Whether he’s flying over the streets of LA or submerged in its watery depths, you can always trust Kendrick Lamar to make music videos that amplify the messages in his music. Alongside Dave Free, the president of Kendrick’s label Top Dawg Entertainment, the Compton MC is part of a directing duo known as The Little Homies who have had a hand in the majority of his videos, including ‘Alright’, ‘Humble’ and ‘For Free?’. His latest, ‘ELEMENT.‘ is no exception – but what are his best vids ever? Here are five you can’t miss.
5. Swimming Pools
The lead single from Kendrick’s major label debut, 2012’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d. city’, is all about his relationship with alcohol: “I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles,” he begins, “Granddaddy had the golden flask, backstroke every day in Chicago.” The accompanying vid is fittingly cinematic and boozy, flitting between a derelict house, a club scene and the titular swimming pool of alcohol dependency, which Kendrick unwillingly tumbles into before being rescued.
4. For Free?
This motormouthed bebop interlude is Kendrick’s favourite from his masterful 2015 album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. “Oh America, you bad bitch,” he spits at its close, “I picked cotton that made you rich, now my dick ain’t free.” Its hilarious accompanying video continues to hammer home that message as multiple Kendricks pop up around his mansion, one in Uncle Sam’s costume, to remind America of that very fact again and again.
3. King Kunta
Inspired by Dr Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E.‘ video and directed by Director X (the same guy behind Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ and Rihanna’s ‘Work’ videos) this square-framed clip for ‘King Kunta’ has Kendrick rightfully on his Compton throne. He’s said the actors surrounding him and hyping him are friends who still live in his hometown.
The lead single from ‘DAMN.‘ arrived in bulldozing music video form. There are almost too many visual highlights to choose from: a cardinal-dressed Kendrick praying in a church; teeing off in a storm-drain; seated with his friends like half of da Vinci’s The Last Supper; standing calmly with his head on fire; rapping studiously into a camera as it swivels madly around him. No need for humility here.
With lyrics that became a stoic Black Lives Matter chant, ‘Alright’ received an appropriately massive video that throws together police, street dancers, molotov cocktails and horrific arrests. As Kendrick flies above LA, he’s shot down by police, and his lingering smile at the end is an iconic reaction of both despair and hope. Unsurprisingly directors Collin Tilley and The Little Homies scooped the Grammy for Best Direction in 2015.