Last night, Kendrick Lamar dropped some artwork on Twitter that looks like it will shape the cover of "i" the first single from his next record – probably the most anticipated and pressured forthcoming album in hip hop right now.
The image shows the hands of two men in gang colours, on what looks like a street corner, making the heart symbol toward each other, as popularised by Taylor Swift. The bandanas in each man’s pocket represent the Bloods (red) and the Crips (blue); L.A.’s most infamous two rival gangs. The red might more specifically reference the Pirus, a Bloods affiliated street gang based out of Compton, where Kendrick grew up, who take their name from a street in that area.
The picture suggests Kendrick’s new material will pick up on the ‘outsider looking in’ narrative that he often channels through his rhymes on L.A. gang culture. On 2010 track “Average Joe” he rapped – “A young nigga from Compton / On the curb writing raps next to a gun shot” – about being a normal kid in abnormal gang surroundings. Then on “Ronald Reagan Era” from his debut album, he rapped about trying to stay out of gang culture, but also how his music inevitably becomes entwined with it on some level.
The placement of ‘i’, in the image, between the two gang members, references Kendrick himself. It's a visual representation of the opening lines of ‘M.A.A.d City’: “If Pirus and Crips all got along / They’d probably gun me down by the end of this song.”
The release of the artwork last night suggests that – after an accidental leak of information via Interscope's PlayIGA website – Kendrick will premiere a single next Tuesday (Sept 23rd). Despite not putting anything out for a while, Kdot fever has people drenched in sweat thanks to snappy recent verses on Flying Lotus’s "Never Catch Me", SZA’s "Babylon", and some straight fire on Young Jeezy's "Holy Ghost".
Here’s to the return of the West Coast Nas.