In the world of hip-hop, I am writing this blog post much later than I should be. Compton-based rapper Kendrick Lamar released his fourth studio album, DAMN, this past Friday. DAMN features volumes of Lamar’s political commentary, which is the subject of this blog post. (A screenshot from Lamar’s music video for “Humble,” a track on the album, appears above)
Kendrick Lamar is notorious as a rapper for his clever wordplay, unique flow, and most off all, great subject matter. His last studio album released in 2015, To Pimp A Butterfly, was given the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album as well as the Danish Music Award for International Album of the Year. To Pimp A Butterfly told the story of life in America as a black man, dealing with racism and police brutality, gang violence, and much more. With DAMN, Lamar carries over the same political message from his previous album, but puts more emphasis on topics such as dealing with media outlets like Fox News and the election of Donald Trump as President.
In a 2015 interview on Fox News, Geraldo Rivera said that “hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years” in response to Lamar’s track “Alright” off of To Pimp A Butterfly. In the track “DNA” off of DAMN, Lamar bluntly states “You m************ can’t tell me nothin’ / I’d rather die than to listen to you / My DNA not for imitation / Your DNA an abomination” in response to Rivera and those at Fox News as his interview plays in the background.
In a later song on the album entitled “Lust,” Lamar raps about his experiences on the morning following the election of Donald Trump. He says that, “We all woke up, tryna tune to the daily news / Lookin’ for confirmation, hopin’ election wasn’t true / All of us worried, all of us buried, and our feeling’s deep / None of us married to his proposal, make us feel cheap / Still and sad, distraught and mad, tell the neighbor ’bout it / Bet they agree, parade the streets with your voice proudly / Time passin’, things change / Revertin’ back to our daily programs, stuck in our ways; Lust.” Bars like these resonate with a large number of listeners throughout America who were and still are displeased with the result of the election.
Hip-hop has historically been a political genre of music, ever since the days of Public Enemy, N.W.A., 2Pac, etc. With political albums like DAMN still being released and remaining relevant in popular culture, more emphasis needs to be placed on the messages these MC’s have. The government’s power is vested in the people, and what do the people listen to more of than hip-hop?