Sometimes Kendrick Lamar needs to be alone. A lack of a much–discussed Lady Gaga feature didn’t hurt the West Coast rapper’s SPIN Essential major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, which continues to sell well enough to stay in the Top Five. Given past Lamar producer Soundwave’s lush future-jazz production, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” sure wasn’t going to harsh anyone’s buzz as a solo joint. But the artist apparently intended to have company on the track: Gaga’s non-appearance was “a deadline situation,” Lamar has told MTV News.
Gaga’s DJ White Shadow has posted an Instagram-style behind-the-scenes video with a demo of the Mother Monster’s “Bitch” version to his Vimeo account, and it’s, well, unlikely to settle any arguments between Gaga fans and Lamar heads. For all of Gaga’s clever postmodern packaging, there’s a jazz-handsy, antediluvian quality to her vocal here — like parachuting a Broadway singer onto a state-of-the-art Flying Lotus night-drive soundtracker. Sure, her presence on the final cut would’ve brought in a whole different audience: If you love Gaga, this is a fine hook to introduce you to a very talented rapper, although the “bitch” talks might be jarring from such an otherwise positive, politically aware performer.
But on a song about Lamar’s sudden, jolting rise toward the A-list, her presence mostly serves to drive home his unease with the trappings of fame. “I can feel the changes / I can feel the new people around me,” Lamar raps, and so can we. A vibe is a terrible thing to waste.