“The Blacker The Berry” by Kendrick Lamar (2015)

The two lead up singles to To Pimp A Butterfly got dragged by a large chunk of the internet. It’s important to remember that, considering how lauded the album eventually became. The internet can be a horrible place sometimes…correction; the internet is a horrible place most of the time.

“I” was criticized because it fairly blatantly sampled The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” and because (OMG) it dared spread a message of unbridled positivity. We’ll get to that more later.

“The Blacker The Berry” was criticized because in the song’s third verse, Kendrick connects his own growing cultural awareness to black on black crime (specifically the Bloods/Crips tribal warfare that’s been going on in Southern California for two if not three generations) and wonders if he’s a hypocrite for wanting to see the betterment of his race and being proud of his Blackness while (metaphorically) participating in the extermination of his own people.

Yes, the “why don’t you clean out your own backyard” excuse is often used by white people are confronted with the systemic racism they (or their ancestors) created results in anger over Black folks getting killed. And it’s a shitty excuse. Neither systemic racism nor man’s inhumanity to man (even if they share the same race or ethnicity) exists in a vacuum. White folks have been using that excuse for as long as I lived to distract from their own complicity.

Here’s the thing, though: pride in your people and participating in the willful extermination of a person or persons who look just like you ARE MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. You can’t be pro-Black and attack/injure/kill another Black person for something as trivial as the colors they’re wearing or the set they’re claiming. And the proverbial crabs in the barrel need to be called out and held to the fire just like we hold the government and the police force to the fire for the fucked up shit that they do.

Anyway, I think I’ve already talked myself out about how amazing Kendrick Lamar is. “Blacker” is barely controlled chaos from music to lyrics. K Dot’s delivery slices through the track with the precision of an X-acto knife. It’s good to know that lyrics (like books, albums and Black lives) still matter in the 21st century.

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