Kendrick Lamar’s New Video Cements His Status as a True Video Artist

‘Element” blends the metaphoric and literal to capture Blackness the way Lamar raps about it.

Ernest Hardyby Ernest Hardy

Though his lyric content – from the way women appear and are depicted in his lyrics, to the evolution of his spirituality/religiosity – may split listeners into disparate camps over his politics and practices, there’s no disputing that Kendrick Lamar remains almost peerless among contemporary rappers when it comes to straddling art and commerce, style and substance.

Though his videos have wowed fans for a while now with their hip-hop art-house aesthetic (the same label that might be applied to Missy Elliot, but with the actual work of the two artists being wildly different,) he still doesn’t yet garner – outside more academic ruminations – sustained conversation about the work his visual clips do.

Early in the new video for “Element,” which was directed by Jonas Lindstroem and the Little Homies, and which includes powerful nods toward some of the iconic photos of the late Gordon Parks, we see a group of young Black people standing on a lawn, watching as a house goes up in flames. From there we are guided through a series of images and moments that veer from poetically abstract to scathing indictments of how shit is right now for so many Black people.

Top photo courtesy Rick Kern/Getty Images.