How Kendrick Lamar paid tribute to Kobe Bryant with new ‘The Heart Part 5’ music video

Kendrick Lamar is more than just a fan of Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s a passionate devotee.

So much so that in his newest music video, Lamar actually shape shifts into the Lakers legend.

That’s right, Lamar’s face actually becomes Bryant’s in the 14-time Grammy award winner’s new music video.

On Sunday, Lamar released the new visual for his latest single, “The Heart Part 5,” which will be featured on his forthcoming fifth studio album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The video appears to keep things simple with Lamar in a white tee and bandana kerchief standing in front of a dark red hued backdrop.

But as Lamar raps through each verse, his face morphs into famous Black entertainers, actors and athletes like OJ Simpson, Will Smith, Jussie Smollet, Nipsey Hussle and Bryant.

Here’s the video, which shows Lamar’s face morphing into Bryant at the start of the third verse.

Matching the vibe of the video, the cover art for “The Heart Part 5” shows the hands of each of the people Lamar shape shifts into. Bryant’s hand is from his fifth championship in 2010 as it’s taken from an iconic photo of him with the Larry O’Brien photo.

LeBron reacts to Kendrick’s new video

The song and accompanying video instantly became a viral sensation, even eliciting an emoji-laden tweet from Lakers superstar LeBron James.

James can be a bit hyperbolic on social media but his reaction to the video is well warranted as the visual effects are quite striking and at the same, poignant. Seeing Bryant’s face while Lamar raps instantly recalls the legacy left by Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash with his 13-old-daughter Gianna in January 2020.

But that was likely the intention of Lamar, who has paid tribute to Bryant in the past in both creative and musical ways.

2016 Tribute: Before Kobe’s last game

Before Bryant’s final game in 2016 against the Utah Jazz, Lamar linked up with ESPN’s Scoop Jackson and performed a video tribute entitled, “Kobe Bryant: Fade to black.”

The tribute features memorable highlights from Bryant’s illustrious career and has Lamar’s speaking about the Hall of Famer’s importance to Los Angeles and the NBA. Lamar himself is seen throughout the video. His parts where shot from The Forum in Inglewood, the former home of the Lakers and where Bryant played in his rookie season. 

2020 Tribute: Nike ad

To honor what would’ve been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday in 2020, Nike released an ad entitled “Better: Mamba Forever” that Lamar narrates.

In the ad, Lamar emphatically uses his unique lyrical flow to highlight Bryant’s greatness and showcase how the Lakers legend’s relentless drive is part of his lasting legacy. 

From Nike:

Narrated by Kendrick Lamar, Better celebrates the universal relevance of progress and highlights Kobe’s prolific desire for improvement. The Mamba Mentality is about getting better, every day, in everything we do. In his own words, Kobe described his Mamba Mentality by saying, “It’s to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday.” While incremental change may feel small in the short term, those subtle shifts culminate to greater progress over time. This relentless drive for improvement is the legacy Kobe leaves.

Kobe taught us to be better: a better teacher, a better teammate, a better loser, a better winner. As Kendrick says in the film, “Just be better.” Whatever it is that you’re trying to improve — work to be better today than you were yesterday. That’s the Mamba Mentality.

Lamar’s new album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers will release on Friday, May 13. 


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