When it comes to the art of masterful and vivid storytelling, no-one is slicker than the incredible rap juggernaut Kendrick Lamar. Throughout his rap tenure, the 34-year-old has always been revolutionary with the way he regenerates musically. His peers may strive to become the best lyricists around, but Kendrick has always done that and more year on year. Now, with his first solo single in five years, Kenny’s comeback single full of heart as he observes the world around him.
As seen in the announcement of Lamar’s fifth album, the imminent ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’, and confirmed in this first single’s music video, ‘The Heart 5’ introduces us to Kendrick’s newest persona, Oklama. There are many theories about the name, including that is a play on Barack Obama’s name. On ‘The Heart Part 5’, this seems to be the best definition. Over the Marvin Gaye-sampling track, Oklama plays with the original sentiment of Gaye’s disco-y Motown crossover track ‘I Want You’, where – instead of a lover – he wants his “hood to want [him] back”.
In essence, Lamar’s comeback takes a political stance, which is similar to his second album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ — hence the reference Obama, who was in the White House when it was released. Like the 44th president, Kendrick is an emotive speaker and ‘The Heart Part 5’ finds him trying to get his crime-riddled neighbourhood to change: “In the land where hurt people hurt more people / Fuck callin’ it culture”.
Oklama seems to be the evolved version of Kenny from the aforementioned ‘TPAB’, where Kendrick’s critical eye helped him see where his community is flawed – on this single, though, Lamar speaks more plainly and there’s even greater empathy in his pen. With the rapper stepping into the role of fallen soldiers – like his friend Nipsey Hustle, who portrayed in the single’s accompanying music video – ‘The Heart Part 5’ is just as immersive as it is emotional: “As I bleed through the speakers, feel my presence / To my brother, to my kids, I’m in Heaven”.
In the final version of his form (he’s said this will be his last album on the Top Dawg Entertainment label), Lamar – or Oklama – is taking ownership of his elder role in the rap world. He sees his influence and now wants to be a voice of reason and morality, not just a coveted rap star.
On his studio debut, 2012’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, hungry trying to make it out of the ‘hood, Kendrick got rid of K.Dot persona, his adolescent early rap persona. On ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Lamar was Kenny, showing the world what a rebellious anarchist he could be. ‘DAMN’ was the era of Kung-Fu Kenny, as we truly got to see Kendrick himself. Now, if ‘The Heart Part 5’ is anything to go by, we should get excited to hear the wisdom of Oklama on ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’.