Lamar has been labeled hip hop’s newest “messiah,” but he has also drawn fire for seeming to say that Black people shared the blame for police violence.
- King, Notes on the Hip-Hop Messiah (nytimes.com)
- Patterson, Even Kendrick Lamar’s View of Black Respectability is Problematic (politic365.com)
- Hiiipower (Kendrick Lamar, 2011)
- So Appalled (Kanye West, 2010)
- Keisha’s Song (Kendrick Lamar, 2011)
All three of the songs included under “Listening” reference Civil Rights and Black Power icons. As with OutKast earlier, these references raise questions about these movements’ continuing relevance (or irrelevance) in contemporary life.
“So Appalled”: Cyhi The Prynce compares himself to Ralph David Abernathy and “his lady” to Rosa Parks. The next line seems to undercut this comparison: “I am nothing like them n—s, baby, those are marks.”
“Keisha’s Song”: Lamar contrasts the song’s title character and Rosa Parks.
On “HiiPower,” Lamar opens by claiming to be haunted by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. The song then celebrates Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale, and Marcus Garvey. “Hiiipower” also is a kind of answer to “So Appalled,” interpolating and modifying the earlier song’s hook in order to deliver a pointedly political message.
In our class’s 2Pac discussion last year, a student wrote, “I think a better question is whether or not artists today are real with their songs and portray a truthful message about black struggle such as racism, gun violence, etc.”
Pick one or more of the following artists, all of whom sell A LOT of records.
Does your artist try to meet the student’s challenge? If so, how? Are they successful at it, and in what ways?
If they don’t, should they? Do they have a responsibility to “portray a truthful message about black struggle”?
- Jay Z
- Kanye West
- Kendrick Lamar
A question about Kendrick Lamar will be included on the final exam.