Kendrick Lamar’s New Song ‘The Heart Part 5’ Is a Heart Wrenching Tribute to the Power of Forgiveness
Show love to your community, and great things will follow.
Kendrick Lamar is back with new single “The Heart Part 5”, the newest installation in his recurring The Heart series. The release marks the announcement of his forthcoming album ‘Mr Morale & The Big Steppers’ and his return to music since the critically acclaimed DAMN! was released in 2018. The anticipation has been high and the 34 year old Los Angeles based artist gifted his fans a 5:32 record accompanied with a powerful video.
With production duo Beach Noise providing instrumentation, Kendrick raps over a chopped sample of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” a song originally released in 1976 that served as a romantic tribute to Janis Hunter, Gaye’s wife. The video, both starring and directed by Lamar with longtime collaborator Dave Free, is minimal and performance based. Lamar stands afront a red screen, wearing a white shirt and blue bandana around his neck, passionately rapping along with the record.
The twist is, as the lyrics progress, Lamar, using deep fake special effects, morphs into a cast of black male cultural figures such as OJ Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant, and Nipsey Hussle. Lamar, known for lyrical depth and symbolism, matches the lyrics with the history of each respective celebrity that appears on screen, making a larger statement about the current climate of North American culture. With this in mind, one could assume that the intention for the record came hand in hand with the visual concept.
Kendrick Lamar’s Perspective
Lamar begins with the statement, “as I get a little older, I realize life is perspective and my perspective may differ from yours.” In The Heart Part 5, this perspective extends beyond himself and onto the men who appear via deep fake, all of whom have made a cultural impact in recent history. Lamar both pays homage to leaders, such as Nipsey Hussle, and questions the integrity of egoists, such as Will Smith, all while empathizing with the pressures of celebrity.
There is much to unpack in Lamar’s new record, a social commentary that could be analyzed from a variety of different angles. This article will focus specifically on verse three, when Lamar and the late Nipsey Hussle exchange moments; riffing on fate, community, forgiveness, and hope.
Nipsey Hussle, a famous hip-hop artist and community activist was fatally shot in front of his own store in South Central Los Angeles in 2019. Lamar reflects on finding out Nipsey had passed, “I’m in Argentina wiping my tears, full of confusion, water in between us another peer has been executed” he pauses and further professes, “but that’s the culture, hard to deal with the pain when you’re sober, by tomorrow we forget the remains and start over.”
This is an extremely vulnerable moment as Kendrick brings forth the idea of a cultural cycle within his own community, one that is desensitized to gun violence, turning to drugs to mourn loss.
Nipsey Hussle: The Immortal Empath
Similar to Lamar, Hussle grew up in South Central, and like Lamar, is known for fighting injustice and addressing socio economic issues within his music. Both artists were community leaders in their respective Los Angeles neighborhoods, donating money back to the streets they grew up on, providing young men with opportunities to break out of a poverty cycle that has negatively impacted people of color in the United States. Later In the video, after reflecting on his passing, Kendrick deep fakes as Hussle; speaking from his perspective; “To my brother, to my kids, I’m in Heaven, to my mother, to my sis, I’m in Heaven, to my father, to my wife, I am serious, this is Heaven.”
Kendrick, as Hussle, is speaking directly to his family and letting them know that, not only is he in heaven, in fact, heaven does exist, professing that beyond death, there is peace. Kendrick has chosen to paint the picture of a utopian afterlife, one that juxtaposes the violence of South Central Los Angeles. Kendrick views Hussle as a man of empathy and righteousness, one that, even in his own death, would forgive his murderer, “and to the killer that sped up my demise, I forgive you, just know your soul’s In question, I seen the pain In your pupil, when that trigger had squeezed, and though you did me gruesome, I was surely relieved.”
Kendrick recognizes that the senseless violence, which has taken so many people he’s known, as well as Hussle, is rooted in anger, connecting to a larger issue of institutionalized racism in America, a systemic pattern that has made it difficult for people of color to afford higher education, access healthcare and seek job opportunities. Hussle forgives his killer, seeing the pain in his eyes, attempting to understand the struggle he’s gone through, blaming a system instead of an individual. Hussle’s murderer was in the same gang as him, Rollin’ 90s, and was also a rapper, although his music never caught on in the same way Hussle’s did.
Some speculate that the reasoning for the killing was out of jealousy for Hussle’s success. This brings us back to the sample featured on the record, Marvin Gaye, who, similarly, faced his demise at age forty-four, when his own father shot him in 1984, echoing the situation that Hussle faced, as Gaye’s father was fueled with jealousy and resentment.
Hussle goes on to say, “I completed my mission, wasn’t ready to leave, but fulfilled my days, my creator was pleased,” expressing that he lived a good life, one where his “mission” was giving back to the community he grew up in, positioning his priorities as giving back to his family and community.
Kendrick as Hussle, ends the track with this powerful sentiment, “and to my neighborhood, let the good prevail, make sure them babies and them lead us outta jail, look for salvation when troubles get real, ’cause you can’t help the world until you help yourself,” explaining that change must come from within and begin locally.
Show love to your community and to your family first, work on yourself, and the rest of the world will follow. Kendrick paints an incredible picture of Hussle, one of forgiveness and empathy, one that individuals should follow as a model for themselves.