Hosted by LL Cool J, from the Los Angeles Staples Center, the 58th Annual Grammy Awards was full of delightful surprises, appearances, and performances, with the best one of the night delivered by none other than Kendrick Lamar.
Introduced by actor Don Cheadle, Lamar performed a medley of his social conscious singles “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright”. Both taken from his third album To Pimp a Butterfly, the songs showcase racial strife and outline black identity. With their powerful messages, both have opened raised awareness.
For “The Blacker the Berry”, the Compton native appeared with a few of his band members as part of a chain gang with the stage morphed into a prison. Released on February 9, 2015 as the second single from to Pimp a Butterfly, the song celebrates African-American heritage, and tackles hatred and racism. With lyrics such as, ” I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey / You vandalize my perception, but can’t take style from me.
Lamar followed his first rousing performance of “The Blacker the Berry”, with an even more exhilarating performance of the album’s fourth single, “Alright”. In front of a giant bonfire , Lamar aggressively delivered his lyrics which were inspired by his trip to South Africa, witnessing other people’s problems in the country. A festive song about hope, “Alright”was associated with the 2015 Black Lives Matter movement after several youth lead protests were heard chanting the chorus.
The final lyric, which was an untitled, freestyle, Lamar raps, “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? / When gang banging make me kill a n***a blacker than me? / Hypocrite! ” With this lyric, Lamar demonstrated an internal struggle within himself and the African-American community about issues of racism and events; such as, the death of Trayvon Martin. Lamar pointed out the hypocrisy of black men mourning Martin’s death while also committing their own violent acts against other black men. Lamar ended his jaw dropping performance with the word Compton over an image of Africa.
Unlike leaving empty handed at 2014’s Grammys, Lamar landed 11 Grammy nominations this year, and took won five awards including Best Rap Album for To Pimp a Butterfly, and Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “Alright”.