Video Breakdown | Kendrick Lamar – Alright

Video Breakdown | Kendrick Lamar – Alright

To say that Kendrick potentially dropped the video of the year, sorry TSwift, would be a glorious understatement. Collin Tilley, the man behind some of the biggest videos in the past few years, has delivered a masterpiece. Tilley took what could have been a traditional hip hop video, i.e. drifting in cars, throwing money, performing for a crowd, and has twisted it just enough to be genius.

The metaphors are endless and the video echoes perfectly the message of the song. Alright is visually stunning and yet socially and politically pointed. But to breakdown this video will take a village so it is time for the District to show off their insight and think their way through this amazing video.

We would love for you to answer these questions in the comments below. We want you to join in the conversation!

Questions To Answer

1. What image strikes you most in the first 1min and 30 seconds? Why?

The image that strikes me most is the kid skateboarding and then disappearing. It’s as if he never had the chance to land. After seeing the whole video, one can see that these few frames are an ode to those that tried to fly, as Kendrick did, yet never came back down.

2. Why does Kendrick start the video riding in a car carried by policemen?

At first this was clearly a king being carried by his slaves. The game had been switched and now authority bows to Kendrick.

But I think I was wrong here.

After reading the amazing insights below and I believe that the car is a coffin of sorts and the officer who “kills” Kendrick is actually one of the pallbearers. This scene could mean multiple things but I think that is part of its genius.

3. Why does Kendrick fly through the video?

I believe Kendrick is flying because he has transcended his streets yet he longs to be reunited with them thus the running and not flying like superman.

4. Why the light pole? Why perform upside down?

The light pole to me was more of a this will look cool kind of thing rather than having a true meaning. With that being said I believe that it reinforces his transcendence but with the sobering reality of the city skyline behind him. A skyline still unattainable.

Is this the highest he can fly? If so that is a sad reality.

Performing upside down is clearly is a symbol of Peter, the disciple of Jesus, who Kendrick may look up to or see himself as.

5. When Kendrick gets shot at the end, is the monologue still his thoughts or the thoughts of the police officer?

I believe that at the beginning of the film you hear kendricks thoughts and by the end you hear the policeman’s thoughts. Both very similar, both abusing their power and influence, both being tempted to evil by “Lucy.” I believe this is the olive branch and the plea for everyone to understand that we all struggle with the same things.

6. Why does Kendrick smile at the end?

I guess because he believes everything will be alright. But honestly this last moment in the video truly puzzles me.

7. What does the video mean on a whole? Who is Kendrick Lamar? Why is it in Black and White?

This video is an ode to those you have been lost in this great war Kendrick speaks of and a song of hope to those who are still fighting.

Kendrick is one who has transcended yet has not forgotten the struggle that many face each and every day. Kendrick seems to say,”Though the world does not see you, I see you. Money is not the goal but love and family are. And though the forces of darkness will seek to quiet us, we will be alright.”

Kendrick is a prophet of sorts trying with all his might to bring joy back into the realm of black and white.

8. What will you remember most?

EVERYTHING

We know Forth is a home For Artists. For Thinkers. So lets be that! To all those who have shared and give thoughts they are amazing! Lets keep chopping up this amazing pieces of art together!

  • zdmiddleton

    First off thanks for what you guys are doing here at Forth
    District in developing a holistic Christian worldview.

    1. Honestly when I initially watched the video I just got the feeling of chaos. I went back and watched it several times and I just got more chaos in the first 1:30. As I went back through the video Kendrick’s scream stuck out to me. The reason it stuck out was due to the fact I have heard the album and I thought he was going to go into his “Loving you is
    complicated” rift. However, what really grabbed me visually every time I went through it is what happened after the 1:30 mark. I thought the scene that was very visually compelling was when the guy broke out of the handcuffs, took off running and the police officer shot him. (I couldn’t take my eyes off of the gun as it unloaded) That scene grabbed me more than anything else in the intro.

    2. “King Kunta”…I think Kendrick is stating that he
    has authority over the figures that typically have authority over him.

    3. I think his flying is his symbolic way of saying
    that he has overcome the obstacles of the city. It also goes back to his album’s butterfly theme, Kendrick is visually displaying his survivor’s guilt. As he is “King Kunta”(who is lifted in chariots carried by police officers) he models the fact that he can see the entire city including visuals like the struggles of the inner city. (I wish the director would have also tried to depict the brokenness that I’m sure Kendrick also interacts with in suburban culture and juxtaposed the two. However, the video is crazy as is. )

    4. I don’t think he is trying to present himself as this “enlightened” one. Rather the director wants to use a prop that is high in
    the air yet not forced. Every part of the city has city lights. I think he is upside down because he feels misunderstood.

    5. Hmm.. good question, I don’t know, but it is
    good art.

    6. He wants to portray to the viewers that somehow
    he wins in the end.

    7. On the whole it’s the “Control” verse in video
    form. It’s the video that shows that rappers can do a lot more with their platform than throw parties. Kendrick is continuing his “Star” motif that started with “i”, was the prelude song on his album, went through Blacker the Berry and spills into this video. I honestly think he is building a longer narrative with his album chronology. I can’t wait to see where he is in ten years as an artist.

    8. Kendrick and his friends being lifted like a
    chariot by police officers. Incredible imagery.

    PS – I think you guys got “Dope” completely wrong. It is one
    of the best movies I have seen in the last 10 years (minus the sexual content) In some ways it says everything I have been trying to say about the black experience – http://bit.ly/1aYzyka (shameless plug for my blog) and portrays it in a way that is not cliché.

    PPS – Could you guys do this same Artist interaction with
    Kendrick’s latest “…Butterfly” Album Art? I feel like someone could write a
    black studies dissertation on the way it captures the black experience while
    being visually provocative at the same time.

  • Jonathan Watson

    1. Broken people. The image(s) immediately conjure up feelings of empathy and sadness. To start the video like this puts the watcher on the side of the broken. The image of the gun being fired, while an incredible shot, seems to suggest a broken system perpetuating societal brokenness. Broken plus broken cannot equal whole.

    2. My initial reaction was to say he has somehow moved above and beyond the law. But, that’s just too easy. When you take this shot, view it through the lens of the rest of the video, and combine it with the final scenes of him falling from the light post, you could conclude they feel a sense of support from the police. Which, as the video shows, inevitably proves false.

    3. This one was tough for me. I wanted to say he was glorifying himself as some kind deity who has transcended culture and the brokenness of the city. However, flying isn’t real. Characters in comic books and Marvel movies fly, not humans. His flight to me, again, suggest his false sense of security and that everything will be “alright.”

    4. I’m not sure I have thoughts on the light pole, unless he is trying to be seen. Maybe he’s trying to portray some sense of hope? And performing upside down seems to convey they world is not right.

    5. I believe it’s both. Both are wading through the dangers of misusing power, which ultimately leads to depression or a sense of wrongness.

    6. Ultimately, it’s victory. Even in injustice, one is not bound to the cruelty of others. In some way, we can still choose our freedom. It reminds me of the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid of the one who can kill the body but not the soul.” There is a greater evil we must face. Kendrick said he went looking for answers. Maybe he found something only he knows.

    7. Brokenness perpetuates brokenness and that to hope in those who leverage power for their personal gain is a false sense of hope. However, there are answers if only we have to courage to seek after them.

    8. Can I say the whole video? It was brilliant.

  • Allison Duncan

    1. There are two images that stick out to me the most- the image of the kid on the ground around 0:39 and the image of the church, with Kendrick’s words about Lucifer being all around him, around 1:00. The image of the kid on the ground just brings up all memories of that which has gone on in our society lately. The image of the church and Kendrick’s message strikes me because I don’t think the Church has done what we have been called to do in the midst of suffering and racial reconciliation.

    2. The roles have been flipped and he, and all other African Americans, have the upper hand.

    3. Seeing in to the future that African Americans will be able to overcome the obstacles and strife they have been faced with.

    4. Light poles provide direction and help to maintain order. Kendrick and his message aim to provide direction and encouragement to this generation and the African American community. Upside down- the struggle to win the battle of racial reconciliation.

    5. I think it could be from both

    6. To show victory at the end of it all.

    7. On a whole, Kendrick has a place as an influencer in our culture. This video is to provide the encouragement needed right now. We will overcome racial differences. He and his music are motivation and inspiration. I believe it might be black and white because right now, that is what our culture cannot get over. We still see color of skin versus the person.

    8. The bullet being released and the shot of the church with the cross.

  • CATAPHANT

    1. What image strikes you most in the first 1min and 30 seconds? Why?
    -The cops carrying the car, obviously. At first I thought it was just humorous, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was about the duality of power exchanges. They are in the car, being carried by what seems like police men (authority figures) who have been reduced to servants. But in reality, Kendrick isn’t actually in real control of where the car goes, the police are. And then the car starts to look like a coffin and then police men like pallbearers.

    2. Why does Kendrick start the video riding in a car carried by policemen?
    -I’m assuming the imagery is in reference to current events.

    3. Why does Kendrick fly through the video?
    -A couple of reasons. The first being that K is like a hero in his hood— someone who made it out and is a good role model who uses his influence well. The second reason is because he’s perpetually separated from this community because of his transition, according to him, into a “new war” (“one based on apartheid and discrimination”). The thing about being a hero is that you’re elevated and not truly a member of the crowd that idolizes you.

    Also, I think it just adds to the dream-like quality of the video.

    4. Why the light pole? Why perform upside down?
    -He’s on top of the light pole because he wants/has a higher perspective. The light pole is man made, something that controls flow of movement (was it a traffic light he was on top of?). So maybe he wants to say that he’s above man-made forms of control? As for upside down, prolly cuz it just looked cool. And maybe a reference to crucifixion.

    5. When Kendrick gets shot at the end, is the monologue still his thoughts or the thoughts of the police officer?
    -Oh snap… I need to go back and re-watch that part. Dang.

    6. Why does Kendrick smile at the end?
    -Cuz… no matter what, he’s gonna be alright. Duh.

    7. What does the video mean on a whole? Who is Kendrick Lamar? Why is it in Black and White?
    -My biggest take away from the video is DUALITY. There’s what we perceive and what is actually real. We perceive that we have control, but then underneath that control is someone (police man) who is actually calling the shots (or rather, shooting us). In the beginning of the video some dude gets shot by a real gun. In the end, K gets shot by a gesture. The second shot was either saying that the first shot lacked real power over its target, or that even small gestures have the power to kill.

    ALSO, I thought a lot about how Kendrick begins and ends the video talking about the evils of Lucy being all around him and his temptation to abuse his influence. In the middle of the video, you clearly see a narrative of oppressed vs. oppressor. Kendrick is simultaneously oppressed AND tempted to evil…oooh, duality.

    8. What will you remember most?
    -The police men carrying the car… so many thoughts about power, bruh.

    • Jonathan Watson

      Great observation on the images of the coffin and the pall bearers. Didn’t even think of that, but now it’s all I see.

  • Jacob Titus

    1. Similar to other commenters, the police carrying the car like a coffin. The first time I watched it caught me off guard, but after watching more I thought that Kendrick saying he’s going to best the “best to ever do this” was especially interesting here for 2 reasons. First, the cops put a sobering effect on the scene that initially looked like a typical rappity rap video. Kendrick is talking about being the best, but even that can’t guarantee his safety from police control in the city. Second, on the other side, the cops are carrying the car/coffin like Kendrick was an important figure. I agree w/ Cataphant’s duality comments… the cops are in control despite Kendrick’s success, but them carrying him shows the respect he has earned from the success.

    2. See #1. And it’s a relevant topic.

    3. So first of all what rapper would turn down a director’s idea of flying through his hometown in a video?

    But beyond that, I see 2 reasons. First, it evokes the feeling that he exists in two different worlds in LA that he can easily move between. Because he’s flying it doesn’t seem odd to me that he ends up in many different locations throughout the video. Second, it establishes him as the role-model type who has influence (good or bad).

    4. I don’t know if I get the light pole … but is there a single moment in the video that his feet around touching the ground? It seems like he’s either flying, on the light pole, in the car being carried, or being held up by a crowd. And with the upside down part, I think it goes along with the rest of the video where he takes traditional rappity rap scenes and tweaks them.

    5. Do we have an ‘all of the above’ option? By myself I never would’ve thought that it could be the cop, but I can see it being both.

    6. Cause he’s gon be alright. The cop can’t control his outcome.

    7. The video is a perfect combination of two traditional music videos types. We’re used to seeing celebratory videos like “Otis” … or more somber videos dealing with police brutality, but “Alright” is both. Kendrick Lamar is in a way a transcendent figure who has conquered rap and his city, but on the other hand could still be subject to police control and brutality. I don’t have a reason why it’s in black and white, but it feels like that was a good move.

    8. I won’t ever forget the first time I watched the scene w/ the cops carrying the car.

  • Isaac Deitz

    3. I think he flies cause the world isn’t affecting him.

    6. I think he smiles at the end because he’s saying “If God’s got us, we’re gonna be alright.” “We’ve been up and down before”.

    I think it’s really about not letting the circumstances affect you.

  • keith wayne

    i have no analysis to bring forth, i’m just simply in love of the video