The rapper's Instagram account was wiped clean Thursday morning, replaced with one cryptic post added around sunrise. The simple white-on-black image of the Roman numeral "IV," with no caption provided, has led to a near-universal interpretation: Prepare ye the way for the impending release of Lamar's fourth studio album.
Of course, it's a move meant to provoke wild conjecture. It is standard practice now for artists — or even presidents — to use social media to make major announcements. But nothing has been confirmed.
DJBooth's editorial site The Plug speculates Lamar's post could be an allusion to a forthcoming single, potentially produced by The Alchemist, who tweeted the same image hours later. Either way, the timing is telling, as it comes not even a full week after Drake, streaming king, released his More Life playlist.
Yet, the bigger question is not when, or if, but how Lamar's next LP will make a connection between God and gangsta rap.
In a New York Times' T Magazine interview published earlier this month, Lamar hinted that his next album would explore themes around God even more explicitly than he has in past projects. "I think now, how wayward things have gone within the past few months, my focus is ultimately going back to my community and the other communities around the world where they're doing the groundwork," he told Times contributor Wyatt Mason. "To Pimp a Butterfly was addressing the problem. I'm in a space now where I'm not addressing the problem anymore. We're in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God. Nobody speaks on it because it's almost in conflict with what's going on in the world when you talk about politics and government and the system."
But the gospel according to Kendrick Lamar — and the suggestion that his next album would focus on that theme — spawned widespread disapproval online after the Times piece went viral.
"If I wanted to hear about God I'd listen to gospel," read one choice tweet. "Pls just go back to rapping about Compton bruh," another response read. Others implied Lamar was attempting to ride a wave, following the tremendous success of Chance the Rapper's Grammy-winning mixtape Coloring Book.
While Chance's release was perhaps the strongest example yet of gospel rap gone mainstream, Lamar has flirted with overt themes of Christianity in past works. The climax to Lamar's 2012 major-label debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City features a skit with Lamar and his friends accepting Christ in a neighborhood parking lot following a gang tragedy. Both Lamar and Chance have emerged as spiritually-attuned artists in an increasingly unchurched generation. Both hail from cities with notorious gang problems and gun violence. And both are using mainstream rap to promote a relationship with God as part of the solution to these problems.
Yet it's Lamar's sober approach that's considered the more radical of the two. Unlike Chance, whose Coloring Book is just that — a bright sonic display of his faith in the face of reality — Lamar tends toward much darker, near-cataclysmic territory in his masterful works. Even his personal displays of faith have drawn raised eyebrows. A 2015 BuzzFeed story, "The Radical Christianity of Kendrick Lamar," recounts his unusual Halloween costume in 2014, the year he dressed as Jesus Christ. "If I want to idolize somebody, I'm not going to do a scary monster, I'm not gonna do another artist or a human being — I'm gonna idolize the Master, who I feel is the Master, and try to walk in His light," he told The FADER the same year. "It's hard, it's something I probably could never do, but I'm gonna try. Not just with the outfit but with everyday life. The outfit is just the imagery, but what's inside me will display longer."
Prepare yourselves for the fourth coming, in whatever form it may assume.
|Kendrick Lamar in 2016, performing during the Benicassim Festival (FIB) in Benicassim, Spain. JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images|
Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane and Rae Sremmurd Team Up on Mike Will Made-It’s “Perfect Pint”
Mike Will Made-It is delivering dope record after dope record. From his forthcoming album Ransom 2, he drops off another fire collab from Kendrick Lamar, Gucci Mane and Rae Sremmurd called “Perfect Pint.”
“Perfect Pint” debuted on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show today (March 23) and it finds Slim Jxmmi opening up the record with a dope verse. The record then leads into a harmonizing hook, followed by a Gucci Mane verse before K.Dot closes out the track.
“Everybody a Crip ’til they black and blue,” spits Kenny, “everybody a Blood ’til they hemorrhaging.”
Kendrick himself made headlines today when he posted an Instagram picture with the Roman numerals IV, presumably referring to his imminent fourth album. No news yet on what it means or when the assumed album is coming, but expect more developments soon.
Peep the previous drops from the LP so far—“Gucci On My” with Migos, 21 Savage and YG, “On The Come Up” with Big Sean, “Hasselhoff” with Lil Yachty, “Come Down” with Chief Keef and Rae Sremmurd, “Razzle Dazzle” with Future and “Aries (YuGo)” with Pharrell.
Spring Music Preview: Gorillaz, Father John Misty, Kendrick(?), and Much More
Drake’s release of More Life preceded the arrival of spring by a couple days, but as far as the music-release calendar goes, it’s hard to think of a better way to start the season. From a freshly announced Kendrick album to the long-anticipated return of Gorillaz, the next couple of months should provide plenty of summer playlist material.
Tei Shi, Crawl Space (March 31)
Tei Shi has been populating the blog circuit with one-off songs since 2013, but she’s only just now getting around to putting out her debut album — and if its lead single “Keep Running” is representative of the whole project, fans of her earlier vaguely defined “mermaid music” might be thrown a curveball: She’s moved away from her New Wave influences and leaned closer into brooding R&B. Still, she wears both sides of her sound so well it’s hard to take issue with the shift — if you even notice it. —Dee Lockett
Freddie Gibbs, You Only Live 2wice (March 31)
A 34-year-old street-rap stalwart from Gary, Indiana, Gibbs blends the intensity of an artist half his age with a technical precision born from long experience. His fourth album is reported to clock in at roughly 32 minutes, but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that he’s got nothing to say; rather, it’s an indication to the contrary. Gibbs has a story to tell, but he’s also scarily efficient, and too old to waste time. —Frank Guan
Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (March 31)
Atlanta metal outfit Mastodon has always managed a precarious balancing act between jibing subgenres, but this month’s Emperor of Sand continues the march toward the accessibility initiated with 2011’s The Hunter. That regrettably means even fewer songs about facing off against stone golems on a cursed mountainside and resisting the wiles of the doomed Tsarist Russian swindler Rasputin, but the pleading emotional intensity and soulful singing of cuts like “Word to the Wise” are just as powerful as any swords and sorcery. —Craig Jenkins
Arca, Arca (April 7)
Venezuelan producer Arca makes captivating, claustrophobic electronic music and videos that are terrifying yet strikingly beautiful by turns, but more often all at once. His third album, Arca, blesses another array of bewitching productions with the angelic singing that anchored “Sin Rumbo,” off last year’s Entrañas, and lyrics about doomed love and transformation sung in Spanish. Arca’s cryptic audio-visual experiences will no doubt push the producer’s solo work up into the rarefied space occupied by forward-thinking multimedia auteurs like Björk and Anohni. —CJ
Father John Misty, Pure Comedy (April 7)
Come for the existential musings, esoteric social commentary, “generic” pop songs, and acid trips; stay for the mass spillage of word vomit from all future Father John Misty interviews that his new album will happily provide us. —DL
Joey Bada$$, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (April 7)
In a few short years, New York rapper Joey Bada$$ has graduated from the precocious teenage Golden Age hip-hop nostalgia of his early mixtapes 1999 and Summer Knights, into the burgeoning hometown rap superpower of 2015’s B4.Da.$$. The new All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ mixes in political awareness and capable singing for what at times feels like an East Coast rebuttal to the bright, outraged, high-concept activism of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. —CJ
The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (April 7)
Whiteout Conditions is Canadian indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers’ first full-length record without founding member Dan Bejar, whose ever-changing Destroyer outfit has grown into a formidable project of its own, and also the first for the band’s newly minted Collected Works Records. Remaining songwriters A.C. Newman and Neko Case don’t miss a beat; Whiteout Conditions provides another dose of power-pop with quirky synth accents from a collective that hasn’t faltered yet this century. —CJ
Little Dragon, Season High (April 14)
These Swedish electro-experimentalists rarely make a misstep. 2014’s Nabuma Rubberband was a vision of what international genre fusion could be in the right hands. Season High, while slightly scaled back and moodier (though, make no mistake, the oddball dance track “Sweet” is a certified bop), looks to be an extension of what Yukimi Nagano & Co. started exactly a decade ago. —DL
Feist, Pleasure (April 28)
The first album since 2011’s Metals from the Canadian songstress and indie icon, Pleasure’s all but guaranteed to deliver on the promise of its title: smooth and smoked out by its user’s past life as a punk screamer, Feist’s voice is a cause for euphoria in itself. Whether there’s enough substance behind the smoke, though, only time can tell. —FG
Gorillaz, Humanz (April 28)
After six years off and away on vacation on Plastic Beach, your favorite animated band will rejoin us humanz for their fifth album, their first since 2011’s The Fall. And it has a murderer’s row of collaborators joining Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, 2D, Murdoc, Russel Hobbs, and Noodle: Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Danny Brown, De La Soul, Pusha T, Kali Uchis, Kelela, Vince Staples, Jehnny Beth from Savages, D.R.A.M., Popcaan, Jamie Principle, Kilo Kish, Anthony Hamilton, Peven Everett, and Zebra Katz. With a guest list like that, there’s a chance that the excellent anti-Trump song “Hallelujah Money” isn’t even the best track on the album — and that’s saying something. —DL
Sylvan Esso, What Now (April 28)
Sylvan Esso have only been a synth-pop duo of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sunburn for four years, but already they’re onto their sophomore album. The band’s songs are big, brash observations on modern relationships — “Die Young” is about succumbing to love before death, and “Radio” is a sick burn aimed at artists’ dependence on their pop overlords: “Now don’t you look good sucking American dick.” Purity Ring fans who prefer the duo’s poppier moments, give What Now your time. —DL
Perfume Genius, No Shape (May 5)
In three studio albums as Perfume Genius, singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas has expanded from the wounded folk of “Normal Song” into the glam-rock accents of “Fool” and the queer empowerment anthem “Queen,” off 2014’s Too Bright. The fourth, this spring’s No Shape, pushes him further while retaining the project’s personal air of music as therapy. Of new songs like “Slip Away,” Hadreas says, “I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.” —CJ
At the Drive-In, in•ter a•li•a (May 5)
The El Paso–based post-hard-core legends At the Drive-In broke up shortly after the release of Relationship of Command, a superb album that made them minor-league famous; that was back in 2001. A few years after reuniting, they’re back with a new collection in 2017. You can get an old crew together again, but the magic between them is rather more elusive. Here’s hoping that the same malaise afflicting the post-reunion Pixies doesn’t get the worst of them as well. —FG
Chris Stapleton, TBA (May 5)
First Chris Stapleton was one of Nashville’s Music Row’s best-kept songwriting secrets, and then he became a household name with his acclaimed debut solo album Traveller and a dominating 2015 CMAs night that shocked even the best industry forecasters. How will he follow up what might’ve (incorrectly) looked like overnight success on his sophomore album? We won’t know the answer until May, but don’t expect it to be any less impressive just because more eyes are watching. —DL
Mac DeMarco, This Old Dog (May 5)
If you’ve come to know Canadian indie-rock star Mac DeMarco as the cigarette-smoking, wise-guy guitar god you often see on the blogs, his latest, This Old Dog, will be a shake-up. The new album foregrounds acoustic guitars and synths in place of his trademark woozy electric guitar work, and trades whimsy for tear-stained autobiography. “Just trying to keep it light sometimes casts a shadow,” he sings on “A Wolf Who Wears Sheep’s Clothes.” Truer words… —CJ
Kendrick Lamar, TBA (TBA)
Either it’s a bit too early to start wondering if Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album will drop this spring, or we’re all somehow already late to party. As of March 23, when Kendrick Lamar teased album No. 4 with an Instagram photo of the Roman numeral IV, we’ve all been put on Kendrick album watch. So far, Kendrick is three-for-three in the album department, which means we might already have an easy contender for Album of the Year just a few months into 2017. —DL