Before dropping the critically acclaimed, socially conscious album To Pimp A Butterfly and essentially becoming the musical voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, Kendrick Lamar faced backlash from some members of the black community. Unfavorable terms such as “victim blaming” and “respectability politics” were brought up.
The TDE emcee was criticized for saying “we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us?” after the Michael Brown killing. He was also confronted with negative comments for the lyrics in his song “The Blacker The Berry” which referred to him being a hypocrite for crying over Trayvon Martin’s death and not over the African-American deaths caused by gang violence.
Kendrick spoke about the criticism with NPR. According to the 28-year-old Compton native, his words on “The Blacker The Berry” were not meant to be viewed as a condemnation of his entire race.
“It’s not me pointing at my community; it’s me pointing at myself,” said Kendrick. “I don’t talk about these things if I haven’t lived them, and I’ve hurt people in my life. It’s something I still have to think about when I sleep at night.
He added, “The message I’m sending to myself – I can’t change the world until I change myself first.”
While mainstream artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole use their platforms as stars to address social and political issues, a large portion of modern popular rap music tends to focus more on what’s going on in the club than what’s going on in the community. Despite that trend, K. Dot plans to extend his tendency to make music that speaks to what is happening in the greater world around him.
“There’s a lot of other artists doing things outside of that depth that I enjoy — that music that I can actually have fun to, and not be in depth and think about, then I appreciate that,” stated Kendrick. “But as long as I’m doing it right now, I’ma continue to say just a little bit more that pertains to what’s going on.”