There’s a scene in Kendrick Lamar’s superb new video in which he does donuts in a Camaro while flinging messy stacks of money out the window. It’s the kind of joyfully excessive moment we’ve seen in typical rap videos for decades—notable here for being the only typical moment in an unrelentingly artful and stylish video, and even that moment is shot beautifully, in rich black and white.
Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is an unapologetically dense 79 minutes with scant obvious options for singles. “Alright” is about as likely a choice as any of the other tracks on this opus, making no concessions for radio-readiness (as though radio were still a factor, Beats1 notwithstanding). The video begins with a two and a half minute intro that includes new music, scenes of civil unrest, and finally, the amazing image of Kendrick and three TDE labelmates cruising in a car that’s being held aloft by cops like Cleopatra’s manservants. Only then does the video proper begin.
Directed by Colin Tilley and the Little Homies, who directed videos for Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, and, well, Justin Bieber, the rest of the video treats Kendrick Lamar as though he has superpowers beyond incredible rapping ability. He floats through the sky at high speeds. He raps from atop a traffic light in front of the Staples Center in L.A. He raps while moving upside down like Ludacris in “Southern Hospitality.” He’s larger than life—even in a painful-to-watch finale in which he appears to lose his life. Keep watching, though, and you’ll see the artist is still grinning. Kendrick cannot be stopped.