Stereo Embers’ TRACK OF THE DAY: Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 4”

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Lamar has left a mad city only to enter a mad world. If To Pimp A Butterfly and untitled unmastered found the Compton rapper on the defensive — searching for answers as to why and how he could become rich, famous, and loved in a country where people who look like him are regularly murdered by cops and forgotten by politicians — then “The Heart Part 4” finds him chomping at the bit to go for the throats of the powers that be.

The track kicks off to find K.Dot coasting on a warm, Madlib-esque instrumental, reflecting on his success. But as this brief intro comes to a close, it becomes clear that he’s not out to stunt — he’s out for blood, spitting “I ain’t sanctified enough to say that I won’t shoot you / I done vandalized the industry full circuit.”

And just like that, the beat turns on a dime, lashing out with trebly guitar stabs before shifting into a speaker-melting oscillating bassline and some dramatic piano texturing. Kendrick, for his part, turns the shit talk up to a hundred thousand trillion. His list of targets is extensive: liars and culture vultures (N****s is fake rich, bitches is fake bad / Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab”); Donald Trump, the electoral college, and Russia (“Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel punk / Tell him that God comin’ / And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to something / electoral votes lookin’ like memorial votes”); and last but not least, some bars aimed at Drizzy Drake, stoking the flames of one of hip-hop’s longest cold wars (“Go celebrate with your team and let victory vouch you / Just know the next game played I might slap the shit out you”).

When Kendrick first broke into the mainstream, comparisons between him and Tupac were drawn on a constant basis. While those comparisons were justified, they begged a question: could K.Dot go from being successor to one of the greatest MCs to becoming one of the greatest MCs? At this point, the answer is obvious. Shit, you could make a solid case for him being better than Pac ever was. Kendrick has a gift for turning music into an oxygen-stealing pop culture event that goes almost unmatched.

At the end of “The Heart Part 4,” he proclaims “y’all got til April the seventh to get y’all shit together,” presumably revealing the release date for his next album. Despite the advanced notice, I don’t think anyone could possibly know what to expect from this as of yet unnamed project. All I know is this: “The Heart Part 4” makes is crystal clear that the genius Kendrick exhibited on To Pimp A Butterfly hasn’t waned a bit, and I couldn’t be more ready to delve into whatever challenging, mindbending material he has in store.