I originally was debating on doing a full album review today or not but I finally got a chance to see Kendrick’s ELEMENT video, the third video from his album DAMN. I watched it and felt it connects with the topics I’ve been touching on this week. Kung Fu Kenny’s back again.
This video said a lot in a short time that from looking at the comments section, most people don’t understand fully. This entire video is about being forced to grow up and adapt to a violent environment to survive and how it changes who you are.
Note: This song has explicit language.
The concept behind the video is using constantly escalating images to describe the maturation of ‘Kendrick’ in his neighborhood. He shows how innocence is taken away from a child for survival. The implied father, teaches the son to fight even when he doesn’t want to. We see him going from playing with bugs to play-shooting at cars. Eventually he learns how to fight and we see the escalation of prompted violence to participation in jumping someone.
It’s also interesting to note the ‘father’ appearing later in the video bloodied. This is something that I am not 100% sure, but it can be implied that after teaching his son how to fight, eventually, the son fight the father. You see a dazed look and around the images of chaos and violence in the context of the boy’s story, it fits nicely.
Another interesting segment is the relationship of women in the video. We only see two sets of different women in the video. We see a group of older black women dressed as saints and a younger lady with a man. I think if we are supposed to believe the context of the video, the message is simple. Women are often seen as the peacekeepers and saviors for Black men in our community. Combined with the concept of being forced to accept a certain type of lifestyle, it could also be said that the way Black men treat Black women is forced culturally on Black men. It’s apart of the lifestyle; even when men want to focus on other things, sex and violence are inbred as necessities for the average Black male.
We also only see two images of white men in this video: cops and prisoners. This is interesting because it is implying the fight for average black men is to avoid getting in fights with the cops and if you fail there, be careful around the white prisoners. It may even be implying those are the two populations that are worse enemies to Black men than themselves, which all is heavy to really process.
ELEMENT. shows a bloody and violent image of Black males growing up in dangerous environments but it raises strong commentary about our behaviors being resultant from our environment and upbringing. If you let anyone punk you, you could possibly end up dead, as we saw with the man thrown off the roof. This scene was vital because if we assume that was ‘young Kendrick’ watching, it makes sense why he accepted the violent lifestyle. If you cannot protect yourself and people don’t take you serious, you could end up like him.
This video shows that it might be impossible to struggle against your environment. It brings up thoughts about Nature versus Nurture and the life we want to live. It also leaves a lingering question what we all would be like if we were in a different environment. “Damned if we do. Damned if we don’t.” Question is, can we find salvation in the midst of continuously feeling damned to a dog eat dog lifestyle?
Turn Your Music Up!