How the creators of South Park turned Kendrick Lamar into a deepfake Ye, O.J. and Will Smith

Masterminded by Lamar and Dave Free, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and PgLang / Project3, the work stretches across the industry to deliver creative genius.

Date
10 May 2022

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When Kendrick Lamar’s new music video for The Heart Part 5 landed online yesterday, Kanye West’s Famous sprung to mind – a music video that shares the same fake celebrity intrigue and potential zeitgeist-shaping power. Overnight, the video has already amassed 12 million views, lodged firmly at the number one slot on Youtube’s trending for music, where we expect it will stay for some time. Exploring Lamar’s identity and relationship to other iconic and controversial figures, as the artist often does through his The Heart series, The Heart Part 5 sees Lamar morph into deepfake versions of Kanye West, O.J. Simpson, Will Smith, Kobe Bryant and Nipsey Hussle, while discussing themes relevant to each figure’s story. It’s an exercise in creative genius where Lamar’s face has been replaced with someone else’s likeness through an image; so who helped him pull it off?

The deepfake work in The Heart Part 5 was credited to Deep Voodoo, a studio shrouded in mystery when it released its first work to the world. In 2020, Deep Voodoo worked on the viral Sassy Justice videos, a satire series featuring Trump and Zuckerberg deepfakes. As discussed in an interview with Dave Itzkoff in The New York Times, while the creators did not immediately identify themselves, Deep Voodoo is the handiwork of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. In the interview, the collaborators explain that they began working with the technology for Sassy Justice because “everyone was so afraid of deepfakes”, but also to explore its potential as an art form. “It really is this new form of animation for people like us, who like to construct things on a shot-by-shot level and have control over every single actor and voice,” says Parker in the interview.

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PgLang / Project3 / Deep Voodoo: Kendrick Lamar, The Heart Part 5 (Copyright © Kendrick Lamar / PgLang / Project3, 2022)

Sassy Justice was a way for Stone and Parker to salvage their investment in a deepfake feature film that was shelved during the pandemic. They put together Deep Voodoo for the project, a studio which consists of around 20 deepfake artists and technicians. The pair’s collaboration with Lamar isn’t entirely new either; earlier this year, it was reported that Lamar was producing a new live-action comedy with Parker and Stone. This collaborative relationship, and the duo’s extensive knowledge of deep fake tech, has come together to deliver the eerily close celebrity matches on The Heart Part 5.

As for the video’s artistic power and urgency, the work was directed by both Dave Free and Lamar, and produced by PgLang / Project3. A multi-disciplinary media company co-founded by Lamar and Free in 2020, it has already rolled out some of the most innovative and memorable music videos of the past few years, including Baby Keem’s Hooligan and Lamar’s Family Ties.

The release of The Heart Part 5 comes ahead of the launch of Lamar’s fifth album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers on 13 May – which was teased last year with a mysterious note on the website oklahoma.com reading: “See you soon enough.”

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PgLang / Project3 / Deep Voodoo: Kendrick Lamar, The Heart Part 5 (Copyright © Kendrick Lamar / PgLang / Project3, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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