Bacon: More than just a trend

Written by Danielle Clark

About five years ago Randy Otto received bacon flavored lip balm in his Christmas stocking. Other gift openers’ faces lit up in shock and excitement at the fact this product existed.

At the time, different uses of bacon, and bacon-flavored anything that was not actually bacon, seemed new and unusual. Today, it is easy to find bacon-infused desserts, car fresheners, jams and even bacon flavored vodka.

Traditionally, people consumed bacon as a simple breakfast item or one-third of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich at the local diner. Now, bacon can be described as a gourmet delicacy evolving on a daily basis in homes and restaurants around the world.

Bacon, a pork product restricted from many people’s diets for religious and dietary preferences, has been a popular meat of choice throughout history. In fact, SF Gate reports that the average American eats nearly 18 pounds a year.

According to the English Breakfast Society, bacon is traced back to the Saxon era and has always been identified as a cut of pork that has been cured. Today, each region that produces bacon around the world uses a type of pig with its own lineage, many with genetics that trace back to wild boar. Bacon quickly spread around Europe and can be found all over the world incorporated in many cuisines.

But gone are the days of bacon being used solely as a product for home uses in subsistence farming.

Food blogger Elie Ayrouth told Time magazine that the initial boost in the popularity of bacon in the past ten years could be attributed to Internet publicity. Now, whole websites dedicated to the art of cooking bacon and crafting bacon-infused dishes populate the Internet. Bacon has become so popular that food competitions even have a separate category for the salty slices of meat. This past year, the winner of the World Food Championships – bacon category – took home $10,000 for his interpretation of the perfect bacon dish.

But some culinary aficionados think bacon has become an overdone trend. Some say bacon has seen its peak in popularity, no longer has the appeal that it used to and will decrease in popularity moving forward.

Ayrouth disagreed in her Time interview saying, “While there will always be hot foods of the moment … the lingering difference is that bacon is a stand-alone product which makes it a much more evergreen topic.”

Bacon can be found at fair grounds and three star Michelin restaurants. The versatility of bacon contributes to its popularity and allows it to flourish while other food trends come and go.

Pamela Johnson from the National Pork Board said facts are disproving the idea that bacon is simply another food trend. “Bacon is really the go-to meat and a favorite,” Johnson said. “We are seeing a steady to increasing demand for bacon.”  

Over the last few years, bacon has transformed into “an every meal type of ingredient,” Johnson said, adding that this is the reason bacon has become a staple and has proved itself more than just a hot trend.

Johnson added that bacon production will increase 3 to 5 percent in the next couple of years to keep up with the growing demand. It continues to be a theme for new cookbooks and is now a staple ingredient in many kitchens.

Bacon has become widely accepted since its first appearance in Saxon diets because of its diversity and availability. While unusual items like bacon lip balm and bath soap may decline in popularity, salty strips of bacon will continue to grace fried bacon-on-a-stick stands at the county fair and exclusive ritzy restaurant menus for years to come.

Featured Image by Danielle Clark

Edited by Katy Hill

Kendrick Lamar Week: His best album

Kendrick Lamar — a.k.a. The King of Rap — is releasing his fourth studio album this Friday. So we here at TNJN thought that we would honor Kendrick’s divine status by providing you all with our scorching Kendrick Lamar takes. David Bradford, Quinn Pilkey and Robert Hughes will reveal their favorite Kendrick feature, verse, song and album.

BEST ALBUM

Oh boy, here’s the big one. Kendrick’s best album. He’s released three gems and a compilation of throwaways that are better than most albums. Simply put, there isn’t a wrong answer here (that’s a joke, David thinks both Robert and Quinn are egregiously wrong). But here we are folks, before DAMN. comes out on Friday, here’s Kendrick’s best album to date according to Robert, Quinn and David.

Hughes

All three of Kendrick Lamar’s studio albums have been great, and each shows a clear evolution in Kendrick as an artist. For me, however, there’s no debate; Kendrick’s best album is easily good kid, m.A.A.d. city.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the tracklist.

  1. Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter
  2. B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe
  3. Backseat Freestyle
  4. The Art of Peer Pressure
  5. Money Trees (feat. Jay Rock)
  6. Poetic Justice (feat. Drake)
  7. Good Kid
  8. m.A.A.d. city (feat. MC Eiht)
  9. Swimming Pools (Drank) [Extended Version]
  10. Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst
  11. Real (feat. Anna Wise)
  12. Compton (feat. Dr. Dre)
  13. B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe (feat. JAY Z) [Remix]

Name one bad song. I’ll wait.

SPOILER ALERT: There is not a single bad song on that album.

And what’s even more impressive is that the album is not merely a collection of singles, but rather, 12 songs that can stand strong on their own, but are made stronger in the context of the album.

Each song takes on a different persona that has been beautifully crafted by Kendrick, but the songs fit together to tell the story of a young Kendrick Lamar Duckworth growing up in the streets of Compton, California, and the pressures and tragedies that come with growing up in a gang-ridden city.

The album, however, takes a positive turn in the last half of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” and shows how Kendrick was able to escape a potential life of drug dealing and gang-banging.

Like I said earlier, however, Kendrick continues to evolve as an artist, and all of his albums have been great. I’m beyond intrigued to see how his new album turns out, but if I had to guess, I’m guessing it’ll be great, too.

Pilkey

To Pimp a Butterfly is a masterpiece, one of the most beautiful rap albums ever created. Despite that, Robert’s right: good kid, m.A.A.d city is Kendrick Lamar’s best album. It’s incredibly versatile, and it’s not quite as inaccessible as his most recent album is. TPAB is great, but it’s not always as easy to listen to in short bursts and it doesn’t have the same ability to do everything.

GKMC has enough bangers (“Backseat Freestyle” especially) that appeal to large audiences and are just pure fun to listen to. It has deeply emotional songs like “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” that are chillingly beautiful every time. It has comedy, it has features from Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Drake, and it tells an incredible story that’s both deeply personal and widely relatable. A variety of rapping and musical styles are shown off throughout the album, meaning there’s a bit of something for every kind of hip-hop fan. And it’s such a positive, uplifting message in the end.

Meanwhile, To Pimp a Butterfly is incredible, but it doesn’t do everything that good kid, m.A.A.d city does. That versatility is what makes Kendrick’s second studio album his best.

Bradford

Ignore the vitriol my two compadres just spewed. Their selection of good kid, m.A.A.d. city as the best Kendrick album is

This isn’t to say GKMC isn’t a masterpiece – the album is a classic – but because I live in this little thing called reality, it is pure objectivity when I say To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick’s masterpiece.

It’s also why I’m so damn excited for DAMN. Because when Kendrick released GKMC back in 2012, I asked myself, “How is he going to top that.”

And then, he obviously did with TPAB.

I’m not sure DAMN. can surpass TPAB. After all, no album in the realm of hip-hop can rival it. Not 36 Chambers. Not Illmatic. Not My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

What you have on TPAB is Kendrick using every weapon in his arsenal at an all-time level. It’s like Russell Westbrook notching a triple-double on Citizen Kane. That makes no sense, but I dig the visual. And imagine if Kendrick released an album titled Rosebud.

Now when I judge rappers, I focus squarely on four qualities: Lyrical content, thematic content, delivery and instrumental selection.

GKMC earned extremely high marks in all categories – the lyrical content was diverse, the thematic content was encapsulating, Kendrick’s flows and vocal inflections varied; and the instrumentals were a perfect blend of accessible and unique.

But TPAB accomplishes so much more.

While GKMC was an insightful tale into daily life in Compton, California, Kendrick really takes his lyrical and thematic choices to another level on TPAB.

In TPAB, the audience gets a vivid lends into Kendrick’s world post-GKMC. It isn’t a pretty picture. Kendrick deals with a number of issues that lead him to suicidal thoughts, such as being pimped by an industry he’s supposed to love, suffering from survivor’s guilt and being able to impact millions of strangers, but unable to impact his own. But as the album progresses, Kendrick becomes a self-confident powerhouse.

The journey is wildly emotional, and because so many emotions are at play, nearly every song feels like a climax. Songs such as “U” and “Alright” and “The Blacker the Berry” and “i” are so powerful in their emotional range that each song could be considered the album’s apex.

But even the songs that aren’t a climax and act as more of a transition from one emotional stage of Kendrick’s life to another are excellent. “King Kunta” is braggadocios and challenges those around Kendrick, asking where they were when he wasn’t a superstar. “How Much a Dollar Cost?” is a stunning tale where Kendrick refuses to lend a homeless man money, but once he learns that the homeless man is actually God, he fears he’ll lose his spot in Heaven. “Mortal Man” – the album’s closing track – continues off the theme of true friendship, but goes at it in a much deeper way.

And I haven’t even mentioned the unique structure of the album. While GKMC is comprised of skits that carry the narrative along, TPAB features an album-long poem. Periodically, Kendrick will recite this poem, but not all the way through. Instead, with each reintroduction of the poem, Kendrick gets further and further into it. By the time “Mortal Man” fades out, we hear Kendrick finally finish the poem, which he was reciting for… 2pac.

Kendrick took snippets of a 2pac interview he was given while in Germany and treated it as if he was actually interviewing the 2pac in real life.

HOW. DOES. HE. DO. IT.

Instrumentally, this album is dense and diverse. The overarching instrumental pallet is jazz, but infused into it are elements of psychedelic music, funk, boom-bap and even some rock. Unlike GKMC, there isn’t a truly accessible, radio-friendly instrumental – “Alright” certainly has the best case for one – and that’s one of the album’s highest net positives.

It’s a challenging album to digest, which is one reason why I think a lot of people prefer GKMC over it. But with enough listens and full analysis into what’s going on, it’s the most rewarding listen of this decade. And not just hip-hop, but across every genre.

Featured image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Edited by David Bradford

Kendrick Lamar Week: His best song

Kendrick Lamar — a.k.a. The King of Rap — is releasing his fourth studio album this Friday. So we here at TNJN thought that we would honor Kendrick’s divine status by providing you all with our scorching Kendrick Lamar takes. David Bradford, Quinn Pilkey and Robert Hughes will reveal their favorite Kendrick feature, verse, song and album.

Best Song

Kendrick Lamar is a rapper who makes songs. And normally (read 100 percent) these songs are fire af. So it’s obviously a challenge to pick his best song when so many of them get the juices flowing. But if a parent can select their favorite child, then Robert, Quinn and David can pick their favorite Kendrick Lamar song.

Hughes

Kendrick Lamar has put out more classics than I can count. There really aren’t songs by him I don’t like, but to me, there’s a clear No. 1 when it comes to his best song.

“The Art of Peer Pressure” from good kid, m.A.A.d city is my personal favorite from King Kendrick because his storytelling within the span of just five minutes and 24 seconds is, simply, beautiful.

Like a painter uses a canvas, so Lamar uses a beat to create a masterpiece. “The Art of Peer Pressure” tells the story of a young Kendrick simply hanging out with his friends–or so he thought. It’s not until the end of the first verse that he admits the influence his friends have when he says: “look at me/I got the blunt in my mouth/Usually I’m drug-free, but [expletive] I’m with the homies.”

The same theme is repeated within the second verse. He begins to tell the struggles of living in Compton and how spending time with friends distracts him from those struggles, and inversely, leads him into gang temptations.

I can’t say it better than Kendrick, so I’m going to let his lyrics speak for him.

“We seen three [expletives] in colors we didn’t like then started interrogating/I never was a gangbanger/I mean I was never stranger to the funk neither/I really doubt it/Rush a [expletive] quick and then we laugh about it/That’s ironic ’cause I’ve never been violent, until I’m with the homies.”

As I listen to the song, Kendrick teleports me to Compton, a place I’ve never been. In the final verse, he talks about robbing a house and narrowly avoiding the police, all while avoiding his mother’s advice.

“My mama called–‘Hello? What you doin’? ‘Kicking it’/I should’ve told her I’m about to catch my first offense with the homies.”

I don’t understand how he’s so good at creating art in the form of music, but I will simply sit back and appreciate it in anticipation for his new album.

Pilkey

I wrote about Kendrick’s best verse being the second on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” and the strength of that verse is a big reason why the song as a whole is his best. Yes, it’s the obligatory 12-minute song that Kendrick seems to have on every album. But if the length has dissuaded you from listening to it, I urge you to immediately reconsider your decision.

The first half is hauntingly beautiful, going in-depth on the lives of the subjects of his songs and how they feel about their relationships with him. The third verse is Kendrick himself exploring those relationships and wondering if he’s truly done enough. No matter how many times I’ve heard the song, I still get chills down my spine as Kendrick repeats the hook:

“When the lights shut off / And it’s my turn to settle down / My main concern / Promise that you will sing about me”

It’s an incredible way to summarize to the gut-wrenching story Kendrick has been weaving throughout good kid, m.A.A.d city, but it doesn’t end there. The second half of the song is different musically but it’s just as great. It opens with Kendrick explaining how tired he is of the life he’s been leading to this point in the narrative of the album – one of gang-banging and peer pressure leading to deaths becoming an everyday occurrence. The sins are adding up, and Kendrick and his friends can’t seem to escape them – they’re dying of thirst.

Then, it happens. Kendrick and his crew are presented with a way to escape their past and find a new way forward: they are baptized by a neighbor and accept God. It’s the incredible, hard-earned end to the story told throughout an incredible album. It’s by far the most introspective Kendrick gets on good kid, m.A.A.d city, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

Bradford

Wow, this is a brain buster. First off, picking an individual Kendrick song is difficult because his songs fit perfectly in the context of albums. Second off, he has a bunch of good songs. Third off, fourth off.

I ended up wrestling with about five songs before narrowing it down to two — “How Much a Dollar Cost?” and “The Blacker the Berry.”

Although the former is his most creative story to date, I opted with the latter.

“The Blacker the Berry” is one of Kendrick’s most visceral performance in terms of his delivery. He doesn’t change his flow or alter his vocal inflection like he does in so many other songs. Rather, his flow is blunt and his voice is full of rage. Just check out these set of lines from the first verse.

“I’m African-American, I’m African/I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village/Pardon my residence/Came from the bottom of mankind/My hair is nappy, my d*** is big, my nose is round and wide/You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture/You’re f***** evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey.”

While listing off stereotypes and showing disdain toward a group of people trying to destroy his people, Kendrick complicates the message of the song in the final line.

“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a n**** blacker than me?/Hypocrite!”

Using hypocrite as the last word is specifically powerful because Kendrick begins each verse with “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015,” which also means this song is outdated. Haha jk.

The lyrics are worth diving into, but more than the lyrics, the instrumental is simple and effective. It’s foundation is an emphatic boom-bat style beat with rising synths in the bridge that build the tension of the song perfectly. When Kendrick proclaims “hypocrite!” at the end, the song goes from a blunt-forced trauma to a soothing jazz outro, which gives the listener time to process everything that has just transpired over the song’s 5:29 span.

Featured image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Edited by David Bradford

Kendrick Lamar Week: His best verse

Kendrick Lamar — a.k.a. The King of Rap — is releasing his fourth studio album this Friday. So we here at TNJN thought that we would honor Kendrick’s divine status by providing you all with our scorching Kendrick Lamar takes. David Lodovisi, Quinn Pilkey and Robert Hughes will reveal their favorite Kendrick feature, verse, song and album.

BEST VERSE

Kendrick Lamar is a rapper who raps verses. Most of the time (read 100 percent of the time), he transports you to an alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. And in that alternate dimension, he still exists, so you go to another alternate dimension. 

You get the point.

Lodovisi

First verse of “HiiiPower”. Shut up and don’t @ me with another verse, peasants. This is early Kendrick  — it’s on Section.80 —  but this is the verse that catapulted his confidence so he could give the world good kid, m.A.A.d. city and To Pimp a Butterfly.

Let’s take this line-by-line, word-by-word and syllable-by-syllable.

“Visions of Martin Luther staring at me/Malcolm X put the hex on my future some catch me.”

Immediately, we see Kendrick bringing up two prominent Civil Rights figures (MLK and Malcolm X), but what’s interesting is his exclusion of MLK’s last name, which makes me think this is a double entendre for Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther. I could be wrong because my IQ resembles the plastic bag I just put over my head. I just thought it was interesting.

“I’m falling victim to a revolutionary song/The Serengeti’s Clone/Back to put you backstabbers back on your spinal bone.”

I’ve had plenty of backstabbers in my life. Two of my ex-girlfriends cheated on me. So I want to put them on their spinal bones. Haha jk i don’t actually care.

“You slipped your disc when I slid you my disc/You wanted to diss but jumped on my d***.”

HOW. DOES. HE. DO. THIS.

Refer to the “back on your spinal bone” part in the previous line. Kendrick then says “You slipped your disc when I slid you my disc,” which refers to a spinal injury when listening to his music.

Then, of course, people want to diss Kendrick. But then they hear his verses, re-evaluate if they enjoy existing on this planet and become faux fans.

“Grown men never should bite their tongue/Unless you eating p**** that smell like it’s a stale plum.”

No comment.

“I got my finger on the morthaf***** pistol/Aiming it at a pig, Charlotte’s web is going to miss you.”

WHAT.

HOW.

OMG.

The first time I heard this line, I went repeated it at least a dozen times. A Charlotte’s Web reference in a song is so dope. Wow, Kendrick, please! I have a family!

“My issue isn’t televised and you aint gotta tell the wise/How to stay on beat because our life’s an instrumental.”

This is getting ridiculous. The words “beat” and “instrumental” are obviously related, as instrumentals are usually centered around beats. Haha.

“This is physical and mental, I won’t sugar coat it/You’d die from diabetes if these other n***** wrote it.”

My. Word.

This verse isn’t even human at this point. Kendrick won’t sugar coat what he’s saying, but if somebody else said it, there would be so much sugar coating — or in LeBron’s case, sugar coding — that you’ll get diabetes and die.

Kendrick, not in front of my children!

“And everything on TV just a figment of imagination/I don’t want a plastic nation, dread that like a Haitian/While you mothaf***** waiting, I be off the slave ships/Building pyramids, writing my own hieroglyphs.”

The perfect ending to this monstrous verse. Kendrick fears a “plastic nation,” but while everybody is sitting around, he started making moves.

Six years later, he’s the King.

Bow.

Hughes

My personal favorite is one of his longest verses, but his rhythm, rhyme, storytelling and speed are just too good for me to overlook.

Spoiler: It’s the first verse in “m.A.A.d. city” from the album good kid, m.A.A.d. city.

Strap on your seat belts and bring your inhaler; heck, bring an EpiPen, because this verse is a lot to handle. Here we go.

Like David did, we’re going to take this a few lines at a time.

“Brace yourself”

Dangit, I couldn’t even make it past this line without stopping. Kendrick is literally telling all of us to brace ourselves because he’s about to spit a verse so mind-boggling that we need to take some time to prepare ourselves, but then he keeps going and you are already playing catch-up, just trying to hang on for dear life the rest of the verse. Anyway, let’s start back from the top

“Brace yourself/I’ll take you on a trip down memory lane/This is not a rap on how I’m slinging crack or move cocaine/This is cul-de-sac and plenty Cognac and major pain/Not the drill sergeant but the stress that weighin’ on your brain.”

Ok, Kendrick, chill out. That’s a lot for me to process. So you’re going to tell me a a little about your past and how you weren’t a drug dealer, but you were still caught up with the pressures of substance abuse (all while making a reference to a pretty good movie). That’s cool, but just give me some t–

Nope. He just keeps going.

“It was me, L Boog, and Yan Yan/YG lucky ride down Rosecrans/It got ugly waving your hand out the window–Check yourself, uh.”

I assume all of those people are his friends, but the most important part of this verse is the “uh.” He gives us, if only for a moment, a split-second to (attempt to) catch up to what he’s said and what he’s about to say.

“Warriors and Conans/Hope euphoria can slow dance/with society/the driver seat/the first one to get killed/Seen a light-skinned [expletive] with his brains blown out/At the same burger stand where *beep* [a gang] hang out/Now this is not a tape recorder saying that he did it/But ever since that day, I was looking at him different.”

Stop. The. Match.

Kendrick, please, man, you’ve already told us enough. I don’t want to be an accessory to the crime you are talking about or the crime you are currently committing by murdering this verse. Just stop, man. You win.

Nope, he continues.

“That was back when I was nine/Joey packed the nine/Pakistan on every porch is fine/We adapt to crime/Pack a van with four guns at a time/With the sliding door.”

You witnessed this when you were nine years old? NINE. YEARS. OLD?! And then he just keeps going, like it’s not a big deal. He was used to the violence and being around guns all the time already. Wow. But he’s not done, not even close.

“[Expletive] you shooting for if you ain’t walking up you [expletive] punk?/Picking up the [expletive] pump/Picking off you suckers/Suck a [expletive] or die or sucker punch/A wall of bullets coming from/AKs, ARs, ‘Aye y’all, duck,’/That’s what momma said when we was eating that free lunch.”

This portion is a blend of tragedies. Violence is so prevalent in his life that he’s not afraid to tempt death, but then he hits you with more sadness when he says that his family has to be wary of gang violence, even while eating a lunch that his family cannot afford themselves.

“Aw man, [expletive]/All hell broke loose/You killed my cousin back in ’94/[Expletive] your truce/Now crawl your head in that noose/You wind up dead on the news/Ain’t no peace treaty/Just pieces BG’s up to pre-approve.”

Now, it’s personal for him, so he goes even harder these last few lines.

“Bodies on top of bodies/IVs on top of IVs/Obviously the coroner between the sheets like the Isleys/When you hop on the trolley/Make sure your colors correct/Make sure you’re corporate or they’ll be calling your mother collect/They say the governor collect/all of our taxes, except/when we in traffic and tragic happens/That [expletive] ain’t no threat/You moving backwards if you suggest that you sleep with a TEC/Go buy a chopper and have a doctor on speed dial, I guess/m.A.A.d. city.”

How? How is he this good? He’s telling a story about gang violence and how nobody cares about it while absolutely destroying a verse at the same time. I don’t understand.

That’s why he’s the best, and that’s why I cannot contain my excitement for his new album.

Pilkey

There’s no verse in Kendrick Lamar’s entire discography that evokes more emotion than the second verse on “Sing About Me.” The song comes near the end of good kid, m.A.A.d City, after the climax of the album’s story. The entire song is gut-wrenching in the way it paints characters of Compton residents that Kendrick knew in his early life. The second and most powerful verse is sung from the perspective of a young prostitute, the sister of the titular character in Section.80‘s “Keisha’s Song.” The narrator berates Kendrick for using her sister’s story to sell albums:

“You wrote a song about my sister on your tape / And called it Section.80, the message resembled “Brenda’s Got a Baby” / What’s crazy was, I was hearing about it / But doubted your ignorance how  could you ever just put her on blast and sh*t / Judging her past and sh*t, well, it’s completely my future”

She feels that Kendrick has co-opted a deeply personal story for his own gain. It seems to be a sensitive subject for Kendrick: he attempts to bring light to serious issues he faced in his youth without exploiting those around him. The emotion in his voice is palpable through this verse as he views things from the perspective of someone who feels used by him. Still, as the narrator says several bars later, she doesn’t care about Kendrick’s intentions.

“And I’m exhausted, but f*ck that ‘Sorry for your loss’ sh*t / My sister died in vain, but what point are you trying to gain / If you can’t fit the pumps I walk in? I’ll wait / Your rebuttal a little too late / And if you have an album date, just make sure I’m not in the song / ‘Cause I don’t need the attention bring enough of that on my own”

Kendrick shows empathy for the narrator and is able to see things from her perspective. Still, he knows that he wants to get her story out into the world and ultimately decides to do just that yet still show a different perspective by including this verse on the album.

“And matter fact, did I mention I physically feel great? / A doctor’s approval is a waste of time, I know I’m straight / I’ll probably live longer than you and never fade away / I’ll never fade away, I’ll never fade away, I know my fate”

There are inherent dangers in the narrator’s line of work, but she doesn’t care.  In fact, she feels immune from those dangers. She attacks Kendrick’s career as rap, implying that his fame will fade as she continues to thrive. She repeats that point several times. The verse continues, but the voice fades out. Just seconds after she announces she will never fade away, she literally fades away. The next verse is from Kendrick Lamar’s perspective.

It’s not his most exciting verse or his most impressive technically. But if there’s one verse that combines Kendrick’s natural rapping ability, the emotions that he can evoke and his social consciousness and empathy, it’s this one. And that’s what makes it his best.

Featured image by wikimedia commons

Edited by David Bradford

Kendrick Lamar Week: His best feature

Kendrick Lamar — a.k.a. The King of Rap — is releasing his fourth studio album this Friday. So we thought here at TNJN that we would honor Kendrick’s divine status by providing you all with our scorching Kendrick Lamar takes. David Bradford, Quinn Pilkey and Robert Hughes will reveal their favorite Kendrick feature, verse, song and album.

BEST FEATURE

King Kendrick’s solo material is of the highest quality. He’s also known for going on other artist’s tracks and absolutely murdering them. Literally. Whoever the artist is, when K. Dot is invited to feature on a track, it becomes his animal.

Bradford: I’m gonna go with one that I feel is underrated: Nosetalgia. It’s a Pusha T song off his 2013 album My Name is My Name and boy, let me tell you, it’s mind-bending. The way he starts off with “You wanna see a dead body” is so inviting. Normally, I wouldn’t want to see a dead body, but Kendrick is so menacing that I’m like, yes, I do wanna see a dead body. Then, check out this word play right here:

“When I was ten
Back when nine ounces have got you ten
And nine times out of ten n***** don’t pay attention
And when there’s tension in the air, nines come with extensions”

HOW. DOES. HE. DO. IT.

The way he pairs “nine” and “ten” in only four lines is why he’s the G.O.A.T. I can barely count to ten and this man is throwing that numerical value around like Russell Westbrook throws up 50-point triple-doubles.

And you can’t have a classic Kendrick verse without his insane vocal change-ups. The way he deepens his voice at the end of the lines “My daddy dumped a quarter piece to a four and a half/ Took a L, started selling soap fiends bubble bath/ Broke his nails misusing his pinky to treat his nose/ Shirt buttoned open, taco meat land on his gold” is ear candy. I love it.

Then, he drops the classic “Every verse is a brick/Your son dope…” I fully support lyrical content being compared to drugs.

Pilkey: The best Kendrick feature is “No More Parties in LA”. The main attraction of the song is that Kanye is laying down his best bars in years, but Kendrick’s run may be even more impressive than Yeezy’s. The first time hearing it is like an out-of-body experience — Kanye begins with “Hey baby, you forgot your Ray Bans / And my sheets still orange from your spray tan” and you start nodding your head, already hyped by a great beat and the tantalizing first few bars of what will likely be a classic verse. And then Kendrick takes over on the same beat and delivers an incredible verse that seemingly goes on forever without feeling like overkill. The hand-off between the greatest of all time to the greatest right now is an all-time moment.

It’s not Kendrick’s best work lyrically and it’s sexually charged in a way that is at times more creepy than anything else. But it’s an incredibly fun verse on a great song that delivers on its promise in a way that most The Life of Pablo did not.

Hughes: Kendrick has got some great features, but one of his most recent is my personal favorite. Lamar’s lyrical and rhythmic work in The Weeknd’s “Sidewalks” is mind-boggling, especially coming after one of The Weeknd’s best verses. The rock influence in the production of the song allows Kendrick to move quickly, yet ferociously, through his verse.

Just take a moment to appreciate the final few lines of his verse:

I’m livin’ life, high off life

I’m the greatest n****, why you scared to say it?

I wanna rock, I wanna rock

I wanna cop more land, I never stop

I wanna quick advance on a bill if it ain’t one

Break everything, I’m a hustler, I came from…

[The Weeknd]

Sidewalks saved my life

It shows a hungry, yet slightly cocky attitude that Kendrick possesses that makes me appreciate him more.

Anything Kendrick touches turns to gold. I just think this verse glimmers a little more than anything else he’s done.

Featured image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Ask An Editor: Valentine’s Day Dilemma

Q: I don’t know what to get my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day. Got any tips?

A: Shopping for significant others can be tricky. Here are a few options to (hopefully) win her heart:

1. Just ask
Asking is the easiest way to find out what she wants. You may feel awkward by being so direct, but she will probably appreciate that you really want to buy something she would love.

2. Stick with the obvious
If you have been together for a while, you probably know her favorite stores and restaurants. Gift cards to these places are great, especially for college students. If her favorite band is coming to town, try to score some tickets. Favorite lotion? There’s a Bath & Body Works coupon for that.

3. Listen and observe
When you are with her, be attentive to what she says and does. If she mentions she lost her makeup blender, go to a cosmetics store and pick one up. She will be excited about the sponge, but more excited you listened. If she looks at something in a store for more than three seconds and touches it, there’s a good chance she wants it. She will be impressed you noticed. Oh, stalk Pinterest too.

4. Pick some flowers
Flowers are simple and classic. Buy a dozen of her favorites. If you don’t know her favorite flower, pick some that are her favorite color. And when in complete doubt, you can almost never go wrong with roses.

5. Do something unexpected
Okay, don’t go crazy and rent a yacht or something (unless you have the means to do so), but doing something unexpected can be really neat. Go outside the norm. Handwrite a letter. Write her a song. Put together a photo collage for her wall. Paint or build something for her. Use your strengths and wit to do something cool – something she will cherish.

I hope you find the perfect gift.

– TNJN Editor

 

Have a question you’d like answered? Email your question to asktnjn@aol.com and an editor will respond promptly.