​kendrick lamar releases the blacker the berry and the web goes wild

The Compton rapper’s new track is a fierce anti-racism anthem that tells some harsh truths.

by Stuart Brumfitt
|
10 February 2015, 12:22pm

Kendrick Lamar's new track The Blacker The Berry has spread like wildfire since its release late last night and it's a complex anthem that calls out institutional racism and plain hatred, plus plays on positive and negative stereotypes of the African-American community. To an insistent, pounding drum beat, Lamar says how he's been harbouring these feelings since he was 16, and it's surely the recent deaths of Travyon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner and the ensuing protests that have brought his thoughts to a head in this powerful track.

There are plain-speaking statements like "You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture", strong images ("I'm as black as the heart of an Aryan") and more nuanced arguments referencing past South African conflict: "It's funny how Zulu and Xosa might got to war/Two tribal armies that want to build and destroy/Remind me of those Compton Crip gangs that live next door/Beefin with Pirus, only death settle the score."

Ultimately though, Kendrick calls himself out as a hypocrite, the sense being that whilst he dreams of greater unity in the American black community, he has still played his own part in the in-fighting. Referencing the potential ways of his Compton past, he raps, "So why did I weep when Travyon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?" And his recent spat with Kid Cudi and Azaelia Banks perhaps proves that people striving for the same result are coming to blows in the process.

Considering current race relations in the US, it's a necessary call to arms, but also a bleak reminder of how far society is from any kind of harmony or understanding. 

Read our interview with Kendrick, about race, politics, Compton and Reeboks.

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