Reflections on Dissections: S5E8 — “FEEL.”

Femi Olutade
Nov 16, 2019 · 5 min read

Why prayer is not the problem for our prophet

< Previous: S5E7 — “ELEMENT.”

Next: S5E9 — “LOYALTY.” >

In the music video for Kendrick’s 2011 track “Rigamortis”, Kendrick kneels to pray in front of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin of Protection in New York City

In our last post about the track “ELEMENT.”, we discussed Kung Fu Kenny’s decision to “put the Bible down and go eye for an eye.” This decision led him to identify with Candyman, a vengeful spirit who became a reflection of the hatred and evil which was perpetrated against him. We also discussed how Kenny’s choice to reject his calling led him to contemplate fleeing from America and going overseas to Cuba. We showed how this choice mirrored vengeful black revolutionaries like Assata Shakur and Tupac Shakur. At the same time, we showed how Kenny’s inclination to reject from Yahweh’s call mirrored the story of Jonah in which Jonah got on a boat sailing in the opposite direction from where Yahweh had called Jonah to go.

“But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Yahweh.”

- ‭‭Jonah‬ ‭1:3‬

Jonah went downhill to the port city of Joppa where he boarded a ship and went down below deck — The Bible Project — Read Scripture — Jonah

It is interesting to note that even from the beginning of Jonah’s story we can already see that Jonah’s trajectory is heading downward. After Jonah rose up to flee the narrator describes Jonah going downhill to the port city of Joppa and then going down below the deck of the boat. As the story proceeds, this downward trajectory is going to continue until Jonah hits rock bottom. Interestingly, in the first verse of “FEEL.”, Kenny depicts his own mental descent.

I feel like a chip on my shoulders
I feel like I’m losin’ my focus
I feel like I’m losin’ my patience
I feel like my thoughts in the basement

Kenny describes himself as someone who is carrying a heavy burden — a chip on his shoulders — which is weighing Kenny down. He also describes his thoughts going down to the basement much like Jonah going down below the deck of the ship. In Jonah’s case, his descent is depicted as a futile attempt to hide from his God. As a result, God sent a storm to prevent the ship from proceeding.

“But Yahweh sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a great storm on the sea, so that the ship was about to break up.

- Jonah 1:4

Similar to Jonah on board the ship, “FEEL.” seems to reveal that Kenny is experiencing a storm of destructive emotions.

I feel like it ain’t no tomorrow, fuck the world
The world is endin’, I’m done pretendin’
And fuck you if you get offended

Here, we can see that Kenny's emotional storm has become a threat not just to himself but also to those around him. This mirrors Jonah’s story in which the sailors on the ship with Jonah faced the threat of not seeing tomorrow if Jonah continued to reject God’s calling. As a result, it is these non-Israelite sailors who were the first ones to pray for salvation.

“Then the sailors were afraid, and every man prayed to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone down into the innermost parts of the ship, laid down, and fallen fast asleep.”

- ‭‭Jonah‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭

As the storm threatened to destroy the ship, Jonah was asleep down below the deck, complete unaware that everyone around him was praying for him — from The Bible Project, Read Scripture — Jonah

Ironically, while all the non-Israelite sailors were praying to their respective gods, Jonah was asleep below deck. Yahweh’s chosen prophet was the only one who was not praying. Moreover, Jonah remained completely unaware of the fact that everyone on the ship was praying for him. Jonah’s lack of awareness seems to be reflected in Kenny’s recurring complaint throughout the track.

I feel like the whole world want me to pray for ‘em
But who the fuck prayin’ for me?
Ain’t nobody prayin’ for me
Who prayin’ for me?
Ain’t nobody prayin’

By looking at DAMN in parallel with the story of Jonah, Kenny’s complaint that no one is praying for him is clearly ironic. The first time we heard Kenny complain that nobody was praying for him was on the previous track where he tried to justify his intuition to commit murder.

Bitch, all my grandmas dead
So ain’t nobody prayin’ for me, I’m on your head, ayy

- from “ELEMENT.”

Based on that line from “ELEMENT.”, we should probably question whether Kenny’s complaint about prayer is just another attempt to justify his own destructive behavior. Moreover, we should also note that Kenny’s request for people to pray for him goes all the way back to “untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.”, a track that was released a year before DAMN. as part of Kendrick’s 2016 compilation album untitled unmastered.

Stuck inside the belly of the beast
Can you please pray for me?
Get God on the phone

- From “untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.”

Later on in the story, Jonah will be thrown down into the sea before being swallowed into the by a carnivorous fish. From the belly of this beast, Jonah will finally concede to offer prayers to Yahweh, the God of Israel— The Bible Project — Read Scripture — Jonah

Fittingly, the line in which Kendrick asks us to pray for him is preceded by a line in which Kendrick describes himself as being “stuck inside the belly of the beast.” As we noted in the podcast episode, the phrase “belly of the beast” is itself a phrase that is often used to reference the story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish. At the same time, the subsequent line in “untitled 02 | 06.23.2014.” features Kenny asking for God to call him. Given that Kendrick previously asked for a phone call from God, it is, of course, ironic that Kung Fu Kenny rejected God’s call on the track “YAH.”

All of these connections point to the fact that the storm which Kenny is experiencing has nothing to do with the fact that no one is praying for him. Rather his storm is a direct result of his choice to reject God’s call and follow his own intuition.

Next: S5E9 — “LOYALTY.” >


- “Rigamortis” music video

- “Jonah: Read Scripture” video by The Bible Project

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