If the ongoing positive reception of Kendrick Lamar’s new album is any indication, it looks like we may have another K-dot masterpiece on our hands. With 13 Grammy wins in his trophy cabinet, the Pulitzer-prize winning artist is considered to be one of the greatest rappers of our generation.
But many might not know that along with his mastery over lyricism and flow, Kendrick Lamar has also put out some visually jaw-dropping music videos over the years. Here are our top five picks:
This lead single from Lamar’s 2012 album “good kid, m.A.A.d. City”, showcases the rapper’s struggle with alcoholism, with imagery of a derelict house, a club and the swimming pool, where Kendrick Lamar unwittingly tumbles into before being rescued. Aided by lyrics like “I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles,” and “Granddaddy had the golden flask, backstroke every day in Chicago,” “Swimming Pools” is a masterclass in visual storytelling.
How many rappers can take the credit for helping in inspiring a generation? With lyrics which become stoic with the Black Lives Matter chant, the music video of “Alright” serves as visual commentary on the discrimination faced by African Americans. Not surprising then, directors Collin Tilley and The Little Homies (pseudonyms for Kendrick Lamar himself and Dave Free) took home the Grammy for Best Direction in 2015.
Not every Kendrick video has been a visual allegory on social discrimination. In “King Kunta” which was inspired by Dr Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” video, the rapper can be seen Kendrick rightfully sitting on his Compton throne, surrounded by his friends. The square-framed video which was directed by Director X (Hotline Bling, Work) is a homage to Kendrick’s experience growing up in the streets of Compton.
There are way too many visual references to analyse in this lead single from DAMN. From a cardinal-dressed Kendrick Lamar praying in a church to the obvious ‘The Last Supper’ shot, the video is anything but humble about the rapper’s storytelling ability.
Perhaps the most visually striking music video of his career, “Element” directed by Jonas Lindstroem and The Little Homies gives you a peek into the urban life of African Americans many might not relate to. With snippets of fathers teaching their sons how to fight to see the bloodied aftermath of a brawl, each frame of “Element” is packed with details. A YouTuber named Nerdwriter1 has given a brilliant analysis of the whole thing, which we cannot recommend to you enough.
(Image credits: Top Dawg Entertainment)