As the music fades out on “Mortal Man,” the last track on Kendrick Lamar’s brilliant new album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” K-Dot stops rhyming and starts talking–to 2Pac. The conversation is based on a series of interviews from 1994 featuring the slain legend that Miss Info posted.
Maybe it’s the West Coast in me, or maybe it’s the fact 2Pac’s words resonate so true and hard, but the conversation made me shed a tear or two when I first heard it Monday. It still gives me the feels listening to it today. Here’s a short clip:
In this country, a black man only have like five years we can exhibit maximum strength. And that’s right now while you a teenager, while you still strong, while you still wanna lift weights, while you still wanna shoot back. Cause once you turn 30 it’s like they take the heart and soul out of a man, out of a black man in this country. And you don’t wanna fight no more. And if you don’t believe me you can look around. You don’t see no loud-mouth 30-year old motherfuckers.
That’s crazy, because me being one of your [offspring], of the legacy you left behind, I can truly tell you that there’s nothing but turmoil going on. So, I wanted to ask you what you think is the future for me and my generation today?
You’ll have to listen to the track to hear how 2Pac answers:
On “Mortal Man,” Lamar is letting us know he’s not just here for today and he’s not just here for the future–he’s here for the past, to honor and be in conversation with those whose legacy he’s carrying on. He’s also telling us that death doesn’t always have to mean an end.
I also couldn’t help but notice that the way the music fades away is reminiscent of “Sing of Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” the “Good Kid, M.a.a.d City” track that has a sex worker critiquing K-Dot’s best intentions on his previous album, “Section 80.” In that fade-out his voice slowly disappears after she insists, “I’ll never fade away, I’ll never fade away, I know my fate….” I’m uncertain if Kendrick Lamar meant to point to this track, but either way, he’s legendary enough by now to reference himself.