I kinda feel like this is long overdue.
I personally believe that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is one of the best rap records to come out in a long time. He takes rap back to its roots, using the music to be socially conscious and to challenge ideas around race and ethnicity in America. Using elements of hip hop, jazz, and soul, he weaves a lush musical tapestry with sharp, witty lyrics that express his frustrations, triumphs and tragedies of his time as a black man in America. This post isn’t my full reflection on the album (which will have to be done) but instead, it’s focused on one song in particular that got me thinking.
Now I will be the first to admit, that while I think the overall album is excellent, I don’t condone all of the swearing and the use of the n-word in his music. That’s a debate for another time. When I do listen to his music, I prefer the clean versions because I don’t want to sit through all of the swearing. So I’ll preface that.
This song is found in the middle of the album narrative and yet it’s an explosive declaration and celebration of being alright.
Spoilers: The song is called ‘Alright’
See the reason that this song has meant so much to me is because well I’ve needed to know that I’m alright. This has been the most stressful and chaotic semester of my university career so far filled with emotional pain, stress, and even death. (And not in the metaphorical sense). Yet even in the midst of that, there’s always been hope. I’ve been coming to a greater revelation of who I am as a Christian, as a woman, as a woman of color, an artist etc. the list goes on. God has been able to get into some of those icky places in me that I haven’t really let people into and gotten rid of at least 6 years of emotional baggage and pain. I was able to bless people by singing at my friend’s funeral. The list goes on.
Combine all of that with the fact that I turn on the TV and see young men being killed in the streets of my home city by those who were supposed to protect them. I’m angered, hurt, fearful, and sad with all of this going on. Yet it has been a joy to see people declaring that they’re gonna be alright! It’s become an anthem for those who need that reminder in the face of pain and chaos. It has excited me to see that music — specifically hip hop — is being used for social good and used to make a change. It has inspired me to know that music with a meaning and a message is still wanted.
In fact, it’s desperately needed.
Until Next Time,
Peace & Harmonies