The Internet has been buzzing like a dubstep rave inside of a wasp’s nest with reports of Kendrick Lamar dropping a new album soon. Within the ocean of exhilarated chatter on Rap Twitter, one rumor sticks out like a sore thumb: The album is allegedly rock-influenced.
Is it true? Doesn’t matter. Spike your hair, put on a vintage leather jacket, and make your way into the mosh pit. We’re about to take a curious gander at the mythical Kendrick Lamar rock album, in all of its horrifying glory.
In terms of subgenres, there are distinctive directions Kendrick could go in, but the emo middle schooler in me likes to imagine that TDE’s golden goose takes a (baffling) left turn and crafts a 2000s style pop-punk album. No bars, no flows, just nasally vocals. It’ll probably have some melodramatic name like The Blood Of The Innocent. Yuck.
Heads will spin around Exorcist style when Kendrick releases the first single, an intense breakup song called “Never Again (Oh, How My Heart Aches.)” In the howling hook, he caterwauls, “No one understands me / Do I even belong in this world?” Across the entire album, the lyrics sound like something a suburban white kid would write in his diary after getting grounded for cursing at his dad. Rap fans around the world are scratching their heads.
Is Kendrick trolling us? Is this a joke? Unfortunately, it is not a joke.
A week later, Kendrick will drop The Blood Of The Innocent in full. The cover artwork is an image of Kendrick as a demon with wings. His eyes are red, and he’s holding a still-beating, bloody heart in his hand. Kendrick is surrounded by skulls and bones, dramatically floating a few feet above the ground, amid a dark backdrop of a city in ruins. It doesn’t look like the cover of a Kendrick album; it looks like a cheap poster for an anime film about teenage vampires.
Anyone who remembers Fall Out Boy or Panic! At The Disco knows pop-punk songs usually have obnoxiously long titles. As an homage to the days of MySpace and black fingerless gloves, Kendrick will resurrect this pattern of unnecessarily wordy track names. Track one is called “I Will Never Forgive You, Nor Will I Ever Forgive Myself, This Entire Universe Is An Inside Joke And We Are The Punchline.” Kendrick will later admit to regretting these long song titles, saying they were impossible to introduce at concerts because even he forgot them.
Track seven, the second single, is titled “My Soul For The Taking (The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming, The Tears Keep Coming).” My god, man. Luckily, Kendrick will execute a series of Life Of Pablo-esque edits and the song titles will be shaved in half. First, he’ll rename the record as “track 7.” Then he’ll change it to “Backseat Freestyle II” as an attempt to get more streams. Neither will work.
The lyrical content on the album is mostly composed of breakup songs, but Kendrick is currently happily engaged, so I have no idea who the fuck these songs are even about. There are a few non-breakup songs, too. Most notably, the album’s third single, “You’ll Never Be My Real Dad (Fuck You, Stepdad.)” Please note: Kendrick Lamar does not have a stepdad.
I know what you’re wondering, “So… Is the album good?” It hurts even to say this, but, no. It’s not good. It’s downright painful. Kendrick’s ballsy risk is admirable, but it did NOT pay off. The album is universally loathed, even by his most hardcore fanbase. How did the brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning wordsmith who gave us good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly think it was a good idea to release this rock album?
Following the release, the once Teflon rapper becomes a pop culture punching bag. Rolling Stone gives the album a negative 8 out of 5. Anthony Fantano’s review is just him crying hysterically in the fetal position next to an empty bottle of Jack Daniels. And Joe Budden has a rage-induced heart attack during a live recording of his podcast while ranting about the album. DJBooth gives the album a positive review and then gets flooded with a barrage of hate mail and furious tweets—but hey, what else is new?
Looking at the big picture, Kendrick’s legendary legacy is now up in the air, as fans wonder if his image will ever recover from such a historic flop. Ticket sales dwindle, and now his only fans are angsty goth kids and teenaged girls who just got dumped. It’s depressing. Kendrick disappears from everyone’s top 10 list and is reduced to a punchline. Then, his fellow rappers start to prey on his vulnerability in the spirit of competition.
Pusha-T kicks off a barrage of responses with the offhanded bar, “I done moved more coke than a cartel / your Jimi Hendrick attempt was a hard L.” Then Drake hits Kendrick with, “You threw it all away just to make your little rock song / You said ‘We gon’ be alright,’ but ever since then you’ve been all wrong.” Eminem even gets in on the pile-on, barring up Kendrick on his 2021 album. “I’LL BEAT KENDRICK LAMAR WITH HIS FENDER GUITAR,” he raps
Thankfully, not everyone will turn on Kendrick. Both Kid Cudi, five years removed from his infamous grunge project Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven, and Lil Wayne, a decade after his heavily hated rock album Rebirth, reach out to Kendrick in an act of fraternal solidarity. They’ll show up to his crib in Los Angeles with a 12-pack of beer. “Welcome to the fuckin club,” they’ll say when Kendrick answers the bell.
What comes next? A trio Blink-182 would be jealous of.