belated tune: Kendrick Lamar, “Cartoon & Cereal” feat. Gunplay

Download: Kendrick Lamar, “Cartoon & Cereal” feat. Gunplay

For me, one of the marks of a great rap song is that each listen reveals something I didn’t catch before–a double meaning, an allusion, a sound buried in the instrumental, etc. This quality-by-intricacy could be compared with the “replay value” of a good video game or movie.

Or, a “Cartoon.” Here, hip-hop’s favorite introvert weirdo Kendrick Lamar meets Maybach Music affiliate Gunplay for an unlikely collaboration, and the result is a six-and-a-half minute sonic labyrinth. “Cartoon & Cereal” boasts an instrumental that is equal parts minimal electronica hum and banging Houston lean. The dramatic shifts between the two help set the stage for Lamar’s narrative, which likewise shifts from an isolated, stuttering (think the “Buried “Alive” interlude from Take Care) reminiscence on a failed father to a relentless “I’ve had enough” tear.  And the samples range from cartoons and commercials to much called-for, rapid-fire Death Grips “Bluh!”s (as found in last year’s “Guillotine”).

Kendrick’s repeated “Elmer Fudd said / ‘Shoot ’em down'” over his verses even help put into perspective the influence euphemized, cartoon violence as it relates to his childhood. The effect is quite amazing. Gunplay’s verse simmers with a similar pain, as he rattles off a handful of memorable, sobering lines five minutes into the track.

Indeed, “Cartoon & Cereal” is brilliant on many, many levels; so much so that it’s difficult to sufficiently describe the interplay of its elements. It’s also at once a challenging and instantly gratifying listen, which is so rare, “Cartoon” demands consideration as one of the most complete hip-hop tracks in recent memory.

Also, download Gunplay’s 2011 mixtape Inglorious Bastard (Prelude to Valkyrie) here at