MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘i': Universal Truth for Turbulent Times

I think I’m just going to call Kendrick Lamar the new Nas or Talib Kweli.  Our modern rapper for the people. His inspirational track “i” came out a few months ago, and it brings a timely solution to the social unrest in America today. With the recent Ferguson shootings, and the Eric Garner choking, the lyricist just keeps repeating the hook, “I love myself,” to a sick “That Lady” Isley Brothers beat, which is probably the most revolutionary solution of them all.  Self-love creates love for others, love for our communities and ultimately love for the world.  A timely message that flies in the face of all the hate, riots, shootings and chokings of late.

i – Kendrick Lamar

In the video, Kendrick begins by breaking up a fight brewing inside the club, showing how self-love can reverse violence even at the club-scale. He launches into the “I Love Myself” dance by leading a group of super fly urban strangers outside (peep the Ron Isley cameo!).  He dances past police harassment, domestic violence and even a man with a gun to his head.

“I done been through a whole lot / Trial, tribulation but I know God / Satan wanna put me in a bowtie / Pray that the holy water don’t go dry.”

In the hook, he describes the world as a “Ghetto with big guns and picket signs.” But the antidote to all this madness is again his mantra of self-love. “It can do what it want whatever it want, I don’t mind.” Quite inspirational.

I love how Kendrick reports the news as loud chaos: bombs in the streets, the mobs and police, while he remains “post up fe-fie-fo-fum basis” dreaming of “reality’s peace” while blowing “steam in the face of the beast.” Nice.

An astute observation he makes is that some of society’s ills are based on a lack of confidence (which, of course, stems from a lack of self-love).  “Everybody lack confidence / How many times my potential was anonymous?” A lack of confidence may be something that Kendrick knows first-hand, as he raps that he’s been “dealing with depression ever since an adolescent.”  Well, looks like he finally got the message.

Over the mellow 70’s throwback soul beat, the production of ‘i’ is classy in that old school way, and it obviously resonates, because it peaked at number 39 on the Billboard chart.

Regardless of where it fell, the song’s message is priceless.  The most powerful tool to overcome all of society’s evils is simple.  Love of self helps us battle the chaos of the world, the cruelties of racial injustice, and even the small infractions we deal with as individuals on a day-to-day basis.

It really does all begin with “i.”


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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