The art of Kendrick Lamar’s music videos

Alex Hughes looks at how Kendrick Lamar achieves artistic music videos and pushes the medium to different levels.

Kendrick Lamar is by far one of the biggest rappers in the world right now and although his lyrics stand him out from the crowd, something that really makes him great is the artistry of his music videos.

To Pimp A Butterfly produced a set of visuals to match the imagination and ambition of Kendrick but when his fourth album DAMN rolled around he completely blew it out the water with next level visuals.

Two music videos from his new album really stand out, these two songs are HUMBLE and ELEMENT. HUMBLE was the first music video from the album to drop, directed by Dave-Meyers, it features rapidly changing shots ranging from Lamar as a young pope, the last supper and him playing golf on top of a car. The thing that really stands out about this music video in my eyes is the creativity of every shot, there is no boring scene, every section carries a meaning and pushes the boundaries of the common music video.

The other video that stands out is ELEMENT which is Directed by Jonas Lindstroem.  It is a lot like a video previously created by Lindstroem called ‘Truth or Dare’ which is a short video featuring rapidly changing shots trying to show a story in a single scene lasting only a few seconds. In Element this ability to show a story in a shot is swapped out to show the story of violence, each image in Element depicts a story of violence in some way through a single shot lasting only a few seconds. Violence is a theme Lamar has explored throughout his career from every angle but never has he explored it so artistically like he does here.

A few of the shots from ELEMENT are direct references to the work of a photojournalist known as Gordon Parks. Parks was one of the first well-known photographers to capture life as a black person in America for a wider audience. Parks was celebrated for his ability to get close to his subjects and show their story in a single image, something that Lamar has replicated here. This alignment in the images and the ideas demonstrates a shared goal between their work, highlighting his community with clearness, highlighting issues of violence and racism in America.

Element exceeds the level of what most music videos do, it is not a story to accompany the song or even just shots of the artist rapping, it is an art form used to express his message and a lens into the world of violence and racism.