The 2015 Grammy Awards, depending on who you ask, ended one of two opposing ways: either folks were mostly satisfied with the outcome, or completely dissatisfied and scrambling to Wikipedia in an effort find out who the heck Beck is. (And how dare he take an award that King Beyoncé rightfully deserved.)
A popular opinion is that we of the Black delegation are just happy Iggy Azalea went home empty-handed, especially after the Macklemore fiasco of 2014. One loser of last year turned two-time winner this year was Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar, who brought home Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his single, “i.”
The TDE rapper has been high on the list when it comes to material the music industry is looking forward to this year, and after a moving performance on late night television and screenshots of proposed album release dates, we’ve all been in a holding pattern of “when,” and no longer “if.”
Wait no longer.
What better way to celebrate winning what’s held as the highest honor in music than to immediately release a new single? “The Blacker the Berry” (produced by Boi-1da, The Koz and Terrace Martin) is five minutes and 31 seconds of Kendrick assessing and proudly boasting himself as a Black man in 2015, bringing social issues to the forefront using the proverbial ’96 Impala—a.k.a. his music—to do so.
Speaking to an unknown target and then suddenly turning the tables on us, Kendrick paints the picture of what Black men deal with in urban jungles and peaceful suburbs alike, prisoners and prey in our own world. Hard-thumping drums and a particularly eerie guitar riff seep through speakers as Kendrick does what he does best: tap-dancing all over the instrumental.
But just when it seems that we’re hanging out of a car careening down the highway of racial tension and Black oppression, it stops. A smooth, almost hypnotic jazz melody takes over which prompts us to ask ourselves probing questions about race and violence: “Wait, what did I just listen to? Was that a comparison of tribal clashes back in Africa to the gang culture that we face today?”
Yes, you should listen again. And listen well, because based off this declaration of peaceful war, Kendrick Lamar has a lot more left to say. Be here for what happens next.
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