Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance has caused a stir of conversation and good measure of acclaim. The media has called his performance political but they are also calling the highlight of the night’s performances.
There are a number of reasons that Kendrick’s performance “stole the show.” For one Kendrick was one of the few artists to perform his own music as opposed to covering songs in tribute. There is also the fact that Kendrick is a dynamic performer and artist in his own right. However, what begins to creep into the conversation and take dominance is the “political” nature of his performance. Kendrick takes the stage in a mock chain gang on the set of a cell block where he begins the lyrics from the first verse of “Blacker The Berry” and then as the music transitions the scene changes into an African bonfire with dancers and drummers and Kendrick goes into the lyrics of “Alright” and then Kendrick is left on the stage with strobe lighting as his spits alone into the mic.
The performance is definitely passionate and it had that je ne seas quoi that is undefinable but just as with Beyonce’s superbowl performance, it is the images that are the most provocative. Because of those images Kendrick’s performance has been deemed political and Black empowering. While Kendrick will most likely not receive the level of criticism that Beyonce’s performance received, that is only because he is a Hip Hop artist – who are known for going there – as opposed to Beyonce’s pop star status which requires her to be a lot more digestable to the mainstream.
The issue here is that yet again a Black artist is being considered political and/or anti-America and/or revolutionary for having portrayed certain images and distributed a message that almost certainly has its roots in Black empowerment. And for that decision these performances are considered “political” and “racially motivated.” Here again is where, in public opinion, white privilege exerts itself. If it had been a White artist with images of the confederate flag, it would have been considered creative expression. However – as i have stated and will continue to do so – when Black person speaks of Black empowerment or makes statements that do not lend themselves to the concerns of White America, there is always controversy.
In both of these instances Black artists were performing in white spaces and the mainstream’s response to their cultural expressions exposes the prevalence of white privilege. These artists in any other medium or platform could have gave the same performance and it would have been ignored by the mainstream. It is because there is an expectation of Black people to diminish themselves in white spaces. This is no different from the times when Black people were expected to walk around with their heads down never daring to make eye contact with a White person. But those times are long gone and never to be seen again. The biggest problem of all is that America is resistant to accepting that Black people are moving out of their traditional space as victims that need to be saved. Instead Black people are coming into their own and we are saving ourselves.
What keeps being left out of the conversations regarding Kendrick and Beyonce’s recent performances is that these are artists and their purpose is share their creativity to the world by reflecting the times. Perhaps America does not want to accept that after all this time, the times are changing. Black people are changing. The statement that Kendrick and Beyonce are making is more social and/or cultural than political. The major statement that both of these performances are making is that, right here in the time that we are living, Blackness is evolving – right before America’s eyes. I love it!
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man