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Kendrick Lamar brings "the Heart" back to rap in epic comeback

Ralph Bristout

 // Mar 24, 2017

Mack Pittman // REVOLT

In the week of August 12 2013, Kendrick Lamar went straight for the crown on a little song called "Control." Two months later, he polished that point at the BET Hip Hop Awards with a screed that went as follows: "I got my thumb on Hip Hop and my foot in the back of yo ass / Aftermath get the last laugh."

In the years since the arrival of his triumphant 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city, the Compton rapper has unarguably thawed the battery that keeps hip-hop going: competition. Yes, he's made this message clear even prior to that, like in 2010 when he uttered the words "I'm the best rapper alive" in the seconds after tossing smart-alecky jabs at the best of the bests ("I'm going after Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and Nas") in a 2010 freestyle over Kanye West's "Monster," but in the year's since his major label debut, the rap game is no longer at the campfire singing in "kumbaya." And those who still are at this aforesaid fireplace holding hands, Kendrick isn't. About 12 hours ago, the Compton-bred rap firebrand unleashed a five-minute PSA of that fact on a new song, "The Heart Part 4."

Arriving in hours after he posted a cryptic photo of the Roman numeral "IV" photo on Instagram, drawing attention to the possibility of a 2017 album release, Kendrick's fourth installment in his ongoing "The Heart" series once again reiterates the points he laid out in "Monster," "Control" and the famous BET Cypher: "I am the greatest rapper alive."

Comprised of four parts, à la the song's title, "The Heart Part 4" finds the rap raging bull once again doing his due diligence, only this time he pairs this tenacity with all several moving parts that mirror the themes of his last three albums: societal awareness of Section.80, the spiritual yearnings of good kid, the social and spiritual centers of To Pimp A Butterfly. Performing like a literal heart, these elements are pumped through this rhythmic dilation. Urgent and uncompromising, the rapper takes this approach all while attempting to make sense of this chaotic reality. "Market's about to crash... Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab / Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel punk, tell 'em that God coming / and Russia need a replay button, y'all up to something."

Elsewhere, this urgency begs hallejauh when he sneers, "I put my foot on the gas, head on the floor / Hoppin' out before the vehicle crash, I'm on a roll / Yellin' one, two, three, four, five, I am the greatest rapper alive / So damn great, motherfucker, I've died / What you hearin' now is a paranormal vibe."

This sprawling sequence from friendly to menace, democrat to autocrat, uniter to divider, normal to paranormal paints the portrait of an artist bringing together all his characteristics to form a clear picture of his ultimate objective: being the greatest.

"My spot is solidified if you ask me

My name is identified as "that king"

I'll let y'all worry about a list

I'm on some other shit"

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