“PRIDE.” by Kendrick Lamar

Song of the Week

“PRIDE.” by Kendrick Lamar was released on Lamar’s album “DAMN.” in 2017. The 34-year-old rapper writes and produces all of his discography, including “PRIDE.”, with help from collaborators. The most recognizable song Lamar has released is “HUMBLE.”. It’s a headbanger from “DAMN.” that got in total 49.8 million streams. “HUMBLE.” is a masterpiece but “PRIDE.” has more metaphorical meat to it and an important message which is why I chose to write about it. Pride is defined as a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction from one’s own achievements or the achievements of others close to oneself. Let’s see what Lamar has to say about it.

Kendrick Lamar: The DAMN. Tour @ TD Garden (Boston, MA)
“Kendrick Lamar: The DAMN. Tour @ TD Garden (Boston, MA)” by kennyysun is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In this intoxicating piece Lamar sews together fluttering chorus harmonies with his lyrically intimate verses. The intro begins with two lines that demand attention. “Love’s gonna get you killed / But pride’s gonna be the death of you and you and me”. The intro glides forward with a warped echo of the words you and me and me and you. Pride is collectively agreed upon to be an unattractive trait for a person to have. In the bible it is the worst sin and it’s even mentioned in other forms of modern media like the song by J.cole titled “pride.is.the.devil”. It’s something everyone has in them somewhere it’s simply more prominent in some than others. Furthermore, We are all aware of how love can bring out the best and worst in people. Love is emotionally evoking enough but Lamar makes the point that as intense as love is, pride is what can leave you dwelling in regret.

In the chorus with the help of Steve Lacy, Lamar exposes an internal monologue where he fluidly slides between his lisping thoughts. “Me, I wasn’t taught to share, but care / In another life, I surely was there / … / I care I care”. Pride is a sneaky sensation that can leave you accidentally dulling your other feelings. Lamar’s subconscious insecurity slips through as he has to remind himself that he cares for others. I conceptualize his mention of another life as something that feels like it belongs apart of his identity but for some reason is not an obvious trait about him. In this case it’s his consideration of others that he wants to be more obvious about him. He’s lost but facing the right direction. Looking inside yourself is the best way to find your way to who you wanna be.

Lamar’s introspective journey continues as he ventures into the caverns of his inner thoughts to listen and pay attention to the unanswerable questions that are debated. “Hell-raising, wheel-chasing, new worldly possessions / Flesh-making, spirit-breaking, which one would you lesson? / The better part, the human heart, you love ’em or dissect ’em / Happiness or flashiness? / How do you serve the question”? The first line is Lamar poetically expressing his interpretation of what a free and bougie life is like. Doing what you want when you want and reveling in that hedonism. Next, he speaks on what I believe to be about starting a family and the labor that comes with that experience. Two sides of the same coin and watching it spin in the air allows little time for Lamar to find true north. The use of the word lesson is important here as well because he implies he wants to teach from his experiences once he has them. What advice would you preach?

With his wording, it seems obvious that he doesn’t want the option that could potentially be spirit-breaking. The better part of that path is the unconditional love and support from a family. Furthermore, Should we be accepting this love or finding ways to manipulate/dissect the hearts of others in order to get ahead in this competition led world? Another crossroads with two logical steps and no way of taking both. You can decide to care and be an altruistic humanitarian or decide that your okay residing on the edge of morality to get ahead. The question is are you happy. When Lamar asks how you serve the question he is really asking if flashiness is the same as happiness. If you have all of the flashy things in life will you truly be happy with that even without the better part of the human heart?

Kendrick Lamar - Øyafestivalen 2013
“Kendrick Lamar – Øyafestivalen 2013” by NRK P3 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A recurring theme throughout the rippling song is this idea of a perfect world and him debating his own need for flawlessness while accepting his imperfection. “See, in a perfect world, I would be perfect, world / I don’t trust people enough beyond they surface, world / I don’t love people enough to put my faith in man / I put my faith in these lyrics”. In a perfect world we would not have to worry about deception from others and everyone would always choose that path of altruism Lamar mentioned earlier. The only reason for debate over which path to follow is the fact that you know others are going to go for the kill. The only way to be ready is harbor that distrust and the only way to do that is to not fully surrender yourself to a life of walking on sunshine wherever you go. It is a troubling whirlpool to get stuck in. Lamar chooses to pursue his music and see where it leads as a postponement of his decision.

The verse ends with Lamar’s sluggish words swiftly spinning in line with the hypnotic beat. “I’m willing to give up a leg and arm to show empathy from / Pity parties and functions of you and yours / … / I can’t fake humble just ’cause your ass is insecure”. He starts with a statement that implies an excruciating need to show empathy but claims that people don’t deserve what he has to offer by his use of words like pity party. It’s not a perfect world and maybe he feels that in the past when he has shown empathy the recipient was not being as genuine with their need for it in the first place. He ends with one of my favorite lines saying that its not his or anyone’s job to take care of another person’s insecurities. Sensitivity is kind but you shouldn’t have to change yourself for others while being respectful.

Kendrick Lamar: The DAMN. Tour @ TD Garden (Boston, MA)
“Kendrick Lamar: The DAMN. Tour @ TD Garden (Boston, MA)” by kennyysun is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The final section is the second verse which continues with similar themes. The one difference is Lamar conjures up a few solutions as to how he wants to fix the problems he sees and answers some of his own questions, “Race barriers make inferior of you and I / … / I’ll choose faith over riches / I’ll choose work over bitches, I’ll make schools out of prison / I’ll take all the religions and put ’em all in one service / Just to tell ’em we ain’t shit”. The perfect world Lamar urges us to walk towards is one with no racism, faith in humanity, and hard work. There are some solutions we all know are there but yet don’t act on like the state of American prisons. We should focus on re-educating rather than confinement. Furthermore, Religion has so much power to help people in hard times and give people that faith in humanity we all wish was there but we still mess that up sometimes too. In the end, We all have to choose our path eventually but maybe we can help some people on the way!

That’s what I think the song is about! What would you preach to reach a perfect world?

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