Tom Benoit / Arts and Entertainment Editor

Following “Alright,” Kendrick continues his internal struggle on the interlude “For Sale?,” which is about the battle Kendrick fights to not give in to the materialism of the industry. As an antagonist figure, Kendrick personifies this with the character Lucy, referring to the devil Lucifer. Interestingly, this song is very much a sales pitch from Lucy to Kendrick with the intro from Bilal serving as a haunting warning while beautiful trumpets, keyboards and alto saxophones amongst other things can be heard in the background.

From there, we move onto Kendrick, once again, expertly altering his voice on the chorus to portray himself as Lucy trying to get to him. After this chorus, we get a short verse where Kendrick describes the way that Lucy tries to persuade him with lines such as, “I remember you took me to the mall last week, baby. You looked me in my eyes about four, five times. Til’ I was hypnotized, then you clarified. That I (want you).” Here, Kendrick is pointing to the seductive nature that Lucy (greed, temptation, etc. ) has on new celebrities such as himself.

Another thing to consider is that many rappers also have come up from incredibly poor environments so, naturally, they’ll want to use some money when they eventually get it, which makes this temptation Kendrick discusses all the more tragic. Kendrick, however, ends the first verse not giving in because he believes this temptation will be the death of him

Kendrick, as Lucy, proceeds to counter and hauntingly gets the last words on the track. The second verse begins by Lucy talking kindly to Kendrick by saying all the things that she can do for him, but takes a darker turn by the end of the verse. She shifts her tone and begins telling Kendrick that he and his faith have no power to stop her with the following lines, “Kendrick, Lucy don’t slack a minute, Lucy work harder. Lucy gon’ call you even when Lucy know you love your father. I’m Lucy, I loosely heard prayers on your first album, truly. Lucy don’t mind, ‘cause at the end of the day you’ll pursue me.”

The verse then closes with Lucy telling Kendrick to sign a contract to sell his soul with an interesting “if that’s possible” at the end, just to add to the seduction. Another connection that I see is the way that all of this can be interpreted as a sales pitch to sign a record deal as well, which I feel like is no coincidence due to the prior mentioned connections with other rappers growing up in poor environments thus leading them to waste their money on material things while also getting the short end of the stick from record labels.

To me, this song’s production is also very representative of somebody on the outside looking in thinking, “man I wish that was me” but then once they actually get there, they realize the darkness behind it. I think that this is a very effective message and a relatable one at that, as it can be associated with fame, popularity and many other areas in life. The dark turn in the production, as the poem once again returns, also shows this effect and brings us to the next track, “Momma.”

“Momma” is yet another false positive track with Kendrick’s first verse being about his come up in the industry, his incredible lyricism and being happy to be home. Kendrick continues feeling himself on the next verse with multiple claims of knowing everything about all sorts of subjects, but then quickly switches his tone when he realizes he doesn’t know anything about the struggles of his own home.

On the final verse, we come to realize that Kendrick is in fact talking about a visit to Africa due to the lines, “I used to watch on channel five, TV was taken. But never mind, you’re here right now, don’t you mistake it. It’s just a new trip, take a glimpse of your family ancestor. Make a new list of everything you thought was progress. And that was bulls-.” This is Kendrick talking to a young boy he met on the trip who shows Kendrick how little he truly knows about where his ancestors lived. Here, the boy is telling Kendrick that everything positive Kendrick thought he did, actually has changed nothing.

Outside of the narrative of the song, I think the last two lines are especially strong. This is one of the standout bars for me on the track and album because it’s just so real. Prior to this year, we all liked to pretend that racism is a thing of the past, it’s something our ancestors did and it’s not really around anymore, but I think this line is so strong because we still have a lot of work to do.

The verse ends with a bit of hope with the little boy telling Kendrick to tell his friends in the hood to return to their roots and culture that was stripped away from them. Once Kendrick has this final verse of realization, the track takes a turn for the dark as he begins frantically rapping and calling out to Lucy for the corruption that he already sees in himself.

Speaking purely on the sound of the song; it is beautiful. The singing from Lalah Hathaway sounds amazing on its own but when it perfectly syncs to the end of the chorus, it becomes a standout moment on the album.The second part of the song isn’t quite as pretty but fits the frantic vibe Kendrick is trying to set very well. Kendrick’s flow and rhyme scheme on this track are also incredible with Kendrick showing why he’s considered one of the best.

From “Momma” we head into “Hood Politics,” which focuses on a young Kendrick dealing with survivor’s guilt and rapping about politics as well as the music industry. The song begins with a voicemail message from one of Kendrick’s old friends who is trying to pull him back into his old way of life. This takes place over a fantastic sample instrumental from the song, “All For Myself” by Sufjan Stevens.

The theme of survivor’s guilt is present in the chorus of the song along with the first verse where he talks about not wanting to give in to rap politics and how his friend isn’t coming back to life. The rest of the verse along with the whole song have a lot of similarities with the previously mentioned “Backseat Freestyle,” because a lot of it is just Kendrick spitting bars right as he first got famous. Due to this, much of it is very braggadocious including the ending of the song with Kendrick basically just saying how much influence he has.

There is one standout part lyrically, however, and that is near the end of Kendrick’s second verse. “From Compton to Congress, set trippin’ all around. Ain’t nothin’ new, but a flu of new Demo-Crips and Re-Blood-licans. Red state versus a blue state, which one you governin’?.”

I love this comparison because oftentimes I see people let differences in political opinion affect friendships and just let it divide them from other people, very similarly to what many of these hood gangs that Kendrick’s referring to, do. I also think that it’s especially potent now because this upcoming election has been so divisive. People on both sides are very much drawing lines in the sand and the pandemic isn’t helping either.

It is robbing people of the chance to truly try to understand the perspectives of those with different opinions by keeping them away from those opportunities for conversation. Social media also only adds fuel to the fire by giving people these very black and white headlines that make them think that the other side are monsters.

I mentioned the pandemic at the beginning of the review and I think it is relevant to the type of division that Kendrick is talking about here. I am also aware that I just raised a big problem that isn’t easy to solve but I think that as this review goes on some of what Kendrick talks about will provide insight.

Back to the song, however, I think it’s a pretty good song that maybe could have benefitted from a more creative beat. On the other hand I do think that Kendrick’s verses are very good and he has some very cool bars that overall make this a fun song. The poem then returns at the end and it’s perhaps the most chilling transition yet as we enter “How Much A Dollar Cost?”
With this song, Kendrick puts his narrative ability on full display to tell a story about him refusing to give money to a homeless man he ran into. The first verse begins with Kendrick talking about his luxury car and overall just alluding to his wealth. He then runs into a homeless man asking for money but refuses to because he is convinced the man will use it for crack. After Kendrick denies, the homeless man simply asks for one dollar where Kendrick still refuses, which carries into the second verse.

In my opinion, this next verse and the verse after that is Kendrick excellently portraying himself at his most corrupted due to lines such as ,“I should distance myself, I should keep it relentless. My selfishness is what got me here, who the f- I’m kidding? So I’ma tell you like I told the last bum. Crumbs and pennies, I need all of mines. And I recognize this type of panhandlin’ all the time.” Here, we see Kendrick is not giving this man any kind of benefit of the doubt by literally refusing to give anything.

More standout lines from the song include, “And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy. He looked at me and said, ‘Your potential is bittersweet.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Every nickel is mines to keep.’” These lines stand out for me because I think that it is something that applies to a lot of celebrities who use their money on pointless material gain instead of giving back to their communities.

Their potential is bittersweet because they have the money and influence to work to really make a difference but instead, the greed sets in.

And that’s what this song is inherently about; greed. Once the homeless man realizes he’s not getting through to Kendrick he finally says what the whole song had been hinting at to this point,“You’re looking at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit The nerve of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost. The price of having a spot in heaven, embrace your loss-I am God.” I think this is an excellent and pretty ironic twist for the song to take. Kendrick had been so corrupted by being “surrounded” by the “evils of Lucy” that once he truly comes face to face with his lord, he can’t see it and lets his greed control him.

I think this is one of the best songs on the album, and maybe one of the best rap songs of all time. Each greed-filled Kendrick verse is spaced between absolutely beautiful singing by James Fauntleroy where he speaks from God’s perspective basically once again telling Kendrick to stick to his roots. In addition, the production very much goes along with the theme of greed because it almost sounds exactly like a whip cracking. To me, this seems to be symbolic of successful people becoming slaves to their greed.

After the homeless man’s reveal, Kendrick realizes the corruption (through gorgeous singing by Ronald Isley) he’s allowed to come over him and begs God to ask what he can do. On the next song, Kendrick gives us the answer as the album seemingly begins to take a more positive turn.


Cristian Valentin can be contacted at:

Share and Enjoy !


Leave a Reply