“I feel like a chip on my shoulders
I feel like losin’ my focus
I feel like I’m losing my patience
I feel like my thoughts in a basement
Feel like, I feel like you’re miseducated
Feel like I don’t want to be bothered
I feel like you may be the problem
I feel like it ain’t no tomorrow, f*** the world”

Life is hard. COVID has been devastating. Quarantine was a nightmare. Depression and anxiety are motherf*****s. Imagine having anxiety and depression while being separated from your family. Having all the routines that comfort and soothe you taken away.

In my house, it was me, my wife, and our two dogs. Everybody was sick of each other. One of the worst feelings ever was working an 8-hour shift from a home office, then enjoying your evening in the living room. Literally going from one room to the other room.

In the past, basketball was always my place of peace. Basketball is my therapy—it grounds me. Basketball is tangible, it is pure, it is one of the reasons I am alive. Basketball was taken away from me. The NBA was shut down due to COVID. I could not find an open gym anywhere. Rims on the outdoor courts were taken down across the city. The walls were closing in around me. People were dying from a virus I didn’t understand. I was losing my balance. It felt like the world was ending.

F*** everything.

That’s when it happened: the song “Feel ” by Kendrick Lamar randomly came on my playlist. I say random, but I wholeheartedly believe God needed me to hear that song. I’d heard this song many times before and I’ve always liked it. Something about hearing it that day changed everything for me. It felt like a spiritual awakening. My soul was thirsty. This song was manna from heaven.

“I feel like friends been overrated
I feel like the family been fakin’
I feel like the feelings are changin’
Feel like my daughter compromised and jaded
Feel like you wanna scrutinize how I made it
Feel like I ain’t feelin’ you all
Feel like removin’ myself, no feelings involved
I feel for you, I’ve been in the field for you”

To understand my affinity for Kendrick Lamar, you gotta understand that this wasn’t our first run-in—this wasn’t the first time Kendrick saved my life. In 2010, I was a recent college graduate, knee-deep in loan debt. I remember feeling stuck, trying to balance paying my bills with following my passions and making my parents proud, but realizing I was trapped in a corporate treadmill. Bad habits started to form; exercise was on the back burner; drinking was a priority.

I was on the way to a job that I hate when I heard “The Heart Pt. 2”. Usually, when I arrived at work I needed an extra 15 minutes to sit in my car and pull myself together—not that day. Listening to that track, I felt the vigor of life that I had been yearning for.

Everything about “The Heart Pt. 2” is perfect. First of all, Kendrick is rapping over The Roots’ “A Peace Of Light,” which is a masterpiece by itself. His lyrics are piercing. They’re like being on the 405 during rush hour. Kendrick finds his pocket and the words dart by like cars in passing lanes on the interstate. Each feverishly tails the other, but somehow through all the chaos they never crash. I wish I could spare you the quotes, but greatness should always be shared:

Put burners in the hands of the black man
One hood with 20 four-fours like a cloned Kobe Bryant
You probably heard I wanna be heard and wonder who I am
You probably even listen to Faith and think I know Zion
But really I’m just caught in the loop of understanding the truth
Because it seems like it’s always clashing with science

How dope is that?

The intro of “The Heart Pt. 2” is taken from an interview with Dash Snow. Dash was a graffiti artist from New York. The reporter asks Dash,

“So what keeps you alive.” Dash repeats the question back to himself. Then he says, “Four big bottles of water a day, two packs of Marlboro Reds. And, uh, I don’t — what keeps me alive, shit. Music, I have to listen to music all day long. I’d say that keeps me going. I’m a pretty dark person, I’ve thought about ending it a million times. And I have to say that music keeps me here, by far, the main thing.”

Shortly after this interview, Dash passed away due to a drug overdose. Thus the title of the album, (O)verly (D)edicated. We all have vices. Much like Dash, music is mine. It keeps me here. R.I.P Dash. You will be remembered.

“I feel like debatin’ on who the greatest can stop it
I am legend, I feel like all of y’all is peasants
I feel like all of y’all is desperate
I feel like all it take is a second to feel likez
Mike Jordan whenever holdin’ a real mic
I ain’t feelin’ your presence
Feel like I’ma learn you a lesson
Feel like only me and the music though”

Kendrick Lamar was sent here to save us. Buddy made this because he was going on Stephen Colbert:

At the time, To Pimp a Butterfly was out; but Kendrick wanted to perform fresh material. That’s the reason we got this. I loved this song so much I ripped it off of YouTube and put it on iTunes. I needed to ride around to it on repeat.

Kendrick Lamar is a generational talent.

If I am starting an NBA franchise today, K. Dot is my first pick. That probably sounds ridiculous to you. You might be saying to yourself “Jay Z, Drake, Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, etc all exist.” You’re absolutely correct. Hov could be the Michael Jordan of Rap: quite possibly The G.O.A.T. blueprint. Lil’ Wayne could be Kobe: he imitated his predecessor’s moves so well that people hated him for it (not realizing the amount of work put in to even be thought of as a copy). Drake could be Bron: both do everything really well. Bron is a basketball ecosystem and everything revolves around him. Drake is a musical planet. Both were born to entertain under bright lights.

Kendrick though…Kendrick is the guy you never saw coming. All the aforementioned artists and hoopers had some sort of buzz around them. They were groomed for greatness. Kendrick is that rose that grew from concrete. A devout ‘Pac disciple whose rap existence was sparked by Shakur.

Kendrick would be Kawhi Leonard. Not to go complete basketball nerd on you—but I’ve read Kawhi’s draft analysis. Let me sum it up for you: “Kawhi is a great athlete. Elite defender, but desperately needs to add some range, and is at risk of being a liability on the offensive end.” This was said about a future hall of famer, multiple-time NBA champion, multiple-time Finals MVP, multiple-time First Team All NBA, All-Star MVP. The board man gets paid; and much like the board man, the bar man also gets paid.

What separates Dot from his contemporaries is his ability to put his soul into his music. No bars are wasted. Each line is a guided missile guaranteed to hit its target. The boy has never missed. Not too many guys with his ability put depth into their bars (Tariq Trotter may be the only other high-level lyricist who doesn’t just rap to rap). The boy is so great that the radio frequently bends to his will, even without making mainstream music.

Kendrick is also an elite defender. While wearing the crown, sometimes the King has to get off his horse and swing a sword. Kendrick was hell-bent on protecting his crown and letting each rapper know he’s not the one to score points on. You may recall his verse on the Big Sean track “Control”— the one where he told every rapper in the industry he “wanted smoke,” while declaring himself the King of New York (just a reminder, Kendrick is from California). That type of unmitigated gall is what I live for.

What Kawhi and Kendrick do isn’t necessarily sexy. It’s textbook; it’s efficient, and effective, and has led both to the mountaintop. The comparisons don’t end with the work: The Claw told us he was a fun guy. I don’t recall ever seeing a Kendrick Lamar interview. They both have the same hairstyle (Cornrow Kenny, French Braid Claw). Both come from Los Angeles. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen both guys in the same place at the same time(I’m just saying).

“I feel like this gotta be the feelin’ where ‘Pac was
The feelin’ of an apocalypse happenin’
But nothin’ is awkward, the feelin’ won’t prosper
The feelin’ is toxic, I feel like I’m boxin’ demons
Monsters, false prophets schemin’
Sponsors, industry promises”

The song “feel” by Dot is very important to me; I’ve been quoting it throughout this piece. When I feel doubt, depression, anxiety, or sadness, it is my go-to. Something about the song is grounding for me. It helped me to find my balance when my legs were weak. Especially during quarantine, I felt a lot of weak moments.

In therapy, you are taught to go outside when feeling manic. Let the wind blow on your face. Touch something green. Feel the sun on your skin. Tell yourself that everything will be okay. These are tangible acts that you can feel. Listening to Kenny is a spiritual experience. You can talk to God but you can’t necessarily hear his response. When I listen to Dot, I can not only hear God. I can feel God. I feel.