As he prepares for the Friday, May 13th release of Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, Compton-native rapper Kendrick Lamar has continued a long-running tradition with a new single “The Heart Part 5”. The track, which marks Lamar’s first non-soundtrack solo output in five years, arrived on Sunday along with an eerie, deepfake music video featuring glimpses of various controversial Black cultural figures.
“The Heart Part 5” is the latest in a series of “The Heart” singles dating back to 2010. Starting with the release of “The Heart Part 3” in 2012, each new installment has preceded the arrival of a new Kendrick Lamar album: Part 3, which featured Lamar’s Black Hippy cohorts Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, heralded the arrival of good kid, m.A.A.d. city, while “The Heart Part 4” arrived just weeks before 2017’s DAMN.
The new video begins with a simple message—”I am. All of us.”—signed by “oklama,” the alias Kendrick has used in his sporadic updates about the long-awaited album over the past year. As he works his inimitable cadences around a sparse Latin-jazz groove borrowed from Marvin Gaye‘s “I Want You”, Lamar offers a fresh contemplation of the cyclical “culture” of Black-on-Black violence, both on the streets and in the public eye. As he goes, Kendrick’s forlorn frown morphs into the faces of a string of famous figures including O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, and Will Smith, all influential figures in Black culture whose relative falls from grace seem to embody that vicious cycle: “In the land where hurt people hurt more people,” he raps, “f— calling it culture.”
The final verse features more deepfake cameos, this time from fondly remembered (though far from un-blemished) L.A. heroes Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle, as Kendrick seems to contemplate his own life and legacy, hinting at the fine lines that separate the greats from the pariahs, the old legends from the gone-too-soon, while attempting to reconcile his survivor’s guilt with an eye toward the greater good.
As Lamar says while wearing the face of Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down in 2019, “I can’t blame the hood the day that I was killed / Y’all had to see it, that’s the only way to feel / And though my physical won’t reap the benefits / The energy that carries on emits still.”
Of note, the deepfake animation for the Kendrick Lamar- and Dave Free-directed video was provided by DEEP VOODOO, the studio run by South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Early this year, Deadline reported that Lamar, Free, and their production company, pgLang, would join forces with Parker and Stone to produce a new live-action film for Paramount Pictures. The comedy will reportedly follow a young Black man interning as a “slave reenactor at a living history museum” who finds out that his white girlfriend’s ancestors owned his.
Watch the video for “The Heart Part 5” by Kendrick Lamar below. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is due to arrive this Friday, May 13th. For more updates, keep an eye on Kendrick’s official “Oklama” website.
Kendrick Lamar – “The Heart Part 5” (Official Video)
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers pic.twitter.com/tLcJDyNxVe
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) May 11, 2022