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 as backdrops.
Fort Worth’s Kimbell Museum of Art and the city’s namesake Phillip Johnson-designed downtown Water Gardens appear as settings throughout the visual short for the recently released song “N-95,” co-directed by Lamar and music executive Dave Free.
In the clip, Lamar can be seen descending a steep stone staircase that funnels downwards to a water-logged center, collecting water that cascades down the outdoor pavilion’s concaving steps.
The public square, designed by Phillips Johnson in 1974, sits at the south end of Forth Worth’s south downtown district and made an appearance in Solange’s 2019 music video for the song “Almeda.” Images of Lamar standing at the sunken center of the Forth Worth site mimic other images of him floating that occur throughout the video— the short opens with the musician levitating over the ocean, filmed at a Los Angeles beach, in a crucifix-like pose.
At another point, the camera pans out to Lamar, center stage, playing the piano to an empty theatre in the Kimbell Museum’s Louis Kahn-designed building. It’s a landmark that, since 1972, has become known for its light-filled vaulted space that Kahn produced to riff on classical Roman architecture.
Spliced between shots of Lamar’s piano serenade and him being chased by an incensed mob, eagle-eyed viewers will catch a reference to another art historical lynchpin: photographer Gordon Parks.
In the video, a black-and-white still shows a young child resting his chin on his hand at a table while being shown a pair of dolls— one black and one white— by an anonymous adult, whose only visible features are his arms holding out the toys in each hand.
“Done with the black and the white, the wrong and the right,” Lamar raps over the image’s sequence, a line that indicates the shot’s reference.
The shot references Parks’s 1947 photograph Untitled, Harlem, New York, taken while he documented the infamous 1940s “doll test,” an experiment run by psychologists Kenneth Clark and Mamie Clark that showcased the impact of segregated living on Black children. The images would become evidence crucial to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board that ended segregation in public school.
Its not the first time Parks’s imagery has influenced Lamar’s visual work. In 2017, the musician recreated 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.