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.”