“Prayer” by Kendrick Lamar 

“Prayer” is a very poetic song in terms of the characters Kendrick Lamar portrays. In the first verse, he serves as a personification of, most simply put, the song “ABC” by the Jackson 5. And in the second, he takes on the role of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. But what he is rather doing, respectively, is speaking to the lives of Michael Jackson and MLK, in a way that only K-Dot can do.

Michael Jackson and Martin Luther King

Michael Jackson (1958-2009) was, most simply put, the greatest entertainer to ever live. And Martin Luther (1929-1968) is considered by many to be the most-recognizable civil rights’ champion of the 20th century. But both of these men had their issues, so to speak.

Michael, during the last couple of decades of his life, dealt with a number of disturbing sexual abuse allegations. And it was revealed posthumously that MLK was akin to a womanizer. That revelation of course marred his image, as he is generally held up to be an example of high morality.

So with that noted, the position Kendrick takes is similar to one of the themes of “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers”, the album he would get around to dropping some months after “Prayer” was made public. And that is, implicitly stated, that we human beings possess our personal flaws.

But more specifically when it comes to the likes of M.J., MLK and by extension Lamar himself, all because they make a mistake or may prove to be morally-flawed doesn’t mean that the contributions they’ve made to the world should be just tossed out the window. Michael’s artistry has brought joy to literally millions of people, and Martin of course changed the world – or at least the United States – as we know it. Therefore, they shouldn’t be judged based on rumors.

Lamar is speaking about the Cancel Culture

Beyond the above, what K-Dot is saying is that “talent doesn’t choose morality”, and people judge unfairly anyway. What it boils down to instead is a matter of convenience. In other words, if you were in need of a medical procedure and found out the person who first performed it was a murderer, that’s not going to stop you from having said procedure. Or if you found out the creator of your favorite product, like say your preferable brand of car, was a racist, you’re still going to like that car nonetheless.

And maybe Kendrick’s logic isn’t absolutely spot-on in that regard. But what he is actually speaking to is cancel culture.

Some people have taken the judgment of others, even dead folk, to a whole ‘nother level. And yes, such treatment can be deemed unfair in some cases, i.e. if while damning someone, you totally neglect how they may have genuinely edified your life and/or that of others. And perhaps it can be said that in his own way, K-Dot is letting world know that he personally will not tolerate such abuse. Or as implied in the second verse, he is ‘praying’ that if something like this were to happen to him also, he’d be able to “survive in the midst of the controversy”.

Lyrics of Kendrick Lamar's "Prayer"

When did Kendrick Lamar release “Prayer”?

To date, “Prayer” has never been officially released as a single. However, it did leak in mid-2021, at a time K-Dot fans were feening for new, quality material, as the last studio album he had dropped prior dated back to 2017’s “Damn”.


Kendrick wrote this song with The Alchemist, the latter of whom also produced the track.

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