It’s nearing time for Kendrick Lamar to release his recently announced fifth studio album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, the follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2017 effort DAMN. Unlike most of his releases, this one seemed to be getting little to no fanfare in the lead-up: no buzz track, no single, no video. K. Dot, instead, offered basic teases of its arrival (including a recent post suggesting it was a double album). The rapper finally gives us a taste of where he might be going while keeping up a tradition of his by releasing his new single “The Heart Part 5.”
Like other editions in his “The Heart” series, Kendrick gets introspective while critiquing the current cultural climate as he sets the stage for this next era. The rapper utilizes a sample of the Marvin Gaye classic “I Want You” as he spits his rhymes while getting deep into often uncomfortable subjects.
He addresses a lot in the track’s nearly six-minute run, including the undeniable effects and influence of drugs, guns, violence and incarceration have had on the Black community as a whole and specifically in hip-hop. K. Dot even appears to rap the final minutes of the song from the heavenly perspective of Nipsey Hussle as he makes peace with the rapper’s murder. Though what he describes is a relationship with the culture that’s fraught with complications, he still raps of wanting its embrace as he paraphrases Marvin’s chorus while noting, “I want the hood to want me back.”
“The Heart Part 5” stands up to each of its predecessors fairly well, but what will really get the people talking is its visual. In it, Kendrick Lamar stands wearing a white shirt and black bandanna against a maroon background as he spits. Eventually however, the rapper’s face morphs into a host of polarizing Black Men — O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett and Will Smith. With each morph, it feels as if K. Dot is making a statement that all Black people could easily be each of them (he even intimates as much at the beginning of the clip and in a recent Instagram post with a quote that reads, “I am. All of us.”).
He doesn’t just focus on the currently controversial, though. As the video nears its close, Kendrick’s face also morphs into the late Kobe Bryant‘s before fittingly changing into Nipsey Hussle‘s for the last bars before settling back to his own before the camera blurs and takes us to the video’s end credits.
“The Heart Part 5” gives us a lot to think about in a very short time. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — his final album on TDE — will arrive on Friday (May 13th) and is sure to create even more buzz and conversation upon its release. We suggest that you get to listening and watching below so you can be ready for what’s to come.