Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar won a total of five Grammy’s last night, including Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. But the rapper was also scheduled to perform, and he delivered one of the most talked-about, if not the most talked-about performance of the whole night. Kendrick Lamar performed “The Blacker The Berry,” “Alright,” and debuted brand new material, with amazing dancers and production design all around him while standing on an African-themed set. Lamar ended the performance standing in front of a large image of the continent of Africa, with the words “COMPTON” in the middle. It was an incredibly powerful and daring performance that was executed with great precision and skill.
Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich spoke with Billboard before the live show and confirmed that the hip-hop artist would be doing something memorable, political, and provocative.
“Kendrick came to us and said that we live in a time where these issues confront us every day and that it’s important that they be given a public forum, and he would like to use his x number of minutes to create a great performance that is consistent with his this year. It is overtly political and it is overtly provocative, and I think if nothing else it’s going to give people something to think about and talk about.”
Kendrick Lamar absolutely produced a performance that has everyone talking, with many online giving the rapper praise and basking in the glow of his excellence.
But not everyone was as impressed or happy with the performance. Some people walked away feeling offended and disgusted, much like many people did with Beyonce’s recent “Formation” music video and Super Bowl performance. Kendrick Lamar is now getting some of the same reactions, with accusations of being racist and presenting reverse racism on a national platform.
Kendrick Lamar did exactly what Beyonce did at the Super Bowl earlier this month: He had a special performance that will uplift and hit home with black people. It’s interesting that simply saying words like “slavery” or stating your ethnicity automatically gets interpreted as an attack. Kendrick even went as far as to edit out the “and we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the streets fo sho” line out of his song “Alright.” Last year, Lamar performed this same song at the BET Awards, standing on top of a vandalized cop car, and Fox News criticized the performance for “inciting violence.”
“This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years,” Geraldo Rivera said. “This is exactly the wrong message. And then to conflate what happened in the church in Charleston, South Carolina with these tragic incidents involving excessive use of force by cops is to equate that racist killer with these cops, it is so wrong, it is so counterproductive, it gives exactly the wrong the message.”
Any minority group openly acknowledging their culture and showing pride is interpreted by many white people as reverse racism or some act that is “dividing the country.” Apparently, race and ethnicity are things we should not talk about, and we should ignore it. Why? Why should I have to ignore a part of myself just to make someone else feel better? We can only move forward and diminish racism when we can freely celebrate different cultures and always remember this country’s highly racist history. White people already have a history of oppressing minorities, and this continues when white people want to tell minorities to stop talking about their cultural differences. This is still oppressive.
Kendrick Lamar is not receiving the amount of hate Beyonce received, but the fact that he is receiving any at all for what he did is ridiculous, yet predictable.
Kendrick Lamar won a Grammy for Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, Best Music Video, and Best Rap Album.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for NARAS]