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Friday, June 8, 2012

Track of the Moment: Hiiipower by Kendrick Lamar

I know, I’m not supposed to do rap/hip-hop as my track of the moment. However, due to Elliott’s recent admission that rap has its merits, along with my excitement for the release of his first studio album Good Kid in a Mad City sometime this year, I think it’s time to talk about the best rapper of all time again, if only in a condensed form.

I’ve already said a lot back when I featured him a few months ago. Go read through that article if you want a fuller picture of Kendrick Lamar (or if you like doing the right thing, because I have your grandma tied up in the Writer’s Cellar, and will only set her free if you read that article). But the short version that no one has ever been as good as he is, and I can’t imagine too many more being better than him in the future. If nothing else, his lyrical density and delivery on tracks can lift songs from standard hip-hop track to something that brings you to a higher plane of existence. The best thing I can equate it to is the movie Inception – on the surface, it’s fun and exciting and anyone can enjoy it with little thought. But the way it’s presented hints at just enough intelligence and depth that its message and thoughtfulness to be absorbed, and makes you want to revisit it to get more out of it (Rambo: First Blood is Jay-z; stupid fun on the surface, but a sharp social critique hidden well below that. Soulja Boy is any Uwe Ball film. Aesop Rock is The Seventh Seal. This is fun, I have to do this more often).

To get the most out of a K. Dot, you have to listen to him multiple times, and have his lyrics up on Rap Genius. The sheer artistry, intelligence, craft, and care of his lyrics are amazing, and it’s truly stunning example of the lofty height hip-hop can reach. “Hiiipower” is part of that example. With a smooth, slow drum beat that features a lot of hi-hats and a wobbly piano-synth, it instills a certain regality to it to match Kendrick’s lyrics. And his lyrics are amazing (like usual). From the intro (“The sky is falling, the wind is calling/Stand for something or die in the morning”) to the hook talking about a different figure of the Civil Rights movement to the verses about raising up the black community out of the ghetto. As I said last time, each “i” in hiiipower stands heart, honor, and respect, and are actively reflected in this song. There’s enough braggadocio in there to keep a casual rap fan hooked, but more than enough brilliance to create an incredibly thoughtful work of art.

I don’t care if you don’t like rap. Kendrick Lamar transcends rap, and should be heard by anyone who cares about music as an artistic expression.

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