“Alright” (Kendrick Lamar, 2015)

I’m pretty sure that when Kendrick wrote this song, he didn’t think it would become an anthem for a political movement-a 21st century version of “We Shall Overcome”. But in light of the shitty situation we Americans find ourselves in (well, it’s always been shitty, I guess it’s just more obviously shitty for a lot of people in the social media age), “Alright” has served as a call to action as well as a soothing balm.

It’s funny, because the lyrics to “Alright” indicate that we’ll “be alright” because “God’s got us”, which I don’t believe one bit. I’m a former Catholic who doesn’t believe in passive behavior and doesn’t believe in blind faith and was certainly conditioned to believe in a lot of things he doesn’t believe in anymore. So…does God have us? Let’s just say I’m very, very, very dubious. We’ve got to have ourselves and each other. Protesting is not a passive behavior. Challenging norms is not a passive behavior. So, my life philosophy runs a bit counter to the lyrical message that “Alright”, at least in part, seems to be espousing.

That said, Kendrick gives me so much life, and many times, songs take on meanings far beyond what the author(s) may have intended. So “Alright” is, indeed, a song about protest, about challenging, about fighting. It’s certainly about passion-which emanates from this song. One great thing about a lot of hip-hop is that it’s what Jay Z famously called “Black superhero music”. When I feel beaten down by life, songs like “Alright” make me feel like I can move mountains.

We’re some complicated (not to mention resilient) folk.

I also have to mention that “Alright” has to be the most un-Pharrell sounding Pharrell-produced song in the history of Neptunes productions. I am totally okay with this.

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