Big Sean isn't the only rapper in the crosshairs on Kendrick's new album
Kendrick Lamar takes shots at everybody on his newest album but not in the way he did on Big Sean's "Control." On that song, his verse was caustic, an uncensored attack on everyone he considered rivals: "Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electron', Tyler, Mac Miller, I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you niggas." In an interview in 2013, Drake played it off as Kendrick making a "moment to talk about," something you wouldn't remember for more than a couple weeks. He asked the interviewer, "If I asked you, for example, how does that verse start?" Silence. Applause.
Drake wasn't about to call it the verse of the century, but it hasn't gone away like he thought it would. Fans have heard pretty clear shots fired at Big Sean on DAMN, reigniting talk about their rivalry. He might be the biggest callout (though not by name) on the new album but he's not the only rapper from Kendrick's hit list that's back in the crosshairs.
Listen to "ELEMENT." It starts off mocking Sean's favorite phrase but after that, especially in the verses, Kendrick is doing that classic Drake flow—patient, singsong lyrics. "Made it look sexy"—what's that if not a dig at Drake's lucrative sex appeal? You might not think there's any blatant attack in it, but as we've seen with the Kendrick-Sean call-outs, he doesn't have to name-drop to make a move at somebody. Even the humming just before the song changes speed sounds like an impression of the singing that took over Drake's songs for awhile. "I still rap," Drake said in the same interview, "in case any of you forgot that recently." Kendrick's wondering if that's true and if it is, is it worth anything?
In "YAH.," Kendrick opens the song in the same singing voice, with lines that mimic Drake, too: "Keep the family close / Get money, f*ck b*tches." It's nothing new as a rap line and might not have meant anything significant if Drake hadn't put a song on 2016's Views that you probably remember, called "Keep the Family Close." Kendrick sings the whole song, so we can't say that the choice to do this is only shade at Drake. Instead of a full parody, the song seems more like Kendrick's attempt to say, "I can do that too, and I can do it better."
Kendrick is singing again on the hooks in "GOD." This time, he goes for the high notes that Drake likes—he does it on "Hotline Bling" and "Redemption" and most of his songs. You know Kendrick is aware of everything he's doing, so when he says "You feel some type of way," it's not hard to see the connection to another Views song, "Feel No Ways." And those "a-ha's" that are in every one of the first lines of "GOD."—don't they sound familiar, too? It's a little like Kendrick laughing at his own joke in the voice of the person who's the target.
Kendrick has a history of playing games with Drake's song titles. In the 2013 BET Cypher Kendrick references Drake's Nothing Was The Same when he says, "Nothing's been the same since they dropped 'Control' / And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes."
Finally there's the crowd favorite: "LOYALTY." Featuring Rihanna. One of the fastest jokes to come out of the record's release was about the recent end of Drake's relationship with Rihanna. You can make your own interpretation of the track's lyrics based on this information, but it's not that much of a stretch to find bad, post-breakup vibes in a song about loyalty.
Even before DAMN. dropped, Kendrick stoked the fire with "The Heart Part 4." Close readers couldn't decide whether Big Sean or Drake was the unnamed rival, but some saw the timing of the release as a clue:
Drake and Kendrick are entirely different rappers. One focuses on the smoothness of the flow and the sexuality of his character while the other concentrates on dense, narrative lyrics that are poetic for more reasons than rhymes. And neither can be characterized by just one thing: Drake is more than his singing and Kendrick is more than his fast lyrics. Like the best works of art, the lyrics on DAMN. are infinitely interpretable and their targets are unnamed. One thing is clear: there are a lot of targets in those fourteen songs. Can you find them all?
Listen to DAMN. on Apple Music and Spotify.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.