Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Not Like Us’ video dropped, and a victory lap never looked so sweet 

OPINION: Kendrick Lamar dropped a video for his absolute summer smash, the Drake diss record “Not Like Us,” and it's full of joy.

Kendrick Lamar performs onstage during The Pop Out – Ken & Friends Presented by pgLang and Free Lunch at The Kia Forum on June 19, 2024 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/Getty Images for pgLang, Amazon Music, & Free Lunch)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I was in the middle of grilling for a July 4th cookout when my phone started to vibrate constantly. I checked my phone, and the first message I saw was in all caps, “KENDRICK DROPPED THE VIDEO!” Sometime during the day, Kendrick Lamar dropped the video for his mega-hit Drake diss-record “Not Like Us.” 

Since I was in the middle of a joyous occasion, I figured I’d peep the video later that evening but my phone kept buzzing. Words and phrases like, “Drake must be so mad” and “brooooo” were part of more than a few group chats. When I finally watched the video — this morning — I laughed to myself. Drake is probably entirely over Kendrick and “Not Like Us” at this point; I doubt he cares anymore. The dirt has already been kicked on his hip-hop grave. Drake is smart enough to know this. So to me, the video for “Not Like Us” isn’t so much about Drake but about being petty and putting on for Compton and Los Angeles. 

And Kendrick is really having a good time. 

That’s what I kept thinking to myself throughout the entire runtime of the video. It’s a victory lap; Kendrick pulled several parts of Los Angeles culture and put them into a video. For a guy whose catalog borders on the serious, he seems to truly be enjoying himself. I mean, he put an OVO (Drake’s October’s Very Own label) piñata in the video and busted it open. I’ll bet he and Dave Free (Kendrick Lamar’s creative partner and the video’s co-director with Lamar) got an absolute kick out of storyboarding the video. We have clowning and crumping and Tam’s Burgers (a spot in Compton) and Kendrick doing what looks like the L.A. front yard workout routine with cinder blocks, which reminds me of every L.A.-based hood movie from the ’90s. There’s DeMar DeRozan and DJ Mustard and Kendrick’s former TDE labelmates and many people from many neighborhoods. Oh, and Kendrick’s longtime partner and the mother of his kids, Whitney Alford, who was at the center of some of Drake’s allegations against Kendrick, is in the video C-walking with him and their kids. And the caged owl — lawd, the caged owl. 

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It’s such a hit-song video, and it looks like so much fun that you can’t help but realize how much of a good spring and summer Kendrick is having. This video was the first in a long time to make me see him and think Kendrick is truly having a good time with all of this. I suppose I would be too if I played it all as smartly as he has. 

Consider this: While Drake is the bigger artist and will remain so, Kendrick entirely usurped all of his cool and then demonstrated just how culturally steeped he is in L.A. and hip-hop. At every turn, he used both his artistry and the machine he has behind him (not every artist could put on a diss-record concert backed by Amazon Prime) to create a true hip-hop moment. I teach a class on opinion writing at Howard University; when classes start in August, I will most certainly be using Kendrick’s summer as a talking point to help my students understand how to establish and support their opinions. I will be using Kendrick Lamar’s 2024 to teach an academic course. That is wild. But that’s also how good a 2024 he’s having. 

The video for “Not Like Us” feels like that to me. Because Kendrick’s albums are largely conceptual (and tend to be pretty ambitious, which can be a mixed bag), you can forget that he is a rapper from Compton who cares about the culture of both hip-hop and L.A. This has been a reminder. When he had a chance to put on for both, he did in a big, big way. He found a way to blend the culture with the commercial, and it worked perfectly. There are videos of little kids singing along to “Not Like Us.” My 3-year-old was running around the house saying “O-V-Hoe” (I’m not proud of this; I told his brothers to stop letting him watch TikTok videos!). Kendrick has done this entire moment right with a song that you have to play everywhere and a visual for it that is as enjoyable as it is deliberate. 

Kendrick won the battle, and in this video, he is enjoying the victory.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio and host of the award-winning podcast, “Dear Culture” on theGrio Black Podcast Network. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).