Tuesday night, The Colbert Report welcomed Kendrick Lamar as the show’s final musical guest—a double-edged sword, Colbert noted, joking that Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Jack White, and Nas were all his opening acts. Not that Kendrick minds that sort of pressure. After a brief interview (which included some funny back and forth between the two), Lamar performed a new untitled song from his long-awaited follow up to 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City that should silence many critics of his empowering first single, “i.”
The song, which here featured frequent collaborators Anna Wise (“Real”) and Terrace Martin (“Ab-Soul’s Outro”) as well as Thundercat on bass and Bilal on back-up vocals, recalls the poetic theatrics of 2011’s Section.80. It opens with a narrative returned to throughout the song: A young woman from his hometown (voiced by Wise) challenges him to consider the racial implications of his newfound success. She warns that the white majority has beguiled many others in minority groups before him.
Kendrick then, with flask in hand, over a smooth G-funk beat and a heavenly saxophone solo from Martin, awakens with an enlightened perspective. When she asks again, “What the black man say?” he now answers, “Tell ’em we don’t die, we multiply” (a line that echoes N.W.A.’s famous “Real Niggaz Don’t Die”). It’s a powerful, thought-provoking finale from one of the best minds in rap.