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07/23/2017 by Julia van der Doesch
“Element” (stylized as “ELEMENT.”) is a song by American rapper Kendrick Lamar, from his fourth studio album Damn, released on April 14, 2017. The fourth track on the album, the song was written by Lamar, Mark Spears, aka Sounwave, James Blake, and Ricci Riera and produced by Sounwave, Blake, and Riera, with additional production by Tae Beast and Bēkon.
The song was first introduced by basketball player LeBron James on his Instagram story when he filmed himself dancing to the song prior to Damn’s release.
The track opens with a skit from DJ Kid Capri, who refers to Lamar as “Kung Fu Kenny” and repeats the phrase “I don’t give a fuck” in a cadence.Some sources have interpreted the song as a diss track on American rappers Big Sean and Drake. However, rap-up.com has stated the song’s hook as a possible diss on Drake, Big Sean, or American recording artist Jay Electronica.The second verse of the song has been described to have a resemblance to Lamar’s “The Heart Part 4”, a song also theorized to have contained lyrics that diss Drake and Big Sean. The second verse as follows:
“None of y’all fuckin’ with the flow, yeah, the flow, yeahYears in the making, don’t ya’ll mistake itI got ’em by a landslide, we talkin’ ’bout racesYou know this’ll never be a tie, just look at they laces”
The song features production from musician and producer James Blake, who before “Element” appeared as a featured vocalist on American singer Beyoncé’s song “Forward” from her sixth studio album Lemonade and as a producer on singer Frank Ocean’s second studio album Blonde. Ricci Riera, who previously worked as a producer on the Lamar-Schoolboy Q collaboration “Collard Greens”, also worked as producer for the song.
The song’s accompanying music video premiered on June 27, 2017 on Lamar’s Vevo channel on YouTube. The video was directed by Jonas Lindstroem and The Little Homies (pseudonyms for Lamar himself and Dave Free). Described as violent and powerful, the music video contains powerful imagery, some of which contains direct references to photographs of civil rights photographer, musician, writer, and director Gordon Parks. The video also mimics the imagery from the music video for “Humble”, the first single from Damn.The music video has received positive reviews. Lawrence Burney of noisey called the video “the masterpiece you anticipated.”
Joe Price of Pigeons and Planes named “Element” as one of the best songs of the week, the week of April 14, 2017, saying the song has “memorable verses and a sticky hook over some sparse but gorgeous production.” Continuing, Price says “Element” is “a prime example of what makes Damn an immediately appealing body of work that is just as rewarding as his more challenging output.” Leave McDermott of USA Today, in a positive review, said the song “still sounds sharp and unforgiving even when he’s coining catchphrases.”