Kendrick Lamar is a multiplicity of many things. His voice is a medley of different modulations with him getting excitable, suspicious, grave, jovial, wry and crass all at once. Lamar is not intimidated with the rise of his stardom of musical career, however, the flood light of attention directed to him when his ‘Money Trees’ came out was parried by his hands in a video shot of him in the same song. Lamar is a performer who could sight a reveller in the midst of crowd and would command him to remove his headset.
Is Lamar not really writing his autofiction in “DAMN.” Lamar’s fourth album, which scored double-platinum sales this week, pushes the artist further toward flamboyance. (Lamar still honors his foundational interest: uncovering black people in poses of grandeur and of precariousness. The video for “ELEMENT.” brings to life photographs of the legendary Harlem photographer Gordon Parks.) The creation of evolving personae has generally been considered the province of pop artists. Rappers, uniquely burdened by vague standards of authenticity, have cultivated complex, performative autofictions. Tupac, Lamar’s technical model, fashioned himself the sagacious Californian Makaveli; Flying Lotus, Lamar’s associate, metamorphosed into an animated strongman named Captain Murphy. For the past month, Jay-Z has been serializing the videos attendant to “4:44,” packaging the load of a much-appraised biography in the glamour of myth.
One should also note his emphasis of Lamar in his use of ‘I’ in his fourth album. In “Loyalty”, he equals himself doubling the voice of Rihanna thus: “I’m a savage, I’m asshole…”. Not so far from another track suggests this could be Lamar’s autofiction is his “DNA”. He keeps repeating his personality, identity and symbol this anthemic song: “I got, I got, I got, royalty, loyalty inside my DNA.”