“Where’s the aggression?” “Well this isn’t the Control verse”. “What is he, Macklemore?” I’ve heard an array of emotions expressed when it comes to the newest single from Kendrick Lamar, “I”. My first thoughts as I listened to this song were that people may be disappointed, but you still have to allow yourself to be receptive to it. It’s definitely a departure from his previous material – that much I’ll agree with. While I admittedly was expecting a wild and aggressive first single, I thought to myself that “I” was the exact response that Lamar wanted to give with fans who were expecting another “Control”. See, he’s a methodical rapper (just remember the concept with Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city) and coming off the response from that album, he has plenty to be happy about.
“Everybody lookin at you crazy/what you goin do?/lift up your head and keep moving/what you goin do?” This song is a declaration of self-love and confidence. Complete with the twangy guitar sample from The Isley Brothers‘ “Who’s That Lady”, Lamar shows that he is comfortable in his own skin. You can even take it a step further to see that he is comfortable in making a song that might gain crossover appeal with a positive message despite with the die-hard hip-hop fans might say. There is a time to be aggressive with gusto and bravatto which seems like the type of rap records that get the most recognized, but wouldn’t it kill anybody to hear something different?
It’s not the rap version of “Happy” – I don’t think it’s THAT catchy. “I” did exactly what it needed to do. In a music genre where some of the main participants jar at each other for many reasons (funny, that’s what Control did), it’s good to see a rap artist that is cool within himself.”Everybody lack confidence/how many times my potential was anonymous?” In anticipation for his much prized second album, Lamar has a calm belief in himself and admits the chaos that the world (or some people who listen to this single) may give him.
It’s the “first” song off the album and these usually try to reach and grab the biggest audience. I have no doubt that with subsequent songs, we are going to receive the raw and intricate side of Kendrick Lamar. For now, Lamar has earned the right to take a brief victory lap before running another race. Stop calling it a “comeback” single. I don’t think Kendrick ever left.