The first thing that stands out to me about “i,” the first single from the album that Kendrick Lamar hopes to release by the end of 2014, is that he is channeling his inner André 3000 and it works really well for the most part.
The song has an incredible beat, sampling The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady,” and the song sees Lamar rapping about having reached a positive self-image despite the problems of the world trying to hold him down. The song sees Lamar rapping with the upper register of his voice as he has done numerous times in the past, but the delivery of his lines feels nearly identical to something André 3000 would do on a beat like this, which is certainly not a bad thing.
I have never been the biggest Lamar fan, but if there is one area where I have to admit he shines, it is in his wordplay. His rhyme schemes are multilayered and meticulous, and Lamar, as he does more often than not, delivers fantastic lyrics to the song about the trials and tribulations of daily life.
The chorus is especially nice, with some fun trade off vocals between the main repeated phrase of “I love myself” and background vocals that offer a protest speech delivered from a megaphone vibe.
I really enjoy the slowed down, Houston hip-hop influenced bridge, which transitions nicely into a fantastic outro bass solo that is rumored to have come from bass guitar wizard Thundercat and complements the song perfectly.
If I have any complaints about the track, it is that the inflection Lamar is rapping in can get a little tiresome as it is pretty monotone. It feels like his vocals have to compete with the beat for attention, and the beat wins the competition.
Overall, I think this track is very well done. Releasing such a positive and self-embracing lead single is a definite departure from the Lamar that was an observer of the more negative aspects of the world around him on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.
I am very curious to see if the themes and sounds explored on this track will influence the new work from Lamar. Regardless, “i” has definitely piqued my interest in the new record.
To listen to “i,” click here.