That first album used to be everything. That first album used to be used as an outlet of personal information, ups, downs, and moments for the masses to listen to and relate. But that first album of honesty has been a lost art. Mass collections of radio hits and label puppeteers have led the game astray. But maybe things are back on track with a project like good kid, m.A.A.d city hitting shelves and iTunes libraries.
This isn’t going to be a review of the album. Even though the album is great and worth purchase, I’m going to focus on one song; a song that is pivotal and necessary, a song that stands out more than any of the other tracks. The two-part track, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” is arguably one of the deepest tracks I’ve heard in some time, and speaking for you, that you might’ve ever laid ears on in some time as well.
The beginning of the track opens very casually with a melodic tone that soothes the body, a tone that plays in the background when you’re revealing deep revelations to someone of importance in your life.
In the first half of the track, “Sing About Me,” there are three voices: a friend of Kendrick’s who had just lost his brother, the sister of Keisha from the mixtape Section.80, and then Kendrick Lamar himself.
The first half of this track gives us more insight into the life of Kendrick Lamar. It was important that we not only hear his side (his voice), but also the voice of others who are connected and a part of these stories. The chorus can be viewed as the last request of those who are no longer with us: spiritually, physically, and mentally.
“When the lights shut off and it’s my turn to settle down my main concern/Promise that you will sing about me/Promise that you will sing about me,” the hook laments.
The first voice, the voice of Lamar’s friend, you hear admiration and something likened to his last words because of the uncertainty of tomorrow. This friend, who goes unidentified, recently lost his brother who was murdered, and Lamar was the one who had found him, held him, and had the blood on his hands. Lamar revealed to Complex Magazine that this incident was the one that changed his life forever.
“I’m breaking down the actual incident that changed my life: One of my partners had got smoked and I was right there to witness it,” Lamar tells Complex.
This verse illustrates the real life dangers that happened without warning every day in the streets of Compton, or the “orphanage we call a ghetto” as it is referred to. The friend reveals that he reps the Piru Bloods and also speaks of his gained vengeance for his brothers death.
“That’s blood spilled on your hands, my plans rather vindictive/Everybody’s evictive in my eyes/When I ride it’s a murderous rhythm/And outside became pitch black/A demon glued to my back, whispering ‘get em,’/I got em, and I aint give a f***,” Lamar raps under the first voice.
This anger seems to turn to remorse most likely because nothing seemed to be really accomplished. The void of his brother’s death never seemed to be filled from this retaliation. The voice then switches up, speaking on how banging over colors is “a trip,” and wondering if he’ll ever meet a passion to take him away from this lifestyle; take him back to the days of youth.
The friend tells Lamar of his love for him and requests that Lamar tell this story for him. He then begins a new sentence that soon becomes his last:
“And if I die before your album drop, I hope … [gunshots],” the last words of the first voice.
The second voice then comes onto the track revealing that she is the sister of Keisha, the slain prostitute from Section.80’s “Keisha’s Song.” This voice starts off as angry, then proud, then victimized, and defensive again. She had a problem with Kendrick speaking on Keisha’s life, accusing Lamar of judging her dead sister, and then saying it is now her future. She says Lamar is ignorant, but really she is the one showing ignorance by continuing down this path.
The end of this verse ends with her going on a rant, but her voice begins to fade as Lamar stops listening. She proves to be another lost soul who seems to only learn from experience and not from advice and knowledge.
The first two voices are for people to gain awareness of the situations they put themselves in. We don’t want to see people banging on each other over a flag, and we also don’t want to see women spreading their legs for some dollars.
For the third voice we hear the voice Kendrick Lamar himself. You get the image of isolation and a complete reflection on life.
“I suffer a lot/And everyday that glass mirror get tougher to watch/I tie my stomach in knots/And I’m not sure why I’m infatuated with death,” Lamar raps.
He further explains how necessary it was to tell these stories and how these are events are ones that are “realer than the T.V. screen.” This third verse was placed to save lives, to give strength and knowledge to those without; but also to give purpose to Lamar himself
“I count lives, all on these songs/Look at the weak and cry/Pray one day you’ll be strong/Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong/And hope that even just one of you sing about me when I’m gone/Am I worth it? Did I put enough work in?” Lamar raps.
Lamar acknowledges his gift just by revealing any of this and recognizes himself as a voice. Songs like this aren’t just created for our entertainment, but they are somewhat of a warning or wake-up call to those in any similar situation. At the same time it’s not preachy, these three verses serve more as a “I’ve been there, I’ve seen these things, don’t make the same mistakes.”
These two questions lead to the hook that turns into a cycle of “Promise that you sing about me forever, promise that you sing about me,” which further transition into the skit of Lamar and the homies, fresh from watching the brother getting killed, ready to retaliate.
The transition from skit to the first verse is like a cut scene where you see everyone ready to ride out, but right before they do the lyrics begin.
“Tired of running/Tired of hunting/My own kind, but retiring nothing/Tires are steady screeching the driver is rubbing/Hands on the wheel/Who said we wasn’t/Dying of thirst/Dying of thirst,” Lamar raps.
The dying of thirst has nothing to do with the desperation for attention, but for the need of baptism; those stumbling in the wrong direction needing a new start to lead a new life.
“Dying of Thirst” in its entirety is really about the same story getting old. Bodies dropping left and right from beef, stray bullets, and drugs. I spoke of Lamar bearing the position of the voice to the people so this is once again him saying this has got to stop.
“What are we doing?/Who are we fooling?” Lamar raps.
He even likens himself to Trey from the 1991 film Boyz in the Hood, a character that was fed up with living in the streets of Compton. Trey also witnessed the murder of his friends brother just like Lamar did.
The track then enters another transition of an elderly woman speaking to the crew right before they ride out questioning why they hold so much anger and engaging a prayer with all of them.
The 12-minute song was a visual two scened track of the good kid, m.A.A.d. city short-film. Lamar’s ability to create these vivid scenes with words is unparralled with by anyone in the game today. Maybe he really is the incarnation of the late Tupac Shakur. Time will only tell.