“Loyalty” landed just in time for OkayAfrica’s conclusion of our month-long exploration of afrofuturism.
Kendrick, a power figure who moves swiftly through the night, is surrounded by sensual dancers as he sits blindfolded on his throne. Here, we are foreshadowed to his possible fate: a woman plunges a dagger towards his chest, but we don’t see her succeed in his assassination.
Rihanna and Kendrick rap in a tunnel, surrounded by opponents who try to attack, but are instead engulfed by the quicksand-asphalt beneath their feet. Riri, as playful as she wanna be, loves to toy with the idea that Kendrick will always have her back. She spits her gum at a man in his car, only for Kendrick to brawl with him once he tries to come for Rihanna. She loves to watch him prove his allegiance to her.
Besides loyalty, trust, security and recklessness are prominent themes within the video. Rihanna must trust that Kendrick won’t drop her as he suspends her off a building. It’s a gorgeous, futuristic shot, that showcases Riri and Kenny’s characters as superhuman beings that aren’t of this world. They laugh with each other as they sway on top of the building, as if life, safety and power are trivial aspects of the human experience that they’ve already mastered.
The climax of “Loyalty” arises when we realize there are two Kendricks: presumably, a villainous one, and the other a genuine person. One Kendrick is murdered—suffocated with a plastic bag—but we can only speculate which is whom, and which one is actually loyal to Rihanna—or, if, symbolically, Kendrick had to “eliminate” a part of himself to prove his devotion to Riri.
“Loyalty” is sprinkled with afrofuturistic ideas, which is both delightful and surprising, as I didn’t imagine any of DAMN.’s songs blossoming into a sci-fi music video. But that’s what makes it more interesting: by transforming Kendrick’s lyrics, that question the elements of human nature, blackness, and conflicts with self, into stories where technology, future and magic are the norm, we can interpret his songs through a different lens.
In the end, Rihanna and Kendrick perform two acts of invincibility that prove that their characters are meant to be perceived as immortal. First, they willingly sink into the quicksand-asphalt, together, unafraid of what awaits them beneath the surface. Next, we watch them gleefully spin circles in their ride, before getting into a car accident. The accident itself is even more humorous to them, as they seem completely unfazed or harmed.
“Love’s gonna get you killed, but pride’s gonna be the death of you,” Bēkon sings. But, what if loyalty between two lovers overrides the fatality of love and pride, leading them to true immortality?