Kendrick Lamar's Blacker The Berry suggests new album is going macro in its social commentary


Christopher Hooton
Tuesday 10 February 2015 17:23 GMT

While the rest of the hip hop community leapt to their well meaning but ultimately abortive #IAMTRAYVON hashtags during the Ferguson riots last year, Kendrick Lamar stayed pretty quiet. He tends to nobly stay out of the 24-hour, 140-character Twitter news cycle, mull things over (a dying art) and return later with a more delicate appraisal of the world around him. Blacker The Berry, a new track released today, seems to be what he was busy working on while everyone else squabbling on news stations.

It is his most visceral and incendiary track yet and, ever the scholar, Kendrick references numerous important moments in black and hip hop history while giving a damning portrait of the current situation.

It is essentially an expansion on about the only comment he gave on Ferguson to Billboard in January: "What happened to [Michael Brown] should've never happened. Never. But when we don't have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don't start with just a rally, don't start from looting -- it starts from within."

He was criticised for it (as far as criticism from Iggy Azalea is really criticism) but in Blacker The Berry he is way more explicit about what he means, it's final line finally making the 'hipocrisy' he references throughout the track plain:

"So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a n*gga blacker than me?"

The war within ourselves was something Compton served as a microcosm for on Good Kid Maad City and Section.80 - a teenager 'not on the outside looking in, not on the inside looking, but in the dead fucking centre, looking around' (Ab Soul's Outro) as he was sucked into the violence that cannibalised his neighbourhood, knowing he needed an out but not being able to see one.

But rather than through the eyes of a gang banger struggling with his demons, 'i' and 'Blacker The Berry' confront these issues head on. If indeed they do appear on the next album (Kendrick has hinted they might not), it could end up feeling more like a political statement than a story with social commentary elements as with previous albums.

I think part of the appeal of GKMC was how it's darker, more introspective moments where tempered with willfull silliness. The hopelessness of Sing About Me / I'm Dying Of Thirst was balanced by the juvenile playfulness of Backseat Freestyle, and sonically, the sombre beat of The Art of Peer Pressure was countered with the bombastic Maad City.

It seems like Kendrick will have to depart from the narrative style on the next record for fear of it being repetitive, but hopefully he will find a way of making it just as cohesive and immersive.

Lyrics as per Genius:

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