I just finished my tenth listen of Kendrick Lamar’s latest single, “The Blacker The Berry,” at a volume that just blew out my left headphone (no lie). As I write these words, I press play, for the eleventh time, on the Youtube video. I have never listened to a song this much in such a short amount of time—I’ve been bumping this ish since I finished dinner, like an hour ago. This rapid obsession can be explained quite easily: “The Blacker The Berry” is straight fire.

However, something about the track throws me for a loop.

“The Blacker The Berry” is the most unabashedly pro-black song that has been released in quite awhile. Unlike its predecessor, “i’, its message isn’t smothered underneath a pop-funk beat  or a singalong style hook for the entire world to enjoy (though “i” was gorgeous song in its own right).  “The Blacker The Berry’s” first half sounds like the result of Yeezus minded Kanye attempting to make “New York State of Mind.” More “Black Skinhead” than “i,” the track has a grimier, industrial feel to it; even though it is a new sound for Kendrick, he still seems or feels more at home than in “i’s” bubblegum club.

And then there are…the bars. There are not enough fire emojis to offer K-dot’s three verses on here, not even close.

“I’m African-American, I’m African

I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village

Pardon my residence

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?”

Kendrick pulls none of his punches; where he usually tries to escape into a metaphor, he makes sure to keep it blunt and to the point. He touches on religious dogma, institutionalize racism, displacement, genocide, and even alludes to emancipation a number of times: seemingly making every topic up for debate and critique. Obviously, Mr. Lamar does this as a rapper, so some of the excitement is more for how he is getting to all of these ideas than the actual ideas themselves. Nonetheless, I can’t recall many singles broaching these topics in this manner, let alone even one.

Also Assassin came through with the mean feature, I guess he is getting Gunplay’s role.

So far, so good. What is my slight issue with this “The Black The Berry?” To keep it blunt, I don’t know if I can get jiggy with the second half of the third verse (technically I can’t get jiggy with anything anymore, since its 2015 and not 2000).

At the onset of the third verse, I’m still loving it: “This plot is bigger than me, it’s generational hatred/ It’s genocism, it’s grimy, little justification.” We’re still on this warlike path of truth, confronting all of the lies and hypocrisy. A few bars later, Kendrick begins listing activities that would normally be associated with African-American/Black culture. In a strange twist of fate, he attempts to connect the two rival Los Angeles Gangs to warring African Tribes, which is clever to a point.

Then the final three bars come on and this is where the problem begins:

“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?

When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?


I don’t feel too comfortable with this parallel. Kendrick already stated his belief that the much needed change in black communities have to start from within, in his much hated Billboard cover story. No one would ever deny that any group of any race or origin need to acknowledge the particular issues they face (i.e. gang banging). However,for Kendrick to somehow paint this picture that gang violence and a teenager being murdered in cold blood because he made a neighbor uncomfortable with a hoodie on, seems disingenuous.

If you read the lines in context, it becomes clearer that K.dot is speaking as a gang member and using this character to call out those who dabble in shadier, more illicit professions for their wishy-washy socially conscious awakenings. There is some much needed truth in there, but naivete as well. Trayvon Martin, at least for me, reinforced a notion that at any time, any where you could be murder just for the simple fact that you’re black; no matter how nerdy or how street, you’re black, you better get out of town before the street lights turn on. For no reason. Yes, gang banging is a terrible form of crime, in a perfect world murder shouldn’t happen. However, Kendrick is alluding to Black-on-Black crime and once again drawing the same conclusion that “we need to respect one another before marching outside the community.”

Essentially, it’s the same respectability politics that passes over the continued racial warfare currently surrounding us, consuming so many innocent lives. Nobody gets to tell anyone else who can mourn, march, or chant. It seems silly. I feel like we can have another Chris Rock “Niggas vs. Black People,” a routine he had to stop because racist felt like it gave them the freedom to say nigger. Now, instead of saying the n-word, the word hypocrite will be flung around erroneously.

“The Blacker The Berry” is amazing, even with these three lines present. I wish Kendrick would stop this strange dance he keeps doing—where he takes like seven leaps forward, only to turn around and walk back to where he started. Respectability politics is one of those things that really puts me off, but the song is so fire though. Let me know what you think about all this.