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Kendrick Lamar’s Unapologetic Blackness Lights Up the Grammys, Cements His Place as Hip-Hop Royalty

Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

The Grammys have been historically criticized for being out of touch. One of the biggest snubs over the past years was not rewarding Kendrick Lamar for Rap Album of the Year for 2012-13’s Good Kid, Maad City at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Lamar was nominated in five categories and lost to Seattle’s Macklemore, which sparked controversy and outrage. This year, that has all been rectified. Lamar’s 2014-15 masterpiece, To Pimp A Butterfly, earned him five wins out of 11 nominations in last night’s ceremony, cementing his legacy in hip-hop.

But winning wasn’t what kept people talking hours after the ceremony; it was his performance that amazed onlookers. The performance was reminiscent of Beyoncé’s “Formation” Super Bowl 50 half-time show that played tribute to the Black Panthers and Michael Jackson. Lamar played tribute to the slain unarmed victims of police brutality and to urban Black culture and its connection to Africa.

These two artists are loving themselves, and many people are feeling uncomfortable about it. Primarily, there is an assumption that pro-Blackness is anti-white because pro-whiteness has historically been anti-Black. Black people loving themselves, their features and their heritage does not trample on other people’s history or culture. We have been deprived of that love for ourselves, and now we reclaim that.

Black artists are becoming revolutionary because the people are. They are speaking up for Black folks in the South, the ghettos, the victims of police brutality, and many more.  The people are loving their culture and protecting themselves — and artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé are feeding off that energy.


In the 1960s and 70s, Black artists like Nina Simone, Paul Robeson, Marvin Gaye and countless others risked their lives and careers to be a voice of the people and speak up about the racial injustices in the nation. They had a level of fearlessness that made the “mainstream” uneasy but it made them listen. There is a new revolutionary spirit that has gripped Black folks and artists are seeing it.

What Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé have done has made the white masses listen. White folks may squirm and shake, but they have no choice but to hear our unapologetic Blackness bassing from the speakers. Last night they did so on the biggest stage and on the music industry’s biggest night. Twitter loved every second of the 28-year-old Compton rapper’s performance.

Before the performance, Twitter users expected Kendrick Lamar to kill it:

Last night’s performance not only met but exceeded expectations.  People from all walks of life could not deny Lamar’s genius.

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