I can’t handle Kendrick Lamar
We don’t normally get this much from a singular rap artist
6:30 PMIt doesn’t matter whether you think Kendrick Lamar is the so-called best rapper on earth. It doesn’t particularly matter if you like his music. It also doesn’t really matter if you even claim to care about hip-hop. From a creative output standpoint, KDot is doing something that this game has never seen. At the height of his powers, he is a solo artist who is outputting at his most effective level, with the world watching and eagerly waiting.
We do not usually get this in the rap game. For whatever reason, things get shortchanged. Sometimes it’s death. Sometimes it’s petty crew battles that screw up careers or whatever music industry nonsense du jour that just plain prevents rappers from doing the most. Lamar is doing it, and doing it better than everyone.
There’s no need to take a superlong-lens look at the history of rap to understand this. Kung Fu Kenny is not just in a zone. He’s making the type of art that forces you to re-evaluate what you’re doing with yourself. The tracks make people eagerly want to hear them in public spaces. The videos have you grabbing your phone to contact people you care deeply about to talk to them about it.
His latest, “DNA,” is a complete masterpiece. Let’s just start with the fact that Don Cheadle is in it. Let’s then think about the fact that Cheadle then TRADES BARS with Kendrick, showing off his 52-year-old rap hands with flawless execution. “Two first names, the f— is up with that?” might be the best line I’ve heard in all of 2017. After all that, we can get to what actually goes on in the rest of this gem, which ends with a blunt-smoking Schoolboy Q punching a camera.
I’ve been a hip-hop fan all my life. There’s never been a world I’ve lived in where it wasn’t the main life force of my creative mind. Same goes for most of my friends. The rubric that Kenny has created is sophisticated, elegant, rugged, whimsical, scary, fun, dark and joyous all at once. I can’t process anything he puts out fully until digesting it at least three times. The closest person I can even think of at that level of psychological immersion is Andre 3000, and even still, he will always have the probably unfair distinction of being part of a group. In short, I can’t handle it. I’m a grown man. I love it.
His entire oeuvre has moved from “Things I make sure I am a part of” to “Canon that I will force my future kids to listen to and recite back to me” levels. As my friend put it to me, his work affects you “in the best [way], makes me want to be better at my creativity every day” kind of way. If you’re an artist who’s anywhere near his lane, or even not, you’ve got to be afraid of looking like a complete basic in a world that Lamar is living, recording and shifting paradigms in.
The specific topics of his lyrics are obviously worth mentioning, too. There are quite a few people who believe that he’s a dressed-up hotep with a zany mind and some rap skills. Part of that is true. The discussion around his video for Humble is an example. By dropping the super problematic line of “I’m so f—king sick and tired of the Photoshop, show me something natural like Afros on Richard Pryor,” he quickly became the target of perfectly legitimate criticism of himself as a misogynist.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to break down rap’s relationship with that right now, but that must be said to point out that Kendrick is still an artist of his time. In this generational iteration of hip-hop, the foremost star in the game is not some fully formed feminist. But Lamar is an example of exactly where the genre is at its apex when blackness is not relegated to being a secondary element of presentation.
His latest Coachella is already the stuff of legend, and his upcoming interview with Zane Lowe is one of the most anticipated music sitdowns in recent history. There are pockets of the internet that believed he was going to drop a second album to complement DAMN on Easter Sunday, meaning people are mentioning his name in the same sentence as Jesus Christ, not even said in vain. It’s not even really about his popularity.
Once I saw him live. It was in Los Angeles at a private show, and even a short set was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Before that point, I’d very publicly praised Lamar for “good kid, m.A.A.d city” but didn’t honestly feel the full fervor of his energy. That night, I did.
After today’s drop though, I’m changed.
Daily Dose: 4/17/17
Fearless Girl is more important than Charging Bull
A lot of people smoke weed. Your librarian, your doctor and likely your local police chief. This is just a fact of the matter in today’s America. You know why? Because from what I understand, marijuana usage makes people happy and makes them feel better. It helps people with seizures. It helps people eat. It helps people sleep. Which is why Canada is getting ready to legalize it. It’s also why various states have decided that criminalizing its sale isn’t worth their time. Meanwhile, fun fact: More than half of Americans have tried it, according to a new poll.
The guy who created the Charging Bull statue is not happy. His name is Arturo Di Modica, and he claims that a little girl is compromising the artistic integrity of his work. When someone erected the Fearless Girl statue across from Charging Bull, the world came to celebrate the former, which is a pretty dang good symbol for where we are in this nation and world with feminism. Di Modica’s taking the whole fight to court, and it’s pretty embarrassing from a self-awareness standpoint. Whether it’s a corporate stunt or not, it’s worked. Deal with it.
Here’s the thing about the White House Easter Egg Roll: It’s for children. As in, little kids come to the South Lawn for the purpose of finding items left around by a fake rabbit to celebrate a Christian holiday, and it’s an officially sanctioned event. Point being, in the overall scheme of things, it matters not and is strictly a ceremonial event for fun. Unless you screw it up. But because this group feels the need to reaffirm its existence every second of the day, the president says things like this to a group of non-adults. Awkward.
The Atlanta Hawks are afraid of the Washington Wizards. Every team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference is afraid of the Washington Wizards. Fans of the Washington Wizards are afraid of the Washington Wizards. By that I mean everyone knows they’ve got talent. They know they’ve got talent, and they know that you know that they know that. So they’ve taken a fun strategy in the playoffs: Beat people up and talk mega trash. I could not be more here for it. Paul Millsap is complaining because it’s too physical. News flash: Get used to it.
Coffee Break: Hey, if you play a superloud, screaming maniac on TV, don’t be surprised when people think that’s who you are in real life. Alex Jones, that InfoWars guy who you only hear about when he’s going nuts about the conspiracy theory du jour, says it’s all an act, but his ex-wife thinks he’s crazy.
Snack Time: A coming-of-age movie on a Caribbean island that involves a goat? Sure, I’ll give them some money. They need it to get it done.
Dessert: If you still weren’t in the mood for baseball season, just watch this.
Daily Dose: 4/14/17
James Baldwin’s papers find new home in Harlem
9:56 AMQuick announcement: On Saturday from noon-2 p.m. EDT, Aaron Dodson and I will be hosting an ESPN Radio special for the 70th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day. Should be a fun one, kiddos!
The United States dropped on a bomb on Afghanistan. It’s still not really clear why. According to officials, 36 ISIS fighters were killed, but judging from the size of the bomb, who knows how many other people died in the attack. The bomb has a nickname — “Mother of All Bombs” — which in itself is a bit scary as a concept, both the title and the shorthand for explosives. It’s the largest non-nuclear device of its kind used in combat. Here are the details on exactly how it was deployed.
How much of James Baldwin’s work are you familiar with? In the new movie I Am Not Your Negro, the legendary author’s last work is explored through the eyes of today’s news and societal progress in America. But that’s just one movie that reflects one unfinished book. He had plenty of other published works and private papers, which will soon be on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, thanks to his estate. In general, the concept of being important enough to have “private papers” is pretty dope.
If you’re into weed, Canada might be the place for you. Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made good on a campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana use in the country with something called the Cannabis Act. It’ll be up to each province to figure out how it wants to regulate things, which will lead to some interesting political discussions across that country. But it’s not all bongs and vape clouds. The penalties for breaking the rules will be pretty stringent, considering that growing and smoking it will no longer be illegal.
It always interests me what non-playoff NBA teams do once the tournament starts. Plenty of teams miss a chance to get a title and the panic that ensues is intriguing. For example, the Orlando Magic fired its general manager. Granted, it hasn’t been to the postseason in five years. And the Los Angeles Lakers sort of screwed themselves by ending their season on a winning streak, but they say they have a plan in case they don’t get a top 3 pick. But come on, it’s the NBA. There’s no way they don’t find a way for Lonzo Ball to end up at the Staples Center.
Coffee Break: The greatest American comedy of all time, for my money, is Coming to America. Now that a sequel is officially in development, some people are nervous about how it could affect the legacy of the previous film. Good news, though, the original writers are actually back on board.
Snack Time: You know your cable news network has a branding problem when a local station, in Boston no less, doesn’t even want your name in its broadcasts.
Dessert: The new trailer for the Dear White People Netflix show is incredible. Can’t wait for this show.
Daily Dose: 4/13/17
Maxine Waters will not be undersold
12:30 PMI’m still upset about Charlie Murphy. Know that when Domonique Foxworth, Mina Kimes and I first started The Morning Roast, Habitual Line Steppers was a show name that we strongly considered calling the program. RIP.
The first time I heard Maxine Waters’ name, it was in a song. As a high schooler in the 1990s, I was massively into Rawkus Records and basically everything they released. One such project was the Lyricist Lounge tape, and there was a track called “C.I.A.” with KRS-One, Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha and Last Emperor. It was peak rap/rock if you even want to get into all that, but whatever. “I want all my daughters to be like Maxine Waters” was one line from KRS. Anyway, she’s the only one in Congress truly standing up to the president.
When black women disappear and nobody bats an eye. We know this. On the totem pole of “people whom society considers important,” they are lowest. Now, we have a very disturbing tale of another black woman whose life ended under questionable circumstances. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was the first black woman to serve on New York state’s highest court. She was found dead on the bank of the Hudson River. She was from D.C. and graduated from Columbia Law School. This is a really sad story.
Just so you know, “grooming” is a word for animals. When you go get your hair cut, you are not being groomed. Anyway, some people take this SUPER seriously when it comes to their dogs. And for as much of a “do you” person as I am, folks who decide to make absurd caricatures of animals creep me out. If you are paying people money to dye your dog’s hair, that’s weird. Sorry, it just is. But because I feel that these monsters need to be exposed, here’s a bunch of pictures of wackos doing psycho stuff to animals that have no choice.
We all know how we feel about Gucci Mane. In short, he’s the gawd. Now that his life is in complete makeover mode, people forget about Goon Guwap. The streets will never forget his contributions. On that note, let us never forget the time that someone orchestrated an elaborate hoax that involved him saying, “I might be” to a judge when asked whether he was guilty of a crime. That’s what came to mind when Carmelo Anthony was asked about getting traded by the Knicks and he said, “They might.”
Coffee Break: You know how Fox News is constantly doing all those “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE DOING ON SPRING BREAK?!?!?!” segments? Now Bill O’Reilly is the one going on spring break since advertisers are pulling out of his show left and right.
Snack Time: I feel like there are life-changing GIFs that come out every week. Maybe I’m too attached to that medium. Or perhaps this is just the golden era of GIFs and you can never take that away from me! Check it out.
Dessert: When this movie comes to your town, go see it. Trust me.