Rap is as expansive as it is cyclical. When Future showed up unannounced at Kendrick Lamar‘s Coachella show to perform “Mask Off,” the two emcees were seemingly hat-tipping each other, united by the set’s kung-fu aesthetic. That mutual respect is implied on the official remix of the song, which retains Future’s original verse and adds an original Lamartian sermon. It’s not enough to say Kendrick killed Future, as they both operate at different frequencies; rather, the verse works in a vacuum because it’s a thrilling self-summarization.
It probably is a coincidence that the “Mask Off” remix a dropped day after Dedication 2‘s anniversary, but it’s another reminder Lamar’s proclaimed Lil Wayne influences go past explicit reference. The nutty vocal shifts has become welcomed mainstay in Kendrick’s repertoire—the falsetto turns on Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” and DAMN.‘s “LUST.” has an amicable childishness to them. Kendrick doesn’t break that high octave this go around, but throws the assonance not as taut configurations but as hymnals, complementing Future’s weary presence like bricks covered in silk.
He doesn’t spent the entirety of his verse with his head bowed; “How y’all let a conscious nigga go commercial / While only makin’ conscious albums?” Kendrick jives, vaguely recalling his Killer Mike shoutout from “Hood Politics.” However, his belief that “Prince live through me” does hold extra weight: The late legend, who nearly appeared on To Pimp a Butterfly, was also one of Weezy’s influences. On his “Mask Off” verse, Kendrick remains atop of the culture, but never apart from it.