Home / Music & Arts / Single Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘i’

Single Review: Kendrick Lamar’s ‘i’

Kendrick Lamar performs onstage in Atlanta on Sept. 13.Paras Griffin/Getty Images Kendrick Lamar performs onstage in Atlanta on Sept. 13.

He may come straight outta Compton, but Kenrick Lamar considers himself a lover, not a fighter.

At least that’s how he casts himself on his hotly anticipated new single released Tuesday, titled “i.”

The song centers on the need for self-esteem, with encouraging verse like “everybody lack confidence/so I promise this/I love myself.”

Clearly, Lamar also loves The Isley Brothers. The song samples a thick slice of that act’s ’70s staple “Who’s That Lady,” complete with Ernie Isley’s classic, soaring guitar lead.

The single also proclaims Lamar’s elevated literary skills. “He’s not a rapper, he’s a writer,” goes an introductory voiceover. “If you read between the lines we’ll learn how to love one another.”

The warm lyrical point of view takes the opposite tone from Lamar’s high profile, and highly confrontational, single from last summer, “Control.” The words to that song went gunning for every other young rapper on the scene, from Wale to ASAP Rocky to Drake. It also found the Los Angeles-born Lamar declaring himself “the king of New York,” which rivaled Kanye for sheer chutzpah.

If nothing else, his dare made the song exciting. But  “i” has no such lure. It’s a summer song released a week too late, with a sample that’s way too familiar to intrigue. It’s the most rote recycle of an old hit this side of Nicki Minaj’s recent lift of Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

At least Lamar’s flow in the song impresses. He builds up a head of steam by the middle, which leads to the best part of the single, revealed in the final minute. Here, the Isley sample takes a back seat while the bass takes over, offering a fusion-style jazz solo that gives the song a freedom nowhere evident before.

Even with this last-minute save, the song ranks as disappointingly flighty from someone like Lamar. He arose as the most promising rapper of 2012 when he released his major label debut that year, “good kid, m.A.A.d. city.”

Let’s hope there’s more substance in his follow-up album, slated for release later this year.

jfarber@nydailynews.com

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Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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