If the continued positive reception of Kendrick Lamar’s new album is any indication, it looks like we have another K-dot masterpiece on our hands. With 13 Grammys in his trophy cabinet, the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist is considered one of the greatest rappers of our generation.
But many may not know that in addition to his mastery of lyricism and flow, Kendrick Lamar has also released some jaw-dropping music videos over the years. Here are our top five picks:
This lead single from Lamar’s 2012 album “good kid, mAd City,” showcases the rapper’s struggle with alcoholism, with images of an abandoned house, club and swimming pool, where Kendrick Lamar accidentally falls before being rescued. Aided by lyrics like “I grew up around some people living their lives in bottles” and “Grandpa had the vial of gold, backstroke every day in Chicago,” “Swimming Pools” is a class of master in visual storytelling.
How many rappers can take credit for inspiring a generation? With lyrics that turn stoic with the Black Lives Matter chant, the music video for “Alright” serves as a visual commentary on the discrimination faced by African Americans. Not surprisingly then, directors Collin Tilley and The Little Homies (pseudonyms of Kendrick Lamar himself and Dave Free) won the Grammy for Best Direction in 2015.
3) King Kunta
Not all of Kendrick’s videos have been a visual allegory for social discrimination. In “King Kunta” which is inspired by Dr. Dre’s “Still DRE” video, rapper Kendrick can be seen fittingly seated on his Compton throne surrounded by his friends. The square-framed video directed by Director X (Hotline Bling, Work) is a tribute to Kendrick’s experience growing up on the streets of Compton.
There are far too many visual references to analyze in this debut single from SLIM. Of a Kendrick Lamar dressed as a cardinal praying in a church with the obvious “The Last Supper” plan, the video is anything but humble about the rapper’s storytelling ability.
Perhaps the most visually striking music video of his career, “Element” directed by Jonas Lindstroem and The Little Homies gives you a glimpse into the urban life of African Americans that many might not identify with. With clips of fathers teaching their sons how to fight to see the bloody aftermath of a fight, each image in “Element” is packed with detail. A YouTuber named Nerdwriter1 gave a brilliant analysis of the set, which we can only recommend.
(Image credits: Top Dawg Entertainment)