We’re coming up on four years since Kendrick Lamar dropped his Pulitzer prize-winning album, DAMN. In the long four years since, the Compton rapper has spit a verse here and there—such as on Anderson .Paak’s “Tints” or, more recently, on Busta Rhymes’ “Look Over Your Shoulder”—in addition to producing 2018’s Black Panther Soundtrack. But for fans of his music, for the listeners who know Kendrick Lamar is one of the best living rappers and minds, it has been a long and arduous wait for his fifth LP.
Could the wait for new Kendrick Lamar music finally be coming to an end?
This past November, Kendrick Lamar performed a headlining set at the Day N’ Vegas Festival. After his 27-song set that spanned all 4 of his major LPs, Kendrick Lamar made an exciting promise to his fans. Following his encore with cousin and hometown hero Baby Keem, Kendrick bowed to the crowd and said, “Vegas, till next time—”
—And when I say next time, very soon,”
You can check out Kendrick Lamar’s full Day N’ Vegas performance here. The set list was stacked and proceeded chronologically, the first six songs performed from Section.80. and the end of his set coming from DAMN. The concert gave us a taste of what might be coming in 2022: a Kendrick Lamar headlining tour. Quite possibly, with support from his cousin and protege rapper Baby Keem.
The Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Performance
The 2022 Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show performers include: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminiem, Mary J. Blige, and, none other than Kendrick Lamar. We cannot believe the talent, the historically dynamite collection of rappers, that will be leading the halftime entertainment at Inglewood, California’s SoFi Stadium.
More importantly, we think, after what will undoubtedly be one of the best halftime performances of the decade, it will be the perfect opportunity for Kendrick Lamar to announce his 2022 headlining tour. We know new Kendrick Lamar music is on the way. We know he has a giant performance in the books for February. We have to imagine Kendrick Lamar will grant us the tour we’ve been waiting for shortly after this big, onstage moment.
When it comes to hearing new Kendrick Lamar music at the halftime show, we think the chances are slim. For someone as tight-lipped as K-Dot, we believe he’ll make fans wait until the first new single arrives on streaming services to get a taste of what he’s been cooking for the past few years.
The new Kendrick Lamar album has been heard by his celebrity fans.
In addition to his rumor-stirring Day N’ Vegas performance, it’s now clear that some celebrities have already listened to Kendrick Lamar’s new album.
Adele, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, said she had the privilege of listening to a few unreleased Kendrick Lamar songs. Much like the preview of DAMN. granted to Lebron James back in 2017. Adele listening to the album, and speaking about it to the media, is not only a sign of new Kendrick Lamar music on the way.
We think it means Kendrick Lamar’s new album is coming very soon.
Will Kendrick Lamar release a new album in 2022?
We can finally say it: Yes. Kendrick Lamar will be out with his fifth album, and follow-up to DAMN, this year.
Kendrick Lamar first broke his silence in September to give an update (albeit a very mysterious one) regarding his new album. His announcement, and attached file and website, answered some questions while sparking more. Here is everything we gleaned from his Twitter post.
Kendrick Lamar’s fifth album will be his last with his longtime label TDE.
According to his “nu thoughts,” the only file that can be found on the oklama website, this upcoming Kendrick Lamar album will be his last with TDE. The artist stated, “As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years. The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. As I continue to pursue my life’s calling.”
Coming from a man who has made a Pulitzer prize-winning career out of being good with words, it’s only fair that we don’t take any of his lightly. Though we are sad to see Kendrick Lamar depart from TDE, he’s made this much clear: this will not be his last rap album, period. Where will Kendrick pursue his life’s calling next?
We think it has something to do with an earlier breadcrumb. The allusive, “multi-lingual” arts production company Kendrick announced back in 2020. Could Kendrick Lamar be stepping out of TDE in order to put himself fully behind pgLang? It’s very, very possible.
Kendrick goes without a phone for months. He remains private, but is working with family.
Throughout most of his fame, Kendrick Lamar has chosen the route of privacy, allowing all of his projects to bake without media attention. Rarely do Kendrick Lamar songs get leaked. Rarely, do we ever really know what he’s been working on. But we think there’s a clue here, from “nu thoughts”:
“I go months without a phone.
Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family.“
Not long after Kendrick signaled his imminent return, his cousin Baby Keem teased his new single “Family Ties,” out Thursday night (8/26). The internet went into a frenzy over this announcement because Baby Keem’s cousin, Kendrick Lamar, will be featured on “Family Ties.” This makes Kendrick’s first feature since Busta Rhymes’ “Look Over Your Shoulder.”
Is this what Kendrick meant, by the “glimmers of God” speaking through his music and family? We anticipate that Kendrick’s fifth album, written partially during a pandemic, with Kendrick taking long breaks from his phone, will feature mostly himself and his real/TDE family.
Kendrick Lamar will be seeing us “soon enough.”
We respect Kendrick Lamar’s reclusive nature. Maybe it’s difficult to get through these dry spells, with no glint of new Kendrick Lamar music in sight. But when he emerges from his cave, even just to deepen the mystery of his absence, we have no choice but to hang on his every word and hope.
We believe, we take this Kendrick Lamar sighting as a reason to get excited, the album really is coming soon.
It’s nice knowing, as well, that Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, CEO and founder of Top Dawg Entertainment is fully behind Kendrick on the eve of his departure. He wrote, “With this being Dot’s last album on TDE, this is more of a VICTORY LAP, a celebration. I know he will be successful in whatever it is he decides to do and will have our FULL support.”
A victory lap? A celebration? We cannot wait for what Kendrick and the TDE team have in store for his final fifth album with the label who helped him rise.
On April 28, Top Dawg Entertainment sent fans into a speculative frenzy after dropping a mysterious Instagram video. The video is of a loading bar, the prize for waiting being what we assume to be a release date: “5/7/21.” The accompanying caption reads “THE WAIT IS OVAH.” But for what? The label has left us on the hook for wondering what’s in store for Kendrick, or his fellow TDE artists, next month.
This, in addition to Karen Civil mentioning she’d been shown “new Kendrick” on her podcast, makes us feel like new music from the artist is coming sooner than he’d like us to believe. Traditionally, Kendrick remains tight-lipped, nearly silent, in the months leading up to an album drop. The wait since 2017’s DAMN. has felt… especially quiet.
If the founder of TDE is dropping cryptic release dates on Instagram, we have reason to believe it’s for Kendrick. But, SZA, Ab-Soul, and Isaiah Rashad are also due to drop their full-length records. The other possibility exists, now that large-scale music events are being scheduled again, that the entire TDE label is joining forces for another epic Championship-esque tour.
Back in November 2020, Ireland’s Longitude Festival in Dublin’s Marlay Park announced that its 2021 lineup will be headlined by Kendrick Lamar. We think, as more music festivals announce their returns, that Kendrick Lamar will sit atop their lineups. One festival we have our eye on to host Kendrick Lamar, who might be performing from his new album by then, is Firefly.
Everything We Know About Kendrick Lamar’s New Album
In April 2021, Grammy award-winning producer Fredwreck sparked rumors on Twitter by posting an old photo of Kendrick with Dre and Eminem. The caption was open, but suggestive, allowing the Twittersphere to run with all of the fantastic possibilities of those rappers/producers being in the same room.
Again, this info could potentially be speaking to another project in the works. Dr. Dre’s long awaited Detox has been on the minds of fans since actor/MC Page Kennedy tweeted last November, “This Dr. Dre album sounding [fire]. Hope y’all get to hear.” He also revealed that Eminem will appear on Detox—though we are never surprised to see Em and Dre together.
As is custom with Kendrick Lamar between album drops, very little has been leaked about the rapper’s forthcoming project. What fans have gathered about his fifth LP doesn’t date any further back than January 2020, when music reporter / former Billboard editor broke the silence.
What, a year later, should be taken from Bill Werde’s tweet? Could the new album have been complete at that time, if fans have yet to hear a new Kendrick Lamar single? We think, back in January 2020, anything was possible when it came to album releases for that year.
Then, come March, when reality took a turn towards illness, quarantine, protesting, survival, many artists—including Kendrick Lamar—decided that perhaps 2020 wasn’t the year to drop new music. Especially for an artist such as himself, whose albums are verified art, often literary masterpieces, which require exhaustive thinking and process in order to become great.
He said a much in an i-D interview that dropped October of last year. Kendrick, who conducts an interview with his cousin, rapper, and fellow TDE label mate Baby Keem, defends the time it takes to grow into yourself, the time he takes between projects. He says, “I spend the whole year just thinking about how I’m gonna execute a new sound, I can’t do the same thing over and over. I need something to get me excited. I see you get frustrated sometimes because you want some new shit.“
Kendrick is speaking abstractly, about his career as a whole, in an attempt to get Baby Keem to open up about his rapid and remarkable growth since 2019’s Die for My Bitch. But we can’t help but connect his word with Werde’s. Could the “new sh*t” Kendrick is referring to in i-D be the “rock sounds” Werde mentioned in January?
Because of 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly, we know Kendrick has demonstrated interest and ability in working across rap, towards influences outside of the genre, to emerge his own. Rock would be the furthest stretch Kendrick makes from a classic rap album. But we know, if anyone can do it successfully, if anyone is going to be the rock-rap revolutionary, it’s him.
The new Kendrick Lamar album will likely feature appearances from top to bottom. Based on who we’ve seen Kendrick collaborate with in the past, and who he’s recently been seen with, we think the artists we’re most likely to see on the DAMN. follow-up are: Baby Keem, Thundercat, Jorja Smith, and SZA.
Busta Rhymes, “Waiting for Kendrick,” and a 2022 Tour
Kendrick is one of the few living artists who can remain astonishingly mysterious while an eager and roaring crowd forms around him—his silence, his absence. When “Look Over Your Shoulder” arrived in October, Busta Rhymes spoke on behalf of his collaborator. “There’s a great deal of mystique around Kendrick,” Busta Rhymes told Vulture. “You don’t see him posting things on the ’gram. Very rarely do you find him being caught on camera, being out anywhere. I really appreciate that about him.”
We think, if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, Kendrick Lamar and other TDE artists were going to tour in 2020. What else to make of the pgLang marketing push? That ginormous L.A Times ad? Considering the new “multi-lingual, at service” company launched at the beginning of March, before we knew the whole year would be cancelled, we think pgLang was the hopeful beginning of something that never fully came through.
Hopefully, until this year.
In 2020, Kendrick Lamar was scheduled to headline Montreal’s Osheaga Festival. Already, Kendrick has found himself on the Roskilde Festival lineup, a Danish music festival that is scheduled to take place at the end of July. Kendrick has performed Roskilde in the past, in 2013, at the heels of To Pimp A Butterfly. Now, two albums later, we can only imagine what it will feel like to return to the legendary stage. Plus, in the Roskilde press release announcing Kendrick in the 2021 lineup, the festival mentioned what we’ve all been talking about: “new [Kendrick] music on the way.”
Waiting for new Kendrick Lamar music is never easy. And this time, he’s put us through the longest period of anticipation yet. In November 2020, Pitchfork joined the speculation surrounding the Compton rapper’s return.
In “Waiting for Kendrick,” author Clover Hope reminds us of the multi-layered and emotional concepts Kendrick wrestles in his albums, how each of them strive to answer a different question, and though we know they all come from the same man, they are simultaneously proof of Kendrick’s ongoing evolution.
We think Hope leaves us with the best piece of advice we could relay to Kendrick Lamar fans as they wait for the fifth album, the rock sounds, to finally hear from the man who gave us “Alright” and “DNA.” and countless other tracks that lifted and defined us. He will return, he will, but: “Fans would be smart to let him simmer.”
The good news: We feel much, much closer to a Kendrick Lamar album release than the last time we speculated over the artist’s new material. The other good news: Considering that Kendrick Lamar is already on the summer music festival circuit, the odds are looking really good for a 2022 Kendrick Lamar Tour.