Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry” is an undeniable fist-pumper for the people. Shedding light on the complexities of our experience, the Compton visionary highlights dark crevices in the minds of Black America. But to classify this track as just another “black thing” is a disservice to the conversation.
On “The Blacker The Berry,” K. Dot does not offer new information to his people. We’ve been feeling hated since early history lessons. We felt hunted and victimized long before Trayvon Martin. We’ve grappled between self-loving and self-loathing as a means to combat stereotypes since we could differentiate between “black” and “white.” We are aware of the simultaneous existence of protesters and gang members in our communities. This is our life. These are our stories. And yes, artistically weaved into bars of masterful fury, the song is a necessary reiteration. But it can also serve as an avenue of understanding.
Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry” is more than an anthem for black people; it is a lesson in being black for other colors on the spectrum.
From the black perspective, Kendrick’s latest on-wax blessing is a proclamation, an anthem that can be played to express our deepest frustrations (“I mean, it’s evident that I’m irrelevant to society”) and rejoice in our steadfastness (“Black and successful, this black man meant to be special”). But in furthering the much-needed dialogue about race in America, “The Blacker The Berry” would serve better in the headphones of those beyond our arc. Non-blacks, especially, should expose themselves to Kendrick’s ripping cry of blackness.
Grasping the black plight requires an active quest for context. And in just five and-a-half minutes, K. Dot sums up the intricacies of our mindstate. Made easier to digest over Boi-1-da’s blaring boom-bap, TDE’s MVP draws the curtains back, inviting anyone who will listen in, as his stream of consciousness dances in and out of chest bolstering and the impositions of self-deprecation:
Came from the bottom of mankind
My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide
You hate me don’t you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me
Non-blacks should also understand that as a result of the black mind, the black community is complex – and hypocritical. Taking a controversial route, “The Blacker The Berry” addresses the topic of black-on-black crime. As outcry spills over the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, K. Dot turns the lens inward to pose a piercing question. Uncomfortable (and possibly angering) for the black listener, the rapper’s conclusion also serves as a display of the results of our layered consciousness:
So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?
When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?
While “Blacker The Berry” serves as a score to a proverbial movie Black America has been watching for years, it could also be a new way to invite others into the theater. –– Iyana Robertson (@sincerely_iyana)