The first time I heard Kendrick Lamar was in that flurry of remixes of Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks. Yeah, remember that song? Yeah, if you can stretch your mind all the way back to 2011, you’ll remember that familiar indie pop excitement of that song about a modern-day shootout. DJ Reflex remixed the famously fun track and featured a budding young Lamar. I fell in love with his curious intonations and nearly tongue-tying lyrical waves.
In October 2012, Lamar released his second studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, featuring the incredibly heavy track Swimming Pools (Drank). The track easily hung in the Top 100 and was even named by Rolling Stone as the 34th best song of 2012. Lamar’s rhymes are painfully honest and undeniably relatable. The repetitive narration falls right in line with the bass. Lamar’s music easily reflects the influences of 2Pac, B.I.G. and Eminem, but what makes him unique, specifically on Swimming Pools, is how accessible the theme of the song is. His lyrics speak to the spiraling turns of alcoholism, inner conflict and the monotony of indulgence.
Pour up, drank, head shot, drank
Sit down, drank, stand up, drank
Pass out, drank, wake up, drank
Faded, drank, faded, drank
Okay, now open your mind up and listen to me, Kendrick
I’m your conscience, if you do not hear me
Then you will be history, Kendrick
I know that you’re nauseous right now
And I’m hopin’ to lead you to victory, Kendrick
If I take another one down
I’ma drown in some poison abusin’ my limit
I think that I’m feelin’ the vibe
I see the love in her eyes, I see the feelin’
The freedom is granted as soon as the damage of vodka arrive
This how you capitalize
This is parental advice.”
At Dawn We Rage, a duo of producer and drummer, adds a sprinkle of trance onto Lamar’s Swimming Pools. The duo delicately morphs the track into a quiet trap edit, accessible to a far broader audience. The message of struggle and pain still pours through the speakers and finds its power in Lamar‘s lyricism.
Also, in honor of having just seen Django Unchained, here’s the DJ Reflex remix of Pumped Up Kicks.