Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart Part 5: A Lyrical Deep Dive and Cultural Touchstone

by Alex Harris

12th May, 2024

Kendrick Lamar's The Heart Part 5: A Lyrical Deep Dive and Cultural Touchstone

On May 8th, 2022, Kendrick Lamar unexpectedly released the powerful new song The Heart Part 5.

It served as the lead single for his acclaimed album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers and continued his tradition of profound lyricism and visuals in The Heart series.

Kendrick Lamar Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers album cover
Kendrick Lamar Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers album cover

Release Details and Background

The Heart Part 5 arrived nearly 5 years after Lamar’s previous solo release. It is the 5th installment of his “The Heart” series, following “The Heart Part 4” in 2017.

The surprise drop came via Lamar’s labels, pgLang, Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath, and Interscope.

Kendrick Lamar wrote the song alongside producers Johnny Kosich, Matt Schaeffer, and Jake Kosich (Beach Noise).

It interpolates Marvin Gaye’s 1976 hit “I Want You” and features posthumous writing credits for Gaye, Leon Ware, and Arthur “T-Boy” Ross.

The song quickly resonated with critics, garnering five Grammy nominations and ultimately securing wins for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.

The song emerged from a period of intense creative energy for Kendrick Lamar.

After announcing his departure from Top Dawg Entertainment in August 2021, he unveiled the title and release date of his fifth studio album in April 2022.

The anticipation surrounding the project intensified with the mysterious “The Heart” page appearing on his website, hinting at the arrival of something significant.

Musically, The Heart Part 5 is a tapestry woven with threads of conscious hip hop, soulful melodies, and jazz-infused harmonies.

The song features a poignant sample from Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” which Kendrick Lamar reimagines as a call-and-response with the culture he addresses.

Deeply Layered “The Heart Part 5” Lyrics Exploring Perspective

The Heart Part 5 continues Lamar’s powerful conscious rap style by providing thought-provoking social commentary.

The Heart Part 5 lyrics delve into themes of African-American culture, systemic discrimination, empathy, death, and depression from multiple vantage points.

He confronts the harsh realities faced by those born into a cycle of hardship where desensitisation and survival are paramount.

In the chorus, Kendrick Lamar flips Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” on its head, replacing a romantic yearning with a plea for recognition and reciprocation from the very community he champions.

This shift from the personal to the communal is a recurring theme throughout the song.

The second verse, delivered through a deepfake of O.J. Simpson, delves into the complexities of fame and notoriety within black culture.

Simpson’s mention of a “bulletproof Rover” echoes his infamous Bronco chase, highlighting the duality of being both celebrated and vilified.

The song’s most poignant moment arrives in the third verse, where Kendrick Lamar channels the spirit of his close friend, Nipsey Hussle.

This verse is a message of forgiveness, reflection, and a call for community empowerment, leaving a lasting impact on listeners.

A Powerful Deepfake Music Video

The haunting music video, directed by Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free, utilises deepfake technology to have him transform into six prominent black figures: O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Jussie Smollett, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant, and Nipsey Hussle.

Each deep-fake persona delivers a verse reflecting their experiences and perspectives.

For example, West’s verse touches on his mental health struggles, while Hussle’s poignant section is framed as his final words after being killed.

The creative deepfakes were produced by the team behind South Park, adding an unexpected layer to Kendrick Lamar’s already striking visuals.

The song’s cover art further deepens its connection to the music video, featuring the hands of the six figures Kendrick Lamar embodies: Will Smith, Kanye West, O.J. Simpson, Nipsey Hussle, Jussie Smollett, and Kobe Bryant.

Each hand holds up five fingers, symbolising this installment in the “The Heart” series and further blurring the lines between Lamar and the figures he portrays.

The Heart Part 5 received widespread critical acclaim, with particular praise for Lamar’s tribute to Nipsey Hussle.

It was hailed as a heart stopping call for uplifted humanity.

Through its layered lyrics and striking visuals, The Heart Part 5 firmly establishes Kendrick Lamar’s place as a mature voice, providing crucial perspective in hip-hop.

Its nuanced exploration of viewpoints, both personal and cultural, makes it a must-listen highlight.

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Kendrick Lamar The Heart Part 5 Lyrics

Intro: Kendrick Lamar
As I get a little older, I realize life is perspective
And my perspective may differ from yours
I wanna say thank you to everyone that’s been down with me
All my fans, all my beautiful fans
Anyone who’s ever gave me a listen, all my people

Verse 1: Kendrick Lamar
I come from a generation of pain, where murder is minor
Rebellious and Margielas’ll chip you for designer
Belt buckles and clout, overzealous if prone to violence

Make the wrong turn, be it will or the wheel alignment
Residue burned, mist of the inner-city
Miscommunication to keep homi’ detective busy
No protection is risky
Desensitized, I vandalized pain, covered up and camouflaged
Get used to hearin’ arsenal rain
Analyze, risk your life, take the charge
Homies done fucked your baby mama once you hit the yard
That’s culture
Twenty-three hour lockdown, then somebody called
Said your lil’ nephew was shot down, the culture’s involved
I done seen niggas do seventeen, hit the halfway house
Get out and get his brains blown out, lookin’ to buy some weed
Car wash is played out, new GoFundMe accounts’ll proceed
A brand-new victim’ll shatter those dreams
The culture

Chorus: Kendrick Lamar with Marvin Gaye
(I want, I want, I want, I want)
But I want you to want me too (I want, I want, I want, I want)
I want the hood to want me back (I want, I want, I want, I want)
I want the hood
Look what I done for you (Look what I done for you)
Look what I done for you

Verse 2: Kendrick Lamar
I said I do this for my culture
To let y’all know what a nigga look like in a bulletproof Rover
In my mama’s sofa was a doo-doo popper
Hair trigger, walk up closer, ain’t no Photoshoppin’
Friends bipolar, grab you by your pockets
No option if you froze up, always play the offense
Niggas goin’ to work and sellin’ work, late for work
Workin’ late, prayin’ for work, but he on paperwork
That’s the culture, point the finger, promote ya
Remote location, witness protection, they gon’ hold ya
The streets got me fucked up, y’all can miss me
I wanna represent for us
New revolution was up and movin’
I’m in Argentina wiping my tears, full of confusion
Water in between us, another peer’s been executed
History repeats again
Make amends, then find a nigga with the same skin to do it
But that’s the culture, crack a bottle
Hard to deal with the pain when you’re sober
By tomorrow, we forget the remains, we start over
That’s the problem

Our foundation was trained to accept whatever follows
Dehumanized, insensitive
Scrutinize the way we live for you and I
Enemies shook my hand, I can promise I’ll meet you
In the land where no equal is your equal
Never say I ain’t told ya, nah
In the land where hurt people hurt more people
Fuck callin’ it culture

Chorus: Kendrick Lamar with Marvin Gaye
(I want, I want, I want, I want)
But I want you to want me too (I want, I want, I want, I want)
I want the hood to want me back (I want, I want, I want, I want)
I want the hood
Look what I done for you (Look what I done for you)
Look what I done for you

Interlude: Kendrick Lamar
Take the drums out

[Verse 3: Kendrick Lamar]
Celebrate new life when it come back around
The purpose is in the lessons we learnin’ now
Sacrifice personal gain over everything
Just to see the next generation better than ours
I wasn’t perfect, the skin I was in had truly suffered
Temptation, impatience, everything that the body nurtures
I felt the good, I felt the bad, and I felt the worry
But all-in-all, my productivity had stayed urgent
Face your fears, always knew that I would make it here
Where the energy is magnified and persevered
Consciousness is synchronized and crystal-clear
Euphoria is glorified and made His
Reflectin’ on my life and what I done
Paid dues, made rules, change outta love
Them same views made schools change curriculums
But didn’t change me starin’ down the barrel of the gun
Should I feel resentful I didn’t see my full potential?
Should I feel regret about the good that I was into?
Everything is everything, this ain’t coincidental
I woke up that morning with more heart to give you
As I bleed through the speakers, feel my presence
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
To my friends, make sure you countin’ them blessings
To my fans, make sure you make them investments
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
I completed my mission, wasn’t ready to leave
But fulfilled my days, my Creator was pleased
I can’t stress how I love y’all
I don’t need to be in flesh just to hug y’all
The memories recollect just because y’all
Celebrate me with respect
The unity we protect is above all
And Sam, I’ll be watchin’ over you
Make sure my kids watch all my interviews
Make sure you live out our dreams we produced
Keep that genius in your brain on the move
And to my neighborhood, let the good prevail
Make sure them babies and the leaders outta jail
Look for salvation when troubles get real
‘Cause you can’t help the world until you help yourself
And I can’t blame the hood the day that I was killed
Y’all had to see it, that’s the only way to feel
And though my physical won’t reap the benefits
The energy that carry on emits still
I want you

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