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We continue our serialized examination of To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar with the album’s fifteenth track, “i.”

“i” is the narrative conclusion of To Pimp a Butterfly, the apex of Kendrick’s teachings on self-love and self-acceptance.

Written for his incarcerated friends and suicidal kids he meets on tour, “i” was released as the album’s first single six months prior to the full release of To Pimp a Butterfly. This early version, which we’ll refer to as the “studio version,” does not appear on the album. Instead, a live performance of “i” is used. Because Kendrick uses “i” self-referentially as a climactic narrative tool, we’re going to first use the studio version to examine the song’s thematic content. In Part 2, we’ll cross-examine the live version as it appears on the album.

Kendrick’s vocal inflection throughout “i” is soft, child-like, and unassuming. Like the song’s “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” and “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said),” there’s a calculated simplicity to “i.” With a hook centered around the refrain “I Love Myself!,” it would seem Kendrick wants his message to be understood by the world, and doesn’t feel the need to dilute the message with lyrical gymnastics, which we know he’s more than capable of. He’s humbly setting aside his technical ability to make his positive message more accessible and understood by all.

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