Over the course of his illustrious career, Kendrick Lamar has contributed guest verses to some songs by pretty unlikely collaborators. His mindful, boundary-pushing voice has graced tracks by adult contemporary star Dido, Chicago drill icon Fredo Santana, radio rockers Imagine Dragons, pop princess Taylor Swift, mom favorite Maroon 5, and youthful party-starter Travis Scott, to name a few. Today, Kung Fu Kenny hops on a song that’s currently occupying the Billboard Top 10 (along with his own “Humble,”) but is on almost the complete opposite end of the rap spectrum.
Future’s “Mask Off” contains possibly the most bald-faced reference to the drugs percocet and molly in Top 10 history, and at first glance, seems to be the exact sort of song Kendrick’s targeting when he says “Watch my soul speak, you let the meds talk” on “Humble.” So here we have two artists coexisting in rap’s upper echelon, one reveling in (if not glorifying) drug use, and the other decrying it. However, this remix shows us that Future and Kendrick have more in common than you’d expect.
“Humble,” after all, is produced by Mike Will Made It, whose second, third, and fourth commercial singles featured Future. Then there’s also the fact that “Mask Off” samples music from Selma, a musical about the civil rights marches of 1965, which considering his racial commentary on To Pimp a Butterfly, sounds much more like a Kendrick move than a Future one.
Most of all, the jarring effect of seeing these artists work together is a product of listeners’ desire to pigeonhole rappers-- Future’s the drug-abusing trapper, Kendrick’s the self-righteous “conscious” artist. That’s a gross simplification, as Kendrick himself breaks down in his “Mask Off” verse:
Platinum, platinum, platinum
Gotta look at self and ask what happened
How y'all let a conscious n**** go commercial
While only makin' conscious albums?
We should be thankful, not taken aback, that artists as varied as these two are interested in stepping outside of their respective wheelhouses to work together. Kendrick and Future may not be releasing any collaborative albums or co-headlining a tour anytime soon, but at least it’s clear that they respect each other’s art.