“Muh’fuckas go all day, tryin’ to please other people and shit. And you forget, you got to please your star player: the muh’fucka that’s in the mirror lookin’ at you every goddamn day. That needs to be the muh’fucka you concerned about.” – Katt Williams
Katt Williams had the right idea back in 2008, though he may not have put it as artfully as Kendrick Lamar. On his new single “i,” TDE’s star player has inadvertently (or perhaps purposely) offered us the remedy to all that is wrong in the world. Reviving the long-professed yet short-lived idea that self-love is paramount, K. Dot’s love letter to himself comes at a time when we all need to follow suit.
In a world where the mighty Internet steers the ship, society’s bullshit is on display more than ever; the killing of a Black man on New York City street corner is just as accessible as naked photos of famous women. And while K. Dot may not have gone the impulsive, expressive route of his rap cohort J. Cole with a quick response, it is clear that he is aware. Asserting on his song’s hook that “the world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs,” he reminds us all that we are both flawed and hypocritical. But nonetheless, the world can “do what it wants,” because Kendrick’s self-love reigns supreme afront his “dirty double-mirror.”
Illustrating our landscape with descriptions of war and hate, Kendrick takes notice of his hideous surroundings as the beauty of his resilience shines through. Weaving deep thoughts and a wildly catchy hook into a backdrop Rahki assures is accessible to everyone via guitars and an Isley Brothers classic, “i” is like that time your mother slipped medicine in your pudding. As we happily chant props to ourselves, Kendrick has just dropped off the key to fixing our boo-boos. He knows “everybody lack confidence,” but what if we all really loved ourselves? What a wonderful world, word to Louie Armstrong.
And he knows that, sadly, self-love is no easy task. Kendrick goes to war with himself in the song’s final verse, letting us in on the fact that he’s “been dealing with depression ever since an adolescent,” failing to develop his negatives. Yet the hopefulness remains intact as he vows to tough it out so that we can give his “story to the children and the lesson they can read.” It’s the cure that keeps on curing.
The song’s intro says it best: “He’s not a rapper, he’s a writer, he’s an author! And if you read between the lines, we’ll learn how to love one another! But you can’t do that without loving yourself first.”