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Be Humble: Kendrick Lamar's 10 Most Introspective Music Moments

Every generation is impacted by the collective efforts of the people.

Every generation is impacted by the collective efforts of the people. There has always been a chosen few who’s words and actions are transcendent and can break the mold or set the tone for the people to follow, sparking progressive movements and new, refreshing ways of thinking. Both can be said of Kendrick Lamar, rap’s preeminent poet of the moment, who has emerged as one of the more significant artists to rise to power in quite some time. With a decade of rapping under his belt and a body of work that includes standout P’s (Kendrick Lamar EP), mixtape (Overly Dedicated), and albums (good kid, m.A.A.d. city, To Pimp a Butterfly), the Compton native has build a track record for excellence since catching the rap world's attention in 2009.

Far from your token rapper, Kendrick Lamar is an MC in a class of his own, with all of the skills and wrinkles that comprise the make-up of a legend, a role which he’s prepared himself to step into. Shunning the materialism, incessant misogyny, and nihilism that has once again become more of the norm in the mainstream, K.Dot offers a refreshing alternative, although he is as apt as delivering party-centric tunes of his own as he is with leaving listeners in a spellbound stat after on of his rhyme spills. However, Kendrick is at his best when tapping into his more cerebral and introspective side, as he does on many of his more celebrated compositions, where he tackles inner demons and idle thoughts while giving the public a piece of himself. Whereas many artists are content with charades of invincibility and what manhood means, Kendrick Lamar has found power in his vulnerability, enabling him to speak to the hearts of men without sacrificing his ability to move the needle.

With the release of his long-awaited third studio album, now is as good as a time to look back at a few of the instances where Kendrick was transparent in his view of himself and the world around him. Here are 10 of the most introspective moments in Kendrick Lamar’s career thus far.

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1. Cut You Off

"I’m tryna learn something new/I’m tryna find myself, I’m searching deep for Kendrick Lamar,” the Compton native spits on “Cut You Off,” a standout selection from the rapper’s 2010 mixtape, Overly Dedicated. Produced by Tae Beast, “Cut You Off” finds Kendrick lamenting the negative energy that engulfs his everyday life and his desire to free himself from it and those who possess it. Giving a rundown of family and friends that he finds particularly draining, Kendrick processes his thoughts about himself and his own desires while juxtaposing that with the concerns of others, before concluding that although family can sometimes take a toll on his mental, he remains loyal to those he has loves, for better of worse.

2. U

To Pimp A Butterfly was received as a universal classic upon its release, with a murderers row of high-powered material, but among the more intriguing songs on the album was “U,” which captures Kendrick Lamar in a highly vulnerable state. Chanting “loving you is complicated,” a charge that is directed at himself, Kendrick gradually barks at himself, listing his shortcomings and perceived failures in life while downplaying the significance of his success. Drunk and on the brink of suicide, Kendrick turns in his most striking performance on “U,” cutting beneath the surface and getting to the root of his depression and survivors guilt.

3. Vanity Slaves

His first release after adopting his birth name as his rap moniker, Kendrick Lamar EP amounted to the calm before the storm that would be the rapper’s rise to prominence. One of the project’s most intense offerings is “Vanity Slaves,” a track that tackles his own materialism and how the ostentatious ways of black Americans can be explained as a byproduct of slavery, equating our need to floss and how it can control us to the chains that left us physically captive. Lines like “I care about my pride too much, if my clothes is new, if my ride is plush/If my hair is cut, if my diamonds is crushed, I look in the mirror, I’m trendy enough?” speak to the insecurity and shallow ways of black Americans today, which Kendrick himself also owns up to while noting his own hypocrisy in the process.

4. Poe Mans Dreams

“I used to wanna see the penitentiary right after elementary/Thought it was cool to look the judge in his face when he sentence me,” Kendrick reveals on "Poe Mans Drams", from his breakthrough project, Section 80, which helped put his career on the fast track. One of the more subdued moments on the Section 80, “Poe Mans Dreams” is a trip through the mind of the lyricist, which touches on incarcerated relatives and friends, the influence his father has on his artistry, and the mental and spiritual fatigue that life can bring. Produced by Willie B, “Poe Mans Drams” captures Kendrick in his analytical zone and stands as one of his more visceral moments of introspect.

5. Bi**h Don’t Kill My Vibe

One of Kendrick Lamar’s signature songs to date is “Bi**h Don’t Kill My Vibe,” from his debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city that also doubles as one of his most cerebral efforts. Produced by Sounwave, “Bi**h Don’t Kill My Vibe” finds Kendrick baring his spiritual wounds and rapping “fell on my face and I wok with a scar, another mistake living deep in my heart/Wear it on top of my sleeve in a flick, I can admit that it did look like yours.” He also shares his disdain for the addiction that is fame. Despite not initially being tapped as a single, the song’s organic popularity among Kendrick’s fans created the demand for it to be put in rotation, making it one of the more thoughtful hit records to find a haven on the Billboard charts.

6. Momma

On "Momma," a sublime number from To Pimp a Butterfly, bombastic bass and off-kilter snares serve as the canvas Kendrick Lamar creates on. Going into his memory bank and giving accounts of past experiences and emotions K.Dot draws from the lessons his mother and the streets of Compton instilled in him, such as wisdom, generosity, and healthy spiritual values. Showing his sentimental appreciation for home, Kendrick Lamar reflection is internal on "Momma," a masterful outing from the trusty wordsmith.

7. Good Kid

Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, was full of insightful moments. “Good Kid” is another trip through the mind of the Compton rap deity. Produced by and featuring Pharrell, the track captures K.Dot making sense of his constant struggle for survival in his gang-infested stomping grounds, and the pressure that comes with. “I got animosity building, it’s probably big as a building/Jumping off of the roof is me just playing it safe,” Kendrick muses, as he acknowledges the turbulence of his environment and how he copes with it all.

8. Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)

Purpose and spirituality are the topics at hand on “Kush & Corinthians (His Pain),” a deep cut from Section 80 on which Kendrick does a bit of soul-searching and questioning his role and destiny in life. Powered by a brooding backdrop, courtesy of producer Wyldfyer, and featuring vocals from BJ the Chicago Kid, “Kush & Corinthians” is an often overlooked, but essential selection that delves into the mentality of Kendrick Lamar.

9. The Heart Pt. 2

Kendrick Lamar utilizes a clip from a Dash Snow interview for the intro to “The Heart Pt. 2,” the introductory section from his Overly Dedicated mixtape. Borrowing an instrumental from The Roots to do his bidding over, K. Dot delivers one of the definitive stanzas of his rap reign thus far. A mix of stream-of-consciousness and introspection, “The Heart Pt. 2” is comprised of various observations about the world around him and himself, and his desire to understand it all.  "Really I’m just caught up in the loop of understanding the truth because it seems like it's always clashing with science" rhymes while voicing his hopes that his rhymes make an impact beyond the streets of Compton. Kendrick wowed the crowd with “The Heart Pt. 2,” a pivotal musical moment for the young MC.

10. ROTC

A guitar-laden standout from Overly Dedicated, “ROTC” is a frenetic cut that captures a pre-stardom Kendrick Lamar voicing his impatience with his path to greatness and the ill-advised temptations that occasionally entice him. “This is me, frustrated, battling my own ego,” he admits as he breaks down his grind and the lack of income he’s garnered in comparison to his dope-dealing and gun-toting homies as well as conjured thoughts of his plight. Ultimately diminishing that status and promising to stay the course, Kendrick Lamar scores another thought-provoking selection, as he delves inward yet again, with effective results.

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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