‘Hypocrisy’ in new Kendrick Lamar lyrics has fans debating

Fresh off of two wins at Sunday night’s Grammy awards, Kendrick Lamar released a new song Monday that tackles his ideas about “blackness” and racial identity.

“The Blacker The Berry” has sparked discussion nationwide about Lamar and the political statements in his music, especially in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Most of the song speaks to Lamar’s own struggles of feeling marginalized by American society, with lines like, “I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society. That’s what your telling me, penitentiary would only hire me.”

But what’s fueled a frenzy of responses from both fans on social media sites and the music industry are Lamar’s final words in the single: “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a ***** blacker than me? Hypocrite.”

Reactions have been mixed: while some have praised Lamar for what they view as a brave stand against gang violence, others are insulted by his argument that black-on-black crime somehow equates to the violence of police brutality.

Kendrick Lamar performing in 2013. (Photo by Merlijn Hoek via Wikipedia)
Kendrick Lamar performing in 2013. (Photo by Merlijn Hoek via Wikipedia)

Stereo Williams of The Daily Beast sees Lamar falling into a familiar trap: “The “what about black-on-black crime” argument is used to deflect and silence conversations about systematic oppression of black people.”

Many on Twitter seem to agree with Williams’ interpretation of the Compton rapper’s final stanza, taking offense at his self-directed accusations of hypocrisy and disregarding the point of #BlackLivesMatter, which is to prevent police brutality.

The line is reminiscent of comments Lamar made to Billboard regarding the events in Ferguson recently, where he implied that there is a lack of self-respect within black communities and that violence can be prevented by starting from “within.”

However, many fans, colleagues, and writers have come to Lamar’s defense with interpretations of the song that emphasize a message of empowerment and racial consciousness.

Terrace Martin, who worked with Lamar on the song, told Billboard that the “hypocrisy” mentioned in last line is something that they’ve both experienced growing up in L.A. neighborhoods, but that it has more to do with promoting self-love within those neighborhoods. He say that their music is about taking a stand and making a statement – and music is “the fastest way of getting a message to the movement, period.”

For fans like Patricia Allen, UW Hip Hop Student Association Community Outreach Chair, Lamar is using his music to make positive political statements to not only try to improve society, but to bring hip-hop music back to its roots.

“Kendrick is revitalizing why hip-hop was created and sustained in the old days,” Allen said. “I think he wants people to be more conscious of things they are listening to and the subliminal issues he brings up.”

Her interpretation was not that Lamar is somehow undermining the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, but that his message in “The Blacker The Berry” is about creating a better sense of identity.

“It’s about establishing self-love,” Allen said. “Black lives do matter but emphasizing having your own black love and loving yourself as black is part of that, too.”

Sounds like Lamar’s underlying message in “The Blacker The Berry” is open to interpretation. But if the goal was to get people listening closely to his lyrics and contemplating their meaning, then it’s safe to say he’s succeeded.

7 Comments

  1. We do need to come together as blacks and stop the killing. We ain’t getting mad when we killing each other but someone of a different color start killing us and we mad as hell? Hell Nawhhhh that’s retarded

    1. This is not true: We ain’t getting mad when we killing each other but someone of a different color start killing us and we mad as hell? Hell Nawhhhh that’s retarded

      Furthermore, he’s talking about blacks who bang but claim to be pro-Black (or not) and speak up about racist killings. This does not mean other Blacks cannot speak on these issues. He’s grappling with this duality

      1. but his point still remains……
        the amount of black on black killing should be an important point of discussion. Cause fact is….it happens ALOT. however a lot of ppl in the “black community” claim that the American system puts them in a position were resorting to violence makes sense, which my friend may be true but certainly doesn’t free those who choose a violent path from blame for their own actions selfish or not.

  2. He isn't deliberatly saying: "black lives don't matter". He is saying we should look at ourselves as a community. Why would a black person say: "black lives don't matter"? That makes absolutely no sense. So please, just appreciate that we have a black rapper being our voices. All the other rappers, NOT ALL, are just rapping about how many girls they got and what kind of cars they have. This is strong and powerful.

  3. I think he meant for a broader discussion to be had on black on black crime, damn mixed feels anyways, all of this outrageous, the law enforcement my god what's happening to much power if you ask me not enough oversight, but what does this have to do with black black crime? Cause shit is crazy race relation deteriorating

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.