Grappling With Kendrick’s Enigmatic Imagery & Quarrelsome Queries
Just before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning Kendrick Lamar set all of hip-hop social media ablaze by uploading an image to his official IG account. The black-and-white photograph depicts K-Dot standing on the White House lawn surrounded by his peoples, a happy throng of young, shirtless black men clutching large wads of cash and bottles of champagne. The image was accompanied by a series of enigmatic questions attributed to “Lil Homie”—who might just represent anybody in the photo, maybe even that cute little white baby in his arms. Lil Homie’s Got Questions? Let’s find some answers. Alarming Revelations After The Jump…
“Don’t all dogs go to heaven?”
OK, All Dogs Go to Heaven was actually a pretty dope movie on the low. And as a longtime cartoon lover, Kendrick might have appreciated the supernatural nuances of the whole orphan-girl-ghost-dog connection. But with this artist, and this image, one can’t help but think of O-Dog. Wonder if he made it to the Thugz Mansion?
“Don’t Gangsta’s boogie?”
The Chicago Gangsters sure do. Word to Marley Marl.
“Do owl shit stank?”
For starters, owls don’t technically shit. They “vent.” And cast pellets. According to Owl Pages, owl digestion is even weirder than other types of birds’ (none of whom have bladders, apparently): “Unlike other birds, Owls have no Crop. A crop is a loose sac in the throat that serves as storage for food for later consumption. Since an Owl lacks this, food is passed directly into their digestive system.” What comes out the “vent” is not your average bird shit. That’s because Owls’ digestive juices are less acidic than other birds of prey. All the indigestible parts of the luckless living creatures that get snapped up in their bony beaks (fur, bones, teeth, feathers) get compressed into a pellet that travels up the gizzard and gets “cast” out hours after eating.But let’s look at this owl thing from another angle. In Roman mythology the goddess Minerva represented poetry, and was the inventor of music (along with wisdom, medicine, business, weaving, crafts, and magic). And who was Minerva’s sidekick? You guessed it. Owing to their association with wisdom, magic, and the occult, owls are often considered a symbol of the Illumnati (or Own-luminati if you prefer). All birds of prey are pretty menacing, but nothing is quite as spooky as an owl. Their ability to turn their heads around looks like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. And speaking of the illuminati, who’s that old white gentleman holding a gavel in his hand? The one laying at the homies feet with cartoon Xs over his eyes. So this whole “owl shit” thing is probably all about Roman mythology, or some post-Ferguson, post-Selma anniversary stompin’ out of the illuminati type thing—lyrically casting pellets. Unless Kendrick’s just trying to murder Drake again. In which case owl shit definitely don’t stank—but it might be slightly pissed.
“Lions, Tigers & Bears.”
While these words could represent animal crackers or Detroit sports teams or that old Jazmin Sullivan jawn, the smart money’s on Oz. Not the HBO series but MGM’ss 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz—specifically the scene where Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion are dashing through a dark forest singing “Oh My,” scared shitless that those flying monkies might attack. Just spitballing here, but could lily-white Dorothy, tornado’d in from Kansas, be a stand-in for suburban (and rural) gangsta-rap fans? In a New York Times mag profile of Lamar last June, Nelson George remarked that many rap albums are the musical equivalent of blaxplotionation “That’s a lot of what those records were—fantasy fulfillment, to some degree, that the audience was involved in these dangerous urban situations. That’s not what Kendrick does; he’s more nuanced.”
But TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY. Its the American dream nigga….”
Blog geniuses and psychic Complex commenters have determined that TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY is the album’s title. Does the titular “Butterfly” represent Deniece Williams? Before Kendrick was even born, she sang “Black Butterfly, sail across the waters / tell your sons and daughters what the struggle brings / Black Butterfly, set the skies on fire rise up even higher / so the ageless winds of time can catch your wing.” We can’t rule out Mariah Carey, who’s setting up shop in Vegas as we speak after they ran her out of Jamaica for lip-synching. But when you’re talking L.A. gangsta rap, butterfly can only mean one thing. The Game is to be sold and not told.