Kendrick Lamar Seized The Moment Again With His Grammy Performance Of ‘Untitled 3’

02.16.16 10 months ago 17 Comments

“It’s been a week already
Feeling weak already
Got me at peak, possibility of what could be
Situation is heavy, I got the prunes
On February twenty sixth I lost my life too
It’s like I’m here in a dark dream
Nightmare, hear screams recorded
Say that it sounds distorted but they know who it was
That was me yelling for help when he drowned in his blood
Why didn’t he defend himself? Why couldn’t he throw a punch?
And for our community do you know what this does?
Add to a trail of hatred
Twenty twelve was taken from the world to see
Set us back another four-hundred years
This is modern day slavery
The reason why I’m by your house
You threw your briefcase all on the couch
I plan on creeping through your damn door and blowing out
Every piece of your brain
‘Til your spine drip to your arm
Cut off the engine then sped off in a Wraith
I’m on the path with my bible n*gga
How come I could own a TEC?
How come I can long time
How come I could make it popular?
Puff on what I want
How come I could make it popular?
Puff on what I want
See I’m living with anxiety
Giving up sobriety
Cussing with his sister
And playing with society
Justice ain’t free
Therefore this justice ain’t me
Try and sacrifice me, obituary
Why you wanna see a good man with a broken heart?
Once upon a time, I go to church and talk to God
Now I’m thinking to myself
Hollow tips is all I got
Now I’m drinking by myself
At the end of Section Park
Caught you when you walk besides your house
You threw your briefcase all on the couch
I plan on creeping through your damn door and blowing out
Every piece of your brain
‘Til your spine drip to your arm
Cut off the engine then sped off in a wraith
I said Hiiipower, one time you see it
Hiiipower, two times, you see it
Hiiipower, two times you see it
Conversation for the entire nation this is bigger than us”

The trope of Drake and Kendrick Lamar as disparate destinations at the end of two divergent hip-hop paths is a well worn one filled with unfounded assumptions and rampant projection of personal biases. One of the most annoying of these assumptions is that Drake is a calculated strategist – see his methodical dismantling of Meek Mill – and Kendrick is an artiste. Drake plans and wins, while Cornrow Kenny is the the perpetual improviser that moves blindly where the music and his bottomless black soul takes him.

Kendrick Lamar-grammys-2016-grammy-awards performance

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Time and time again, the Compton native proves that notion false. The most recent example is his searing Grammy performance of a new Untitled verse with all of America watching.

If the first Untitled performance was a wide-lens shot of Kendrick’s entire worldview, and the second performance was him showcasing his full repertoire of heartfelt storytelling and vivid imagery while daring on comers to challenge him lyrically, this third entry is finds him laser focused on a singular moment. Trayvon Martin would have turned 21 this month.

Trayvon’s murder clings to this country like a grimy residue that it can’t wash away no matter how hard it tries. His death and the miscarriage of justice that followed are striking reminders of a still festering history of black lives being snuffed out by those sworn to protect them. The raw, visceral, stream of consciousness, rhyme delivered in fantastic fashion on the one night when everyone is watching, is Kendrick Lamar seizing the moment.

Let’s be clear, Beyonce kicked down yet another door with her stiletto clad feet during Super Bowl weekend with her video and live performance of “Formation.” Kendrick, in turn, sensed the electricity that she created, the vitriol she inspired, and the conversations she sparked and he knew that his turn was next. This was a calculated and purposeful move to make a statement, to understand the moment, and add to his growing legend.

The moment was birthed months ago when To Pimp a Butterfly received a nomination for the coveted Album of the Year trophy. Was anybody really surprised that Taylor Swift won the award for the category? I really don’t mean that as a defense mechanism to deflect the pain of having hopes dashed. I had no hopes in the first place. Sure it would have been nice to see Kendrick Lamar’s more than deserving magnum opus get the nod, but let’s be realistic. There was no way he was going to win an Album of the Year Grammy for the blackest album in more than a decade.

Something tells me Kendrick probably knew this as well. In addition to the five statuettes he did take home, the Compton king would find his reward by bending this platform to his will like a superhero folding a steel beam over his knee. His coronation would not be marked by a golden gramophone, but by his performance. He seized the moment, as he’s done time and time again, tying in hundreds of years of black pain to the recent death of an unarmed young man in Florida.

The anger at the injustice, the lust for revenge, and the anxiety of potentially being next, all explode in one of the most powerful performances in a short career filled with them. Kendrick may have the soul of a jazz musician, but he has the determination of a hitman. Targeting an America that barely acknowledges its original sin while continuing to get its collective hands dirty, the Compton native continues to acknowledge the community that birthed and inspired him, while forcing the mainstream to look us squarely in the eye without letting it turn away.

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