SPOILER ALERT: This story includes details about tonight’s episode of Power.
If there was any doubt that 2018 belongs to Kendrick Lamar, the Grammy and Pulitzer-winning rapper extinguished the last embers with his appearance today in Power.
As the drug-addled NYC sidewalk hustler Laces, who comes under the dark influence of Curtis “50 cent” Jackson’s ruthless Kanan character, the Black Panther soundtrack curator’s dramatic debut shows yet another deep and rich vein in Lamar’s repertoire. Put it in terms that all performers aspire to, the Compton-raised superstar takes center stage and leaves you wanting more – which Power just might give us if Laces’ exit on the ‘Happy Birthday” episode of the Courtney Kemp-created drama’s fifth season is any hint.
Lamar’s crazy-eyed Laces may tell 50’s Kanan at one point in Safia Dirie-penned halfway point of Power’s current cycle that “none of this is real, I promise you that” but his acting chops are very real indeed and not to be missed. So, if you are feeling patient, you can wait until tonight to watch the blood-drenched episode on the Starz or, like an almost near majority of Power’s fan base, you can check it out on the Starz’s app now, as ‘Happy Birthday” was released at midnight there.
— Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) July 29, 2018
Either way, it’s something to see as Lamar and 50 Cent face off in a series of scenes that, of course, have implications across hip-hop generations as they do on screen. Interestingly, the addition of Lamar to the Power cast for tonight’s episode was neither the result of targeted casting nor a strategic marketing plan but the friendship between the G.O.O.D Kid, M.A.A.D. City artist and Jackson and the former’s love of the show. In that context, Kemp has said that Lamar’s appearance is not the start of a series of superstars of the week to juice the already impressive Power viewership.
Much more like Chris Rock’s career pivoting role of Pookie in 1991’s seminal New Jack City than either the semi-autobiographical big screen performances of Eminem in the Oscar-winning 8 Mile or 50 Cent himself in 2005’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Lamar’s bedraggled Laces is a fixture of the disenfranchised. At the same time, like many of those figures from the real world, he is determined to be a spirit instead of a ghost — pardon the Power in-joke of Omari Hardwick’s lead role. Lapsing into apparently fluent Spanish on occasion & spouting street philosophy and sociology of “mythological creatures” and the ills of modern life in the Sanford Bookstaver-directed episode, Lamar also delivers that essential element of a good guest star in adding another layer to an already well-weaved tale.
Laces might also be a role on which this season of change and “huge moves” as EP Kemp has deemed Season 5 of Power in the past, finds a new launch pad.
Amidst the powerful Power narratives of vengeance, betrayals, guns being pulled, new alliances, father figures, Daddy issues, subway overpass meetings, and, in this case, a stingingly tragic anniversary avoided and judgment slipping in a fog of grief, a rising undercurrent of today’s episode is that desire to change. From Hardwick’s grieving Ghost, Jackson’s increasingly conflicted Kanan, Joseph Sikora‘s scared Tommy, Naturi Naughton’s embattled Tasha and Lela Loren’s long game focused federal prosecutor, Power’s principals are no longer making the same moves that have fueled them since the series premiered in 2014.
Now, a lot of shows talk change and some even make the effort before lapsing back into the same old same old, it’s a great line but a hard endeavor. As Kendrick Lamar’s appearance on Power unveils, some shows actually walk the walk and that’s a real energizer in action.