Days after releasing Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, his first new album in five years, rapper Kendrick Lamar has unveiled a music video featuring two Texas cultural landmarks.
The recently released song “N95” has a video, codirected by Lamar and music executive Dave Free, that includes the Fort Worth Water Gardens, designed by Philip Johnson, and the city’s Kimbell Art Museum.
In one clip, Lamar is seen descending the steps into a geometric vortex carved in stone down which water cascades in sheets, and collects at the bottom in a meditation pool.
The public square, opened in 1974, sits at the south end of Fort Worth’s downtown district; it also appeared in Solange’s 2019 music video for the song “Almeda.” Images of Lamar standing at the bottom of the Fort Worth site mimic other images of him floating in the video: it opens with a segment filmed at a Los Angeles beach in which he is levitating over the ocean with his arms outspread as if on a cross.
Later, Lamar takes center stage in an empty auditorium in the Kimbell Museum’s Renzo Piano–designed auditorium, playing the piano. The venue echoes Louis Kahn’s landmark 1972 architectural design for the original museum, recognized for its scale and light-filled vaulted space, but is even more open and transparent.
Between shots of Lamar’s serenading on piano and being chased by an incensed mob, eagle-eyed viewers will spot a reference to another art historical lynchpin: photographer Gordon Parks.
A black-and-white segment shows a young child resting his chin on his hand as he chooses from a pair of dolls—one black and one white—offered by an adult of whom we see only hands holding out the toys.
“Done with the black and the white, the wrong and the right,” Lamar raps over the sequence, a line that indicates the shot’s reference: a 1947 Parks photograph, Untitled, Harlem, New York. It was taken as he documented the infamous 1940s “doll tests,” an experiment run by psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Clark that showcased the impact of segregation on Black children. The images would become evidence crucial to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that ended segregation in public schools.
This is not the first time Parks’s imagery has influenced Lamar’s visual work. In 2017, the musician re-created photographs taken by Parks for the music video “Element,” among them his 1963 shot Black Muslims Train in Self-Defense, taken during a stint chronicling a community of young Black Muslims in Chicago.