The first time I heard Kendrick Lamar’s song “Sing About Me, Dying of Thirst” was in 2012, on a Saturday spent sick inside my college dorm room. Thanks to a stranger who had decided to kiss me, I had mono. Lamar’s now-classic album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City had just been released and since I wasn’t doing anything but feeling sorry for myself, I decided to give it a listen.
When I got to that song — track 10 — my sick body perked up. The 12-minute, two-part epic’s first half is contemplative and smooth. Seven minutes long, it pulses with a tender, lingering guitar loop (a sample from jazz guitarist Grant Green’s 1971 recording “Maybe Tomorrow”) and spins dizzily with drums (a sped-up sample from Bill Withers’ 1972 song “Use Me”). Kendrick spits an intricate tale of loss, rapping in letter form from the perspective of two people whose siblings have died. It’s a somber, confrontational song about memory and legacy.