Kendrick Lamar Asks How We Let A Conscious MC Go Commercial On “Mask Off” Remix (Audio)
Earlier this year, Future earned the acclaim and astonishment of many when he dropped two full-length albums within one week of each other, first February 17’s eponymous offering and then February 24’s HNDRXX. The multi-platinum selling rapper has released three chart-topping singles from the back-to-back LPs, though “Mask Off” is the clear winner, as far as numbers are concerned. His highest-charting single to date, it’s been remixed and covered to the nines and embraced by artists like Joey Bada$$, who welcomed the challenge of rhyming over it during a recent freestyle.
Today (May 23), Kendrick Lamar is the latest MC to hop on “Mask Off,” though this iteration is the song’s official remix. In it, the DAMN. rapper delivers a sing-songy monster of a feature verse, riding the record’s Metro Boomin production in inventive ways. Spitting for close to half the song, Kung-Fu Kenny provides his own bridge, interlude, and verse, undeniably elevating Future’s version from Trap anthem to something else entirely.
“Platinum, platinum, platinum/Gotta look at yourself and ask ‘what happened?’/How y’all let a conscious n*gga go commercial while only makin’ conscious albums?/How y’all let the braids on TV?/How y’all let the hood at the table?/Now y’all don’t even know how to rate him,” he raps before adding “Get your a*s up and be inspired/You know how many bodies in the street?/Take the mask off so you can see…”
Likely referencing his ability to be the most successful, critically acclaimed rapper in music while simultaneously remaining true to his Black, Compton-raised identity, Kendrick’s verse here is bringing attention to the trend within the music industry (and society at large) to silence controversial Black artists while simultaneously profiting off of their work. What’s left is a confused state of hatred and admiration. For him to spit words like this on a record by Future, an artist (and song) heavily criticized for promoting drug use and material wealth, is emblematic of the bold choices he’s made throughout his career. It’s also a token of Future’s self-awareness and desire to push the buttons of his critics in the Hip-Hop community. But Kendrick’s words could also be taken as a rhetorical question aimed at his fans, perhaps urging them to reconsider what it means for an artist to be “conscious,” and that being conscious and commercial don’t have to be mutually exclusive ideas.
Heads may recall that, during his invigorating Coachella performance, Kendrick invited Future to the stage, though the two did not perform this remix. However, the two have worked in the past, namely on “Buy the World” from Mike WiLL Made-It’s 2014 mixtape, Ransom.