i (I Love Myself) by Kendrick Lamar
“I LOVE MYSELF!”
These are the three words TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) artist Kendrick Lamar has engraved into his listeners’ ears with his latest single, “i”. Two years removed from the release of his arguably classic debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. City, Kendrick Lamar has catapulted himself back into the spotlight with a catchy tune that promotes self-love, after a prolonged period of flying noticeably below the radar. Albeit, he has undoubtedly satisfied his fans with numerous guest verses within that time (who could forget his infamous name-calling rambling on Big Sean’s “Control” or his two-minute wordplay-filled rant during TDE’s BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher or his speedy nonchalant flow over Flying Lotus’ futuristic production on “Never Catch Me”). However, hip-hop heads across the globe have been yearning for a new single from the Compton based emcee and self-proclaimed “King of New York”. They received just that when “i” was released, but it was not what a majority of them were expecting.
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Those that expected gritty, hard-hitting rhyming from Kendrick Lamar were in for quite a surprise.
Beginning with a somewhat preachy monologue from an unknown evangelist and a robotic voice repeatedly announcing “This is a world premiere!”, Kendrick Lamar’s “i” is a fast-paced funk-inspired track that proudly announces Lamar’s return to the modern hip-hop scene. The sample of a classic Isley Brothers record (“That Lady”) with a hypnotic guitar twang, flashy snares, groovy bass, along with other subtle yet effective sonic aspects complements Kendrick’s high-pitched, nasally flow nicely. In the first few lines of the song, Kendrick raps, “I have been through a whole lot/Trials, tribulations but I know God/Satan wanna put me in a bowtie/Pray that the holy water don’t go dry, yay yay!” This leads up to the recurring head-bobbing hook “I love myself!”, Kendrick affirming in between that he is negligent to the problems of the world and that he has an optimistic output on life despite troubles that he may encounter.
Many so-called “music enthusiasts” have been disappointed and even outraged with the track. They believe that the song is an adulterating change of tone from Kendrick’s previous works that have captured his listeners’ hearts. However, “i” shouldn’t be regarded as anything but a positive sign for the album to come. In a radio industry currently dominated by the “New Atlanta” wave and one-hit wonders, “i” is quite literally a positive step for mainstream hip-hop. Why not have a motivational suicide prevention anthem blasting through your speakers while you’re crusing down the road? Kendrick has admitted that he made this song for his “homies in the cell that feel like they have nothing to live for” and the “kids at shows with slash marks on their arms”. Why bash sanguinity?
“i”, if had to be compared to anything, would be closely similar to a track Andre 3000 would have produced in the early 2000’s. In fact, hip-hop has not heard anything of this nature sonically (mainstream, at least) since OutKast. Evolution is key for any artist, and I am quite intrigued to see if Kendrick’s upcoming album will keep up the level of experimentation that is displayed on“i”. Until then, every time “i” comes on the radio, I will find myself inexplicably screaming “I love myself!” along with Lamar.