The just-released video for Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. track, “DNA,” opens with Don Cheadle playing an interrogator taunting the rapper, preparing to administer a lie-detector test in a barren room. And while non-music-video Kendrick has the power of arguably being the best rapper making music right now, music-video-Kendrick also has the power of turning interrogator-Don Cheadle into an impressive rapper, himself. Cheadle’s head gets thrown back, he becomes possessed, and suddenly he breaks from his frightening professionalism and begins furiously lip-syncing Kendrick’s words.
This song was already a standout on an album full of them; any Kendrick song is tightly wrapped in layers of symbolism and a forest of wordplay, and now there’s even more to think on with all of the imagery in the video, which is just as thrilling and dynamic as “HUMBLE.” (In that first video from DAMN., Kendrick calmly rapped with his hair aflame, ate the Last Supper, and was sometimes a Pope.)
The “DNA.” video was co-directed by the very prolific Nabil (highlights from his career include Anohni’s “Drone Bomb Me,” FKA twigs’ “Two Weeks,” and a good portion of Frank Ocean’s video output) and the Little Homies, aka Dave Free and Kendrick himself.
Midway through the video, the Cheadle section starts to become intercut with disorienting footage from the inside of a swerving car full of screaming women; the still-entranced Cheadle uncuffs Kendrick, and he walks out into the street, where he’s met by his crew (including Schoolboy Q, on whom the final shot of the video rests…until he punches the camera). As he leaves the interrogation room, Kendrick’s wonderfully scathing placement of Geraldo Rivera’s now-even-more infamous Fox News clip — “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years” — emerges in the song.
Watch the video: