Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5” takes us from struggle to salvation

by Tanesha Peeples
Kendrick Lamar's "The Heart Part 5" takes us from struggle to salvation
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If you haven’t heard Kendrick Lamar’s new song The Heart Part 5, you need to get in tune asap. 

Hailing from Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar released his first mixtape titled Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year) in 2004 at the age of 16. At the time he went by the pseudonym, K. Dot.

By 2011, the industry knew him as Kendrick Lamar and he was dubbed the New King of the West Coast by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. And in 2012, the world knew the genius of Kendrick Lamar through the release of his album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and debut banger, The Recipe.

Alright, let’s get to the newest joint.

Sampled from Marvin Gaye’s classic, I Want You, Lamar’s The Heart Part 5 is our new freedom song. His lyrics touch on a history of hardship for Black people in America – indoctrination, inequality and inferiority – and how those themes have manifested today. 

A hip-hop poet.

Our foundation was trained to accept whatever follows. Dehumanized, insensitive…Scrutinize the way we live for you and I.”

Kendrick Lamar talks about our community’s struggles with violence, incarceration, toxic coping mechanisms, loss of life, trauma and grief. 

Residue burned, mist of the inner-city. Miscommunication to keep homi’ detective busy…No protection is risky. Desensitized, I vandalized pain, covered up and camouflaged” 

And he speaks to the failures and injustices of the education system and its impact on Black boys and girls.

Paid dues, made rules, change outta love. Them same views made schools change curriculums, but didn’t change me starin’ down the barrel of that gun. Should I feel resentful I didn’t see my full potential?

Kendrick captures the lives and troubles of many Black people living in low-income communities.

Also, watching the video is like watching performance art. It’s different from those in the past like one of my favorites, Backstreet Freestyle, that incorporates nostalgic imagery from Kendrick’s hometown, Compton.

Kendrick Lamar's "The Heart Part 5" takes us from struggle to salvation

FILE – In this Oct. 8, 2016 file photo, Kendrick Lamar performs at Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Lamar’s third official studio album, “DAMN.” has sold over 1 million albums in just three weeks, and has spent all three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 albums chart. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

Artistic creativity illuminates message in Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart Part 5

In The Heart Part 5, Kendrick is standing against a blood-red screen and contorts his hands and  body to really make us feel and hear what he’s talking about.  At certain points, his face morphs into those of Kanye West, Will Smith, Jussie Smollet, Nipsey Hustle and OJ Simpson to personify the public and literal slaying of Black men. It’s symbolic of the world’s  – particularly the media’s  – disdain for and hatred of them.

And despite this harsh ass reality, Kendrick leaves room for hope and calls for love and a united community. He says:

Make sure you live all the dreams we produced, keep that genius in your brain on the move. And to my neighborhood, let the good prevail. Make sure them babies and them leaders outta jail. Look for salvation when troubles get real ’cause you can’t help the world until you help yourself.


But I want you to want me too (I want, I want, I want, I want)

I want the hood to want me back (I want, I want, I want, I want)

I want the hood.

In an industry full of entertainers performing for fame and money, Kendrick Lamar is the true hip-hop artist performing for purpose. He’s the lyricist, poet and revolutionary that we need more of. He’s our generation’s Gil Scott-Heron.

If Kendrick Lamar is giving us a preview of his new album with heat and real talk like this, I can’t wait until the full release at the end of this week. We need this representation of truth and hope through art. We need to know that we can overcome struggle and find salvation.


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