1 Verse, 1 Hearse #16, Kendrick Lamar – The City
You guys have been asking for a Kendrick Lamar “The City” hearse for 4evaNaDay now. Recently nothing has motivated me to hearse. So I thought I’d finally give Kendrick’s “The City” its much deserved hearse. Don’t come around here with your, “Ahh Quez finally, too late though” either. I know, and it’s never too late! This will also be Kendrick’s 3rd hearse making him the new record holder. Hah, K.Dot hit me up for your trophy! Enough of the talking though, let’s get to business. Game escorts Kendrick through the city as K.Dot rides through in the Killer hearse giving us a scenic drive through the city that shaped him.
Kendrick, And I wear pendant on my shoulder, soldier
Like a lieutenant, and the coupe tinted got pulled over
Johnny always lock a nigga down
Knowing damn well we don’t wanna see the box like Manny Pacquiao
Little nigga Mayweather size, ride like Pac in his prime
Thug life is now on radar
‘Til the federal come through and raid ours
Reminiscing when the LA Raiders
Was in my home, snapback fitted on my uncle’s dome
And I don’t condone dickriding
I’m addicted to Westsiding
Living in a city where the skinny niggas die
And the semi bullets fly, but it turn me to a lion
Trying, and I mean that shit
Game came through, put the city on his back
I was in the city with a nigga, had seen that shit
“Compton!”, a nigga gotta scream that shit
Never went commercial, Never T.V. screened that shit
Can’t block or screen that shit, now everybody sing that shit
Initially Kendrick had written one huge verse for “The City”. Unfortunately it was too long, so Game decided to cut a part of it up, and make it the hook. Yes, Kendrick was on fire.
In our first stop in “The City”, Kendrick tells us about his peoples relationship with the police. The Los Angeles Police Department has a long history with Blacks in the city. Lamar rides through in his expensive coupe, and shows us just how bad the city cops are. Although he doesn’t say what type of coupe it is, we can infer that it’s expensive, because Kendrick is riding with accolades up the trunk. What kind of person with the accolades of Kendrick rides around in a Pinto? Although Lamar is looking upper-class, a cop still finds a reason to pull him over. The ol’, “oh your windows are too dark excuse”. Kendrick shows us that no matter how you look like in the city, if you’re Black they’re going to harass you, according to Kendrick. Looking nice, and driving a nice car doesn’t change anything, because you’re still Black, according to Kendrick..again. In just the first few lines we know that LA police lacks trust with the community. When there is this kind of distrust, crime is usually high. So now we know that people don’t like cops, and crime is high. Damn Kendrick you aren’t helping with the tourism, hah. Is it me or does this kind of hostility remind you of N.W.A.?
Don’t get distracted by the violence though, just look forward, keep your hands on the wheel, and don’t stop too long at stop signs. Let’s keep driving through Kendrick’s city. The next few lines could easily be interpreted as direct gang references, but it’s everything but that. It’s all a metaphor. At first Kendrick plays with words by saying he doesn’t want to see the box (jail cell), much like he doesn’t want to see Manny Pacquiao in the box (ring). Then, he stays on the boxing topic by comparing himself to Floyd Mayweather. Physically small, but smart, and feisty. So K.Dot is talking about avoiding the box (jail), and riding around like ‘Pac in his prime with, “Thug Life on the radar”. If you’re thinking that Kendrick is talking about gang banging you’re wrong. First, you don’t have to be a thug to get locked up. Remember Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Hampton? Crazy how I mention Fred Hampton and Kendrick talks about raids. Hampton was assassinated in a police raid. Anyways, Lamar isn’t a gangster just like he demonstrated in “Average Joe”. Kendrick is putting himself in the same league as MLK, and Fred Hampton, because he enlightens his people with his words. He also puts himself in the same league as Tupac. Don’t forget that Thug Life stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody”. Lamar preaches those words in his music. Also, when he says he rides around like ‘Pac in his prime, he isn’t talking about “Hit ‘Em Up” ‘Pac. He’s talking about 2Pacalypse Now ‘Pac, because that’s what really made Tupac a legend. That’s Tupac at his prime! Mr. Lamar is using the city’s violence and comparing it to his life. No matter what he does in his life, the city is still on Kendrick’s mind and heart.
One of the reasons Kendrick has owned about 20% of all hearses is because I love his honesty and how he leaves everything in the booth. Just from the first few bars we know a ton about Mr. Lamar. He sees himself as a modern day MLK, in the pursuit of enlightening his generation. With his poise he feels like he’s prison bound. Cops are twisted as demonstrated in the incident where they pull him over. If you’re talking too much, they’re going to get rid of you. This can be seen happening in “the city”, when you read between the lines.
The ambition road ends when Kendrick remembers his uncle with the Raiders snap back. Which tells us he’s been from the city, and isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon or “d***riding” as he calls it.
Lamar brings up violence in the city once again when he talks about the flying semi-automatic bullets. But instead of falling into the pattern, Mr. Lamar learns from the mistakes of others, and becomes stronger, like a lion.
Towards the end, Kendrick thanks Game for the big feature, by acknowledging the way he carried the city, and helped keep West Coast Hip-Hop alive. You can call it Lamar playing politics, but you can tell he means this by the amount of emotion he puts into the verse.
Lamar signs off by promising us that he’ll never go commercial. Not that going commercial is bad, but because it will most likely degrade his musical integrity with all the heads telling him what to do, and how to get on the radio, and how to appeal to the masses. Well Kendrick, we’ll take you up on that promise, because I love hearseing your verses. But even if you do go “commercial”, we got a lot of stuff in Overly Dedicated, we don’t even have to go into Section.80!
As I mentioned above, I have a blast hearsing K.Dot’s verses. A lot of Kendrick Lamar verses are mirror images of his life experiences. The way he carefully puts everything into a verse is unheard of in 2012. Since he doesn’t go over the top, and start with the rapper fantasies we can all relate. He’s just an “Average Joe”. In “The City” we learn about Lamar’s aspirations, and how his city shaped who he is today. By the MLK-like thoughts, we can infer that he’s all about giving back to his city through his enlightening words. Hopefully nobody shuts his mouth and throws him in the box with Pacquaio. With that it’s time to close the casket on this verse. R.I.P.