If you’re a Kendrick Lamar fan, you’ve probably been paying attention to Baby Keem’s recent releases. Keem’s single, “family ties,” marks the first time Lamar has appeared on a song since SiR’s 2019 single “Hair Down.” This all follows various promotional material released regarding Lamar’s comeback to the scene.
Lamar hasn’t released any solo music since his 2017 album DAMN, though he partially wrote and produced the Black Panther soundtrack in 2018. Since then, we’ve heard very little from Lamar—until now. Following a number of leaks and releases, listeners knew that Baby Keem was going to be affiliated with Lamar in some capacity on his next work.
Last year, Lamar announced his new company: pgLang. Not much information is known about this company. Some speculate it’s a clothing brand, while others propose it may be Lamar’s own record label. The latter has turned out to be true; Baby Keem’s album and singles were released under pgLang, marking the first artist to be publicly signed to the label. More recently, Lamar made headlines in August when he posted a link to a website detailing where he’s been during the pandemic year and (vaguely) what he’s been up to. Notably, he announced that he intends on leaving his current record label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), after the release of his next album. This adds credence to the theory that pgLang may be Lamar’s own record label.
The first of two Kendrick Lamar collaborations, “family ties,” arrived on Aug. 27. While the song is Baby Keem’s (who happens to be Lamar’s cousin), Lamar is featured heavily on the second half of the track. This was an unconventional appearance for Lamar. His verse is strange, yet catchy. He flaunts his braggy side on this track, claiming that he’s been “ducking the overnight activists.” He even calls himself a prophet on the track, which isn’t necessarily foreign behavior for Lamar, as he has openly struggled with staying humble in the past. He also employed uncommon flows, dispersing them along his verse. He has a cool, laid back delivery with his words, yet he still sounds assertive. He continuously repeats phrases regarding his current status in the rap game. Even stranger from the lyrics, the music video features Lamar performing even weirder dances in odd outfits. While this appearance from Lamar is different from what he’s done before, it isn’t out of the ordinary for him to deviate from the median when it comes to his rapping style. What was even more outlandish was his verse on another Baby Keem song, “range brothers.”
“range brothers” appeared on Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue. Lamar’s contributions to the track consist of him repeating the phrases “Let’s get this sh-t” and “top of the mornin’” over and over again for less than a minute. He also throws in some ad libs throughout the song. But his lack of a verse is certainly bizarre and unconventional for a rapper of his status.
Perhaps this was Kendrick Lamar trolling his fans by giving them a taste of what they couldn’t have? I don’t think that’s too out-of-the-picture for him. He also could have been innovating toward something new. It’s entirely possible that his new album will sound something like this, diverging from typical hip-hop norms, with multiple beat switches, eclectic flows, and rigid instrumentation. But they also contrast from each other. “family ties” introduces Lamar back into the rap game after his hiatus. “range brothers” reintroduces the rap game to Kendrick Lamar.
In a way, “range brothers” takes the “family ties” verse and throws it out the window, leaving listeners with more questions than answers. Whenever Lamar decides to release his new album, we can safely assume that it’ll be very different from his previous releases. Surely, there will be more to come from now until then.