The sample: “The Heart Part 5” features a sample of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 “I Want You,” which was a semi-autobiographical song centered around his real-life romance with ex-wife Janis Hunter. It’s a passionate and sensual song, reminiscent of the energy on classic Marvin Gaye hits like “Let’s Get It On.” The clearance of the sample is a major win for Kendrick, because Marvin Gaye’s estate has been known to safeguard the late singer’s music, filing major copyright lawsuits against current artists. Most notably, Gaye’s estate sued Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over their single “Blurred Lines,” which they claimed ripped off Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” (In 2015, a jury awarded $5 million in damages, plus half of future royalties, to the Gaye family.) More recently, Ed Sheeran was sued for $100 million for allegedly plagiarizing Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” on his 2014 single “Thinking Out Loud.”
The sound: The production on “The Heart Part 5” (especially in the second half of the song) has stripped-back moments, invoking the feeling of a spoken word message at an open mic night. Overall, it takes sonic inspiration from soul, funk, and rock in the ’60s and ’70s. Some fans have pointed out that the format of the album title (Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers) falls in line with classic groups from the era like Sly & The Family Stone, Smoky Robinson & The Miracles, Dianna Ross & The Supremes, and Gladys Knight & The Pips.
The easter eggs: Since the song dropped, fans have been sharing theories about the hidden meanings behind some of the production choices. For example, Kendrick takes 15 seconds to inhale and exhale in the middle of the song, which is the number of seconds required to check one’s heart rate. He also cuts the drums for Nipsey and Kobe, symbolizing the stoppage of a human heart beat.
The producers: “The Heart Part 5” was produced by Beach Noise, a production collective that includes Johnny Kosich, Jake Kosich, and Matt Schaeffer, who have a history of working on pgLang projects. They produced several songs on Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue, as well as “The Love Intro” from pgLang’s new signee Tanna Leone’s project, Sleepy Soldier. Matt Schaeffer, who played multiple instruments (guitar, drums, bass guitar, percussion, cello) on “The Heart Part 5,” has independently been credited on previous records with both Kendrick (“Big Shot”) and Baby Keem (“Bullies”). Schaeffer also has credits on a number of tracks throughout Kendrick’s discography, including “Humble,” “DNA.,” “King Kunta,” “The Blacker the Berry,” and more. Bekon is also credited for playing the violin on Kendrick’s new single, after previously working on Kendrick’s 2018 album DAMN. —Jessica