He’s back. On Tuesday, nearly two years after his masterful sophomore record, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick Lamar finally offered a preview of his forthcoming album. Details on the still-untitled LP are scant—Kendrick told Rolling Stone it might not even be out this year—but if new single “i” is any indication, music fans of all stripes should begin to get very, very excited.
On good kid, Lamar adeptly shifted personas from bombastic egocentric (“Backseat Freestyle”) to reflective sentimentalist (“Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”) to spine-chilling storyteller (“m.A.A.d. city”). But the record didn’t provide anything quite like the Isley Brother-sampling “i.”
The beat seamlessly jumps from bright acoustic guitar and piano to a stadium-built chorus, before descending into a funk jam for the books. K-Dot’s signature lyricism is there, too. “There’s a war outside / And a bomb in the street / And a gun in the hood / And a mob of police / And a rock on the corner / And a line full of fiends / And a bottle full of lean,” the MC rattles off in seven seconds of inner-city observation. But it all comes back to an optimism and self-assurance that good kid sometimes lacked: The chorus triumphantly asserts, “I love myself / One day at a time, try and go shine.”
Lamar and critics alike have long contextualized his work with hip-hop’s greats, but now he’s shooting for another plane entirely. “i” doesn’t memorialize “conscious” hip-hop—it harkens back to bards of urban desperation like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Hear the track below.