Kendrick Lamar has always been soft spoken and thoughtful in interviews. He is always subdued. If he ever laughs, a bashful smile follows.
In this video, he is the exact opposite of bashful. He is in your face, dressed up as Uncle Sam, hopping off furniture in a mansion. He’s at every turn, mouthing the lyrics to his To Pimp A Butterfly two-minute-long interlude “For Free?” which contains the recurring line “this dick ain’t free / hell fuckin’ no.”
First we see a woman (Darlene Tibbs). She complains to the Kendrick-character that he should pamper her more often now that he’s got money; that she deserves more than whatever she’s getting (which is still probably a lot).
You ain’t even buy me no outfit for the Fourth / I need that Brazilian, wavy, twenty eight inch / you playin’ / I shouldn’t be fuckin’ with you anyway / I need a baller-ass, boss-ass nigga / you’se a off-brand-ass nigga.
For the rest of the video, it’s Kendrick’s counter. Money isn’t everything. Free form jazz flows beneath his free form rap verses. He runs around the mansion we assume belongs to him, explaining in a clownish, frightening, funny way that that’s not all he is, that she doesn’t just get it, and that it could lead to a bad end.
This dick ain’t free … I mean baby / you really think we could make a baby named Mercedes without a Mercedes Benz and twenty four inch rims / five percent tint, and air conditioning vents / hell fuckin’ naw / this dick ain’t free / I need forty acres and a mule / not a forty ounce and a pit bull
Fuck your sources / all distortion / if you fuck it’s more abortion / more divorce courts and portion / my check with less endorsement / left me dormant / dusted, doomed, disgusted, forced with / fuck you think is in more shit? / porcelain pipes pressure, bust ’em twice / choice is devastated / decapitated the horseman / oh America, you bad bitch / I picked cotton that made you rich / now my dick ain’t free
Evident in the last lyric, the woman Tibbs portrays at the beginning might be the personification of what Kendrick thinks his country now wants from him; that they’re entitled to his everything now that he’s a part of their culture.
The video moves at breakneck speed, like the music, but there’s a lot to be mined from it, and certainly benefits from repeat views.
This is another success in the long line of successes full of artistic expression we’ve come to expect from Kendrick. But sooner or later I feel like he might pull back, because, you know, he isn’t free…