Two days ago, hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar dropped his new single “The Blacker The Berry“. Since then, Lamar has made quite the headlines, even having his track annotated on Genius.com by Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael Chabon.
Easily said to be one of the best songs of 2015, the track alludes to Wallace Thurman’s novel (of the same title), which was one of the first publications to openly address color prejudice during the Harlem Renaissance.
Similar to Thurman, Lamar incorporates raw, racially-packed lyrics to create a narrative on the “generational hatred” toward blacks. The harsh synth beats and Lamar’s powerful delivery produces a completely opposite feeling from his Grammy-winning soul track “i”, which preaches the positive, uplifting mantra of loving yourself and the skin you’re in. Lyrics such as “You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture” and “You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me/And this is more than confession” make “i” look like a measly radio-friendly pop track.
Along with “Berry”, musicians within the hip-hop community are joining the effort to speak out against a white-dominated industry. Pharrell Williams’ Grammy performance of “Happy” showed reference to “Hands up, Don’t Shoot“. J. Cole surprised fans by performing “Be Free“, a song he wrote in response to the Michael Brown shooting, on the David Letterman Show. Even Kanye West’s quasi-interruption of Beck’s Grammy acceptance speech stemmed from the rapper’s frustration toward the music industry’s preference of white genres, such as rock, over hip hop.
It is also important to keep in mind that this was the first time in 25 years that the Grammys did not televise the hip hop category, raising the question of whether or not the music industry is indeed attempting to whitewash hip hop.
Lamar’s track has truly perked some ears within the last couple of days, which only makes us anxious to see what the rest of his new album has in store.