A roundtable discussion on Kendrick Lamar’s new album

Kendrick Lamar shook the hip-hop world to its core last week with the release of new single “The Heart Pt. 4,” which hinted at a release date of April 7 for the rap regent’s forthcoming new album. With rumours swirling of a new single to be released that very night (“Humble” was indeed dropped to much fanfare shortly after we finished recording), five of McGill’s biggest Kendrick die-hards sat down to discuss our hopes and expectations for the album. 

(Note: the following conversation has been edited for duration and clarity)

ENM: First of all, what are you hoping the new album will sound like?

ZS: Sonically, I’d love him to explore some of the sounds we heard on untitled unmastered, particularly tracks two and seven, which were massive standouts for me. I don’t want him to do anything too complex like on To Pimp a Butterfly (TPAB), but something a little more accessible. 

ENM: See, I’m on the other side. I want him to go more experimental and out there. 

GH: Even untitled was just B-sides from TPAB. I don’t think he’d want to make the same album three times in a row.

JF: Totally, but I do hope there’s that underlying complexity where it’s a concept album and there’s a lot to sink your teeth into conceptually. That’s what I really like about Kendrick Lamar as opposed to other artists.

DA: I feel like I don’t need the afro-futurism angle of TPAB again. I found that sound immediately accessible, but what I really thought made the album have lasting power was the lyrical density. All the different themes of blackness, sexuality, Christianity, and coming of age gave it staying power for me. untitled unmastered had a lot of bangers though, so I guess I could have it both ways.

ENM: What do you think the album will sound like? Do you think your hopes will be fulfilled?

ZS: To be honest, I’m not really sure. I thought it was interesting how he switched up the beat on “The Heart pt. 4” like he was doing a cypher or a freestyle, but it doesn’t give me any indication about where he’s going to go.

ENM: What little we’ve got to go on is pretty vague. Producer Syk Sense, who’s apparently heard the album, says it’s going to sound like a mixture of L.A. and Memphis production so I think it’s safe to say this is going to [be] a harder album in terms of production style.

GH: I’ll be happy if he goes over some Southern screwed and chopped instrumentals. That’d be super interesting. At this point, he can go towards so many directions sonically that you never know what he’s going to do.

ENM: I just hope he doesn’t make an album of just bangers. I think he can do more than that.

DA: Well, would you classify Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (GKMC) as that? Like end to end, that’s pretty much bangers, but it’s still a ridiculously complex album.

ENM: See, I don’t think that’s in the same league as TPAB.

DA: The beats on GKMC were less developed. At times on TPAB, the narrative elements were interesting but almost overwrought in a way that can be distracting.

GH: I was actually a really big fan of that. Like when we found out he was talking to Tupac at the very end, that was awesome. Right now, he’s the best at telling a story and making it well-realized within the context of the album.

JF: That’s true. Now you’re seeing people like Drake, Future, and the Weeknd are making huge albums designed to get streams. On More Life, you can pick and choose what songs you want to listen to, but Kendrick’s albums have to be listened to from beginning to end. 

ENM: Let’s talk politics. Kendrick went really political on his last record and things have only gotten worse politically. He can’t really go more political than he’s been in the past, but do you guys want a Trump diss album?

ZS: I don’t really want to hear him talk about Trump at all on this record. I’m not sure what new information he’s going to reveal unless he actually knows what the Russians are doing. I’m not sure if that’s going to bring something fresh to the table. I want to see him go personal, with political elements within that. It would be cool to hear more about his relationship with God, for example.

ENM: Do you guys see him going in a gospel tinged, Chance the Rapper-ish direction then?

JF: I hope not, I didn’t like Colouring Book.

DA: I feel like Kendrick’s a lot more complicated than Chance. I can’t see him spouting these unanimously positive lines. 

ENM: You don’t want an entire album of “I,” which is what that would be.

JF: If he does go in that direction, I think it’ll be part of the broader narrative of the album. Same with Trump.

ENM: Let’s talk about the new single that is supposedly dropping tonight [March 30]. It’s rumoured to be produced by Mike WiLL Made-It, which is a surprising choice for an artist of Kendrick’s stature. What do people think of Kendrick working with a more traditional producer?

GH: I don’t see a problem with it. He’s showed in the past that he can work with producers like that.

ENM: Mike WiLL Made-It is a more versatile producer than people give him credit for, too.

DA: Yeah, I mean he produced Beyoncé’s “Formation,” which had a crazy beat.

JF: I think there’d have to be some kind of compromise between Mike and Kendrick. If it’s Kendrick it’s generally not super traditional.

GH: Are we not going to talk about how he’s taking shots at Drake and Big Sean?

ZS: Yeah, it’s good to see someone taking shots at Drake. As good as Drake is, he’s not that proficient at what he does.

ENM: Regardless of your opinion of him, I think we can all agree that Drake does not want a feud with Kendrick Lamar.

JF: Kendrick would kill him. 

DA: I don’t even want Kendrick to be feuding with Drake. There are better ways to spend your time.

GH: Even worse would be a Big Sean beef. That’s pointless. He’s just kind of discount, dollar store Drake. I wouldn’t mind one call out verse though. 

ENM: Yeah, mostly though, I just hope this record is different than what he put out before and different than what’s out there. 

GH: It will be.

DA: It’s a testament to his consistency that none of us are even worrying that it could be, like, bad. 

GH: Kendrick always finds a way.

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