6 am on Wednesday morning, I’m sifting through all the press releases that have come through my inbox overnight.
One headline sticks out to me. I stare at it, rub my eyes, blink a few times, stare a bit more, wonder if I’m still half asleep or possibly dreaming.
“Maroon 5 to debut new single featuring Kendrick Lamar.”
It’s confusing at first. Very, very, very confusing. Maroon 5 aren’t exactly the kind of guys you’d expect to collaborate with Lamar, or any rapper at all.
But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
To be clear, I’m not slamming anyone here. We’ve written extensively about the stupidity and entitlement of musical elitism. But come on, a Kendrick Lamar and Maroon 5 collaboration must surely raise more than a few fucking eyebrows.
Kendrick Lamar is an extremely prolific collaborator, and has featured on about 130 songs since 2010 (not including his own releases). This year alone he’s featured on tracks from Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, ScHoolboy Q, Danny Brown, Kanye West, Isaiah Rashad, Travis Scott, Mac Miller, Funkadelic, Sia and DJ Khaled.
About 97% of his features have been on hip-hop or R&B tracks, but recently he’s begun to branch out. We all know about his Taylor Swift feature last year, and there’s that new track with the amazingly talented Sia.
Truthfully, he’s kind of shot himself in the foot with everything he’s achieved post-To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick Lamar has been pitted as this immensely important, conscious, serious rapper on a mission for social and political change. He doesn’t release party songs. He doesn’t advocate getting faded, he doesn’t have any of those “bitches on my dick” lyrics, and h sure as hell isn’t getting embroiled in drug, violence or sex-related controversies. Add to this the collaborations with Beyoncé, Funkadelic and Frank Ocean, not to mention those on his own songs.
On top of that are the Grammy and BET wins, am extensive bromance with President Barack Obama, a tremendously charitable approach to schools, education, social justice, the Compton community, etc.
By and large, he is untouchable.
This has all elevated him to such a high moral and musical pedestal that when he goes and features on songs like Danny Brown’s Really Doe, which contains a one track minded verse from Danny with lyrics such as “that hoe want my piccolo,” “Mouth all on my genitals, sucking on it like she be getting vitamins and minerals” and “I be on the chemicals, she be on my testicles, poke her with my tentacle,” or Bad Blood, featuring pop music’s biggest liar and a pseudo-BDSM-themed video clip starring Lamar alongside Swift’s leggy celeb posse, it feels more than a little strange.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with releasing whatever the hell kind of music you like – again, this is not a criticism, just an observation – but you HAVE to admit that some of these features make you scratch your head. Especially now that he’s working with pop music. You can’t help but wonder how he chooses his features. It’s not like he needs to do features to make money, it’s not like his level of respect doesn’t allow him the opportunity to be more selective. Does he just really love to collaborate? Is there anything particular about the song or artist that prompts him to agree to a feature? How does he choose these, and what’s the reasoning behind these massive pop songs? Is it just the money? Is it that he doesn’t really mind what he puts his name to outside of his own discography?
No shade here, just curiosity.
Anyway, the track comes out later today at 9pm California time. You can listen to a live Kendrick-less version below.