Admittedly, I had to listen to and watch The Heart Part 5, at least 5 times, to grasp all that this brother is saying. First, I had to feel the beat as it resonated through my soul and I began to chair dance just feeling the vibe. Then, as I watched the video, I had to take in, value and appreciate his hair, thinking this brother knows that Natural Is Cool Enough. Then as I watched the faces changing, as his words washed over me and he repeatedly said the word culture, I realized that this is not just music but soul-stirring knowledge.
I visited Chengdu, China on many occasions and witnessed something called Face Changing, Bian Lian,which goes back at least 300 years. The technique is used in Sichuan (where Chengdu is located) as art in Opera performances. I am not saying that Kendrick's deep fake, face changes were based on Chinese culture, but the technique is reminiscent of a similar art form. Lamar took "face-changing" to another level as his face morphed to show us many of our brother's faces and offers us glimpses of their stories in this society that we live in.
I felt Black Love in Lamar's piece, deeply. "I am all of us" are the opening silent words, as he caresses himself gently, with sad eyes, at the opening of the video. It is at that moment, that his eyes and hair speak to us as Black people, naturally. He talks about the wisdom of getting older and points out that the reality is that "Life is Perspective." I paused there and thought, ain't that the truth. The older we get, the more we understand that fact. He continues to say that our perspectives differ. What you see is not necessarily what I see. He expresses gratitude, by thanking everyone who has been down with him. Those moments when we express gratitude are so deep, because being down with each other in this society, as Black people, is a challenge that is not always met, as we try to navigate through a system that was not designed for us. He speaks of his beautiful fans and anyone who has ever given him a lesson, hence life Teachers. I found that profound, because I have learned that we are getting lessons all day long, from almost everyone that we meet, both the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, based on our perspectives. If we think about it, almost everyone we encounter is a Teacher in some way, shape or form.
Then he takes off. He emerges out of his self-caress and begins to preach. He begins to preach like the brothers that many of us have known for all of our lives. He is in the proverbial pulpit, moving his arms, breaking it down with mind-blowing insight about the realities of life as a Black man in this nation. His rhythm and cadence makes you not only hear his words, but you feel them. They reverberate with his hands, his body and his movement--Kendrick movements--that help you to connect with him, mentally, spiritually and physically as you ponder whether you should dance, listen or both. I felt the need to move to the beats, but also listen, deeply. He repeatedly mentions culture as he spits out words that are a cacophony of insight and rhythm, combined soulfully with his physical movements. "The Culture" reverberates, as he embraces himself again while stating " I want you to want me too." Damn. You feel it. "I want the hood" he says. Doesn't everyone want to be wanted? It's a cry for gratitude and recognition of place and time that helps you understand his quandary about "the culture."
Then, the morphing starts. The "Face-Changing," deep fake technology begins with OJ and again he mentions "culture." Next is Kanye, as Lamar explores mental health, namely, the experience of being bi-polar, followed by Jessie Smollet and how the streets can swallowed him up, "the streets got me fucked up" to be exact. Next, we see the face of Will Smith and he states "in a land where hurt people hurt people, Fuck calling it Culture." Damn, I love that line. He implores us to look at this term culture and how it is used to codify the experience that Black people may experience, in a land where hurt and systemic pain prevail. Yes, I know that some people, including some Black people, don't want to hear that reality. Many believe we are in a post-racial society but that notion is so ludicrous that I liken it to the argument that the Egyptian Pharaohs were not Black and the pyramids were built by other than Black people. That is relegated to nonsensical conversation in my mind. I just rather send people with that warped sense of history to a timeline and a map. The same goes for systemic racism. Just read history, up to the present, and anyone will understand the truth. Why do hurt people hurt people is the salient question? I guess another question is where else does one put all that pain? He moves his body rhythmically as he again points out "I want you to want me too" Sometimes, it's impossible to see those people that really want us. Perhaps that is why Will Smith slapped Chris Rock because of confusion so deep that basically no one understands it, to the point that perhaps we can conclude that it wasn't real, even though we saw it with our own eyes. Was it Guerrilla Marketing or crazy pain, gone wild to the point that one brother, Willl Smith, hauled off and slapped another brother, Chris Rock, while millions watched on television? The slap recipient, just took it, without laughter. Laughter is normally Rock's gift to us, but we felt his pain. The "why" we will never know for sure, but we all felt that slap and many of us understood it, although it was extremely convoluted and some of us continue to love both of those brothers, because in a strange way, we get it.
Next, Lamar commands, "Take the drums out." He breathes, deeply, in and out, as if to prepare himself and all of us, for what is coming. You can feel the heaviness of what is about to emerge, which are the faces of Kobe Bryant, followed by Nipsy Hussle. We then hear resounding words, including lessons, sacrifice, temptation, heaven, patience, productivity, euphoria, regret, neighborhood, babies, genius, the hood, fears, energy, consciousness, my creator...so much is said. Through Lamar, Hussle says "And to the killer that sped up my demise I forgive you, just know your soul’s in question." That was an everything line for me. It helps one to understand that you do what you feel you need to do, but on a deeper level you will have to reckon with your actions. He points out "I can’t stress how I love y’all. I don’t need to be in flesh just to hug y’all." This is a profuse statement of Black love, in spite of it all, that goes beyond the physical realm. He's preaching. He's prophetic. To me, Lamar in his tribute to Hussle is saying what we all want to hear. "I want you." The fading of Lamar, in the form of Hussle, at the end of the video, reminds me of all of the fading pictures of my elder/ancestor family members who preached, loved, prayed, questioned, and used many of the Hussle tribute words above and who wanted me and all of our generations after as I want my husband, my children and my people, Black people, now and always. That's Black Love. For The Heart, Part V, thank you brother Kendrick.
Black people want you and each other. We have to just realize, THAT is the culture.