Kendrick Lamar took home two Grammys for his single “i.” Twenty-four hours later on Feb. 9, he released a new track from his upcoming album entitled “The Blacker the Berry,” letting everyone in the hip-hop community know he has indeed returned after his hiatus.
Compared to “i,” “The Blacker the Berry” is more aggressive, powerful and cynical, displaying an edge of the 27-year-old rapper from Compton, Calif. that some fans felt was missing on the feel-good track “i.” Top Dawg Entertainment Co-President Terrence Henderson even went as far as tweeting an image that represented the voices of Lamar on the two tracks. The tweet was an image of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.’s mug shots side by side with the captions “The Blacker the Berry” on the former and “i” on the latter.
The song’s hard-hitting beat, produced by Boi-1da, is intense and sinister, a perfect blend for an artist like Lamar to spit out menacing lyrics that some would expect out of rappers like Big L, Nas or Chuck D. Lamar starts off every verse claiming he is “the biggest hypocrite in 2015” and promises that listeners will understand why by the end of the song. Soon after, he fires off on various topics regarding race, stereotypes, injustice and persecution, all while celebrating his culture and embracing the negative light it can be placed under.
In between verses comes a chorus rapped by Jamaican dancehall artist, Assassin, who joins in on the racially charged lyrics discussing how far black people have come from being put in chains to wearing gold chains and ends the chorus with a reminder that “every race start from the block.”
The final verse is where Lamar finally reveals why he is the, “biggest hypocrite in 2015” as he exploits the hypocrisy that exists within his own culture. This includes him comparing gang wars in Compton to the tribal warfare in Africa and explaining how most black-on-black crime occurs with little justification. This all precedes the final line where Lamar states the following as the reason why he‘s a hypocrite himself: “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gang banging make me kill a [explicit] blacker than me? Hypocrite!”
The lyrical aspect of this song stands out the most because it’s been a long time since a rapper has decided to tackle the topic of racial injustice and stereotypes in their music. “The Blacker the Berry” is a representation of why the genre of hip hop was started in the first place, as it demands listeners to pay attention to its meaning so they too can be aware of the issues. In doing so, Lamar has also set himself apart from the top echelon of modern-rap, proving he isn’t like the Drake’s, J-Cole’s or Childish Gambino’s of rap music. He’s on a different planet, even in a different universe, artistically. If the word of “i” and “The Blacker the Berry” appearing on his upcoming album is true, then the rap game better be on notice. Not only has Lamar demonstrated what is to come on his upcoming album, but he’s also made it clear that 2015 might not only make him “the biggest hypocrite,” but may make him the biggest name in music as well.