4. The Mirror Scene
The next scene has Kendrick at the camera rapping the song’s lyrics, it all seems real until he says, ”take off your idols,” and a sword shatters the image and it becomes clear that the scene was only a mirror reflection. Again, the demystifying of Kendrick’s Savior complex, and consequently the idolization of celebrities by mainstream media and its consumers.
The Chase Scene
This features Lamar looking quite frowzy, running from a group of shirtless, hefty men, while rapping the following lyrics;
”The world in a panic
The women is stranded
The men on a run
The prophets abandoned
The Lord take advantage
The market is crashin’
The industry wants”
Majority of the album was recorded in 2020, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, also a time when rumours were circulated of a new Lamar album all over the internet, the fans were eager for a Lamar drop while the world was in the turmoil as if a Kendrick Lamar album would restore the balance in the cosmos.
A savior complex once again, and again the red-inked ”This shit hard” appears all over the screen, to buttress the pressure he felt while making the album.
5. Piano Scene
In this scene, Lamar looks forlorn while playing piano, cocktail in hand, and two women, attracted by the music he is playing, approach him in a seductive man.
The lyrics playing at this time, “take all that designer off and hat do you have…you ugly as f**k,” relay the message of the scene. Celebrities use glamour to hide their sadness and essentially ugly vices, note Kendrick does not drink in real life, so alcohol is his vice, he also speaks of having a lust addiction for women, on the album, the ladies represent another of his vices.
The power of the music being the force of attraction and the avenue to get away with these vices.
6. The Doll-Test Scene
At the 1:32 timestamp on the video, there is a scene where a young black boy chooses between a doll with caucasian features and a negro looking doll, he picks the white doll.
In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. Drs. Clark used four dolls, identical except for color, to test children’s racial perceptions.
The results of the test showed that the majority of black children preferred the white dolls to the black dolls, the children saying the black dolls were “bad” and that the white dolls looked most like them.
”I’m done with the sensitive takin’ it personal
Done with the black and the white
The wrong and the right
You hopin’ for change and clericals
I know the feelings that came with burial cries (bitch)”
Probably by the above lyrics, Lamar is saying there are bigger issues than ”internet racial bickering,” as long as those same people will pick wigs and make-up that make them appear more Caucasian and won’t accept themselves but complain about racism.
This sentiment is one Lamar has voiced before, in 2015’s ” The Blacker the Berry,” with the lyrics, ” why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gangbanging made me kill a nigga blacker than me, hypocrite.”
7. Car Crash Scene
This scene shows an unperturbed Kendrick sitting and reading a newspaper as a car crashes violently into the row of seats he sits on.
The scene represents the high and mighty, the so-called saviors of the media (celebrities), and their nonchalance when things go wrong around them, they don’t care about the masses, they only care about their security, they are nobody’s ”saviors.”
8. Motel Room Scene
”Can I vent all my truth?
I got nothin’ to lose
I’ve got problems and pools
I can swim in my faith
Camera’s movin’ whenever I’m movin’
The family suin’ whatever I make
Murder is stackin’, the president actin’
The government taxin’ my funds in the bank
Homies attractin’ the feds
When I’m brackin’, look at my reaction
My pupils on skates (hold up, hold up)”
The above lyrics recounting Kendrick’s real-life problems are meant to display his ”humanity” and ”mortality” as the video shows a juxtaposing image of Kendrick in a motel being seduced by a sex worker, while crosses and other religious symbols hang all over the walls as if to ask ”is this your savior?” having infidelity issues ( another topic he dabbles into on the album).
9. Baby Keem Kiss Scene
Vulnerability is at the core of the album’s overarching theme, Kendrick speaks about infidelity, sexual molestation amongst black males, sexuality, and daddy issues and how they often result in a show of faux-masculinity or hyper-masculinity by black males.
In this scene, Kendrick reacts to Keem kissing him on the cheek with aggression, the same way the average black male with hypermasculinity would.
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