Kendrick Lamar Resurrects Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle as Deepfakes for His Music Video

Kendrick Lamar Resurrects Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle as Deepfakes for His Music Video
Image: Kendrick Lamar, compiled by Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Kung Fu Kenny is coming back this year with a hot new album (Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers), but in the lead-up to that album’s release, we’ve been gifted a fresh new Kendrick Lamar beat — The Heart Part 5, featuring a slew of deepfakes.

Yep, deepfakes.

Kendrick loves to get creative with his work, with it not being a surprise to call him one of the greatest rappers in the game at the moment. Hell, his album Damn was the first non-jazz and non-classical album to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Previously, too, Kendrick’s music videos have been very well produced, with DNA immediately coming to mind. Anyway, here’s the music video to The Heart Part 5.

The deepfakes were produced by Deep Voodoo, a studio formed by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park.

Okay, that song is a total banger, and while we’re not going to go too deep into lyric and video analysis in this article (we’ll save that to the music journos) we will be talking about the deepfaking that we just saw in the video.

In the music video, Kendrick Lamar deepfakes several men, morphing into Kanye West, OJ Simpson, Will Smith, Jussie Smollett, Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle, the last two no longer with us (Bryant in a helicopter crash, and Nipsey in a shooting).

Jussie Smollett, in case you don’t remember, was an actor on the show Empire who staged a hate crime on himself. Will Smith, Kanye West and OJ Simpson are also pretty famous for their own reasons, but Smith’s inclusion in the deepfaking might be about more recent events.

Anyway, for much of the music video, Kendrick raps in reference to the lives of these men and their impact on culture. At the end of the video, when he deepfakes into being Nipsey Hussle, he kind of takes on the persona of Nipsey as if he were speaking from beyond the grave, forgiving his murderer but saying his soul is in question.

While it’s an incredibly well put-together music video, there’s something at least a little unsettling about seeing a dead person deepfaked into being alive again. The art of the music video isn’t lost on me, it’s just a little disturbing to wear the faces of Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle.

But that’s the nature of deepfakes to begin with, really. They’re sophisticated technology that has, up until this point, been mostly used for bad rather than good, and while deepfakes have stayed out of the news cycle for quite a while now, we’ll likely continue to see them in different things.

It’s nice to see the technology used in an artistic capacity, frankly.