Last week, I listened to Kendrick Lamar’s new single “I.” After an initial listen, I always playback a track in case it needs to grow on me. Before I start, I have to admit, reading the YouTube comments filled with backlash from his “core fan base” is ironic yet hilarious. I’m not mad at Kdot for giving a positive, funky, yet conscious radio single. He’s not selling out, at least not yet, and I don’t mind him not lyrically decimating a banging instrumental.
Speaking of instrumentals, all snaps for the Isley Brothers sample. Sonically this track possesses a Cee-Lo/Travie McCoy/LoveBelow-Three stacks vibe. This song is made to attract new audiences and mainstream radio play, and an artist generally isn’t wrong for doing so. Listen to J. Cole’s Breakfast Club interview after Born Sinner dropped; he broke down the understanding of how hard it is to make a single geared towards radio and mainstream clout (talking about Love Songs featuring Miguel in his situation). If those YouTube users were actually Kendrick’s fans they’d respect his growth from a top-flight lyricist to a top flight artist.
What gets more intriguing is his lyrical content. Because he isn’t taking shots or displaying lyrical virtuosity doesn’t mean you can sleep on the verses. The second verse ends with the lines,
"Dreams of realities peace
Blow steam in the face of the beast
The sky can fall down, the wind can cry now
The strong in me, I still smile.”
The entire song invokes a message for expressing positivity in ourselves and in others. The opening skit lets you know exactly what the track entails with the usual informal introduction of Kendrick.
Most people expect another “G.o.o.d Kid M.a.a.d City” with Kdot’s third album. If he hits that mark or raises the bar, he ushers himself into hip-hop’s elite, if not ahead of it. But a classic resembling “Section 80” isn’t so bad as well. If you compare his sophomore album to his other projects, GKMC sounded like years of preparation and tweaking to perfection; so expectations need to simmer. “I” has the sort of “Hol’ Up” feel to it, and if you feel like Kendrick fell off with this new single, as he’d say on the “EP” mixtape, “Let Me Be Me”—let Kendrick do Kendrick it’ll work out anyways.