I choose to analyze one of Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics of his new “album”; Untitled Unmastered. The track the lyric is found on is number 7, and is specifically the “hook”; Levitate, Levitate, Levitate, Levitate. I choose the track because not only was I lead to the song because of the news of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats’ 7-year old son receiving a producer’s credit, but also because of what I thought was being signified by the “text”.
I felt that the text spoke to my interests and values in that levitation is usually associated with science or ironically science fiction. I have already completed a few different projects this semester with superhero “semiospheres” and themes so I wanted to do something that was related but still different. One of the reasons I gravitate towards superhero themes is their narrative and views on humanity, I feel that a core theme of them is whether or not people can rise to the occasion or situation. Kendrick Lamar has shown through his art, not only being music, that he can rise to the occasion in the music industry and beyond.
Identify the Text
“Levitate, Levitate, Levitate, Levitate” is a repeating hook found on “Untitled 7 | 2014 – 2016” in every verse for the first part of the two-part song. The medium found here is a musical audio track, specifically a “hip-hop” genre song. A special note which will be further explored in a later section but the audio tracks from this album were not mastered or edited and presented in their raw formats.
The “text” itself is of one type and one-word type being; “Levitate”. In a token copy of the type, there are four-word tokens being the one type repeated.
The Signifier for this text is the literal words “Levitate”, the word levitate is derived from the Latin word “Levitas”, which means lightness. The word itself is a process where an object can be suspended in the air or be held aloft, usually without any external forces or mechanical natures. The signified presented by this text uses the previous lines to present the idea that external forces cannot “get you high as this” referencing back to the meaning of the word. One could also draw references to the fact that the contents of the previous lines seem to reference external artists and forces which will be further explored in future sections.
Modality, Paradigms and Syntagms
Being “raw and unmastered” tracks through the text presented is a replication of a live recording. This sets it apart from songs in the same “semiosphere” as most if not all songs usually exist to be either “mastered” or reproductions of live performances. This can be seen as making it a paradigm in its place of the syntagm the text belongs, being hip-hop song, and/or music.
Denotation, Connotation, and Myth
The denotative meaning of the text is to rise without force. The connotations of the text are that Kendrick Lamar is that he is “Levitating” positioning himself against others who may be simply “jumping”. It has become a common theme in rap and hip-hop, to speak about one’s status, material objects, or “external forces”. Kendrick Lamar seems to be not only creating his own but going against the current standing “myths” of musical artists specifically rappers. The text in this context creates a new myth that the highs one normal experience one get you as high as Kendrick Lamar’s feeling and the only way to reach his level is to “levitate”.
Use of Rhetorical Devices
The text presented makes use of multiple rhetorical devices to not only make it a good hook lyrically but also to emphasize the symbolic meaning behind it. By using multiple similes for the content of the verse makes the hook a powerful contrasting metaphor though simple. Using “Levitate” as a metaphor for people rising above “external forces” like; Drugs, Money, Sex. It can be seen as a comparison to recent popular hooks found on Drake and Future’s song “Jumpman” and Kanye West’s “Facts”. It is almost an allusion or allegory to these songs and the ideas they represent. Using Epizeuxis (Repeating Words) and Alliteration (Repeated Sounds) to further imprint the text for the listener. The combined use of these rhetorical devices creates one in itself almost creating an amplification effect.
There are pros and cons to the use of repetition, more so I would argue in music (Side note: Check out Vox’s look at “Why we really, really, really like repetition in music” by Estelle Caswell for a combo of good data-viz and pop music!). Kendrick Lamar seems to constantly push himself and the genre forward with his style, lyrics and artistic vision. The fact that all of the tracks on this project were in a sense “leftovers” from his major release, I believe showcases his artistic talent and skill level. While hip-hop music or Kendrick Lamar’s content may not be for everyone, I believe that everyone can appreciate his craftsmanship.
Hip-Hop nor Music is Dead.
Also published on Medium.