The Blacker the Berry: Packed with Meaning

Kendrick has released another track.

First of all, he supposedly doesn’t want his singles to be called “singles”, but instead “statements.” So this is definitely the best of the 3 (including i and the untitled one on the Colbert Report) so far, and it’s kind of a return to form for Kendrick. It’s called The Blacker the Berry, and that’s just where the meaning starts. Also, it hasn’t even been out 2 days and almost has 2 million youtube views.

Dope beat, dope rhymes

Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The BerryThe beat comes in nice and grimy followed shortly by simple but tight drums. The beat sounds more like something Kendrick would jump on than his last 2 tracks, and I think it fits him more. He also sounds more comfortable being able to go off in short bursts matching the drums. He’s sticking with that starting each verse with the same thing, in this case “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015.”

Deeper meaning

Now, this is an interesting way to start your verses, but not without context regarding some recent comments Kendrick has made. When talking about recent events including those in Ferguson and Staten Island, Kendrick called them tragedies but also went on to talk about how respect starts from within and the black community can’t expect respect from the outside (say, police) without first respecting themselves. So Kendrick was pretty much playing respectability politics and asking “well what about black on black crime?”

Kendrick Lamar XXL Cover


Well, he caught some heat for this and rightfully so. I mean, his own lyrics in good kid talk about how the police will never respect him no matter what he does, so I can’t really understand how he jumps from that to “we gotta respect ourselves first.” But I guess he is calling himself a hypocrite, so I guess you can’t fault him for that. Anyway, this track is definitely a response to the backlash from his comments (or maybe he was setting this track up with those comments), but it’s not exactly an apology.

Back to the track

From early on he talks about how he’s African American, what that means for him, and what that means for how he’s seen by other (non-black) people. While he’s talking about himself in this track, he’s mostly rapping about himself as a black man in this country. If good kid, m.A.A.d. city was a concept album about Kendrick’s experience coming up in Compton, his next album looks like it may be more broadly about how black people come up in this country in 2015.

Kendrick Lamar Performing


Anyways, by the end he explains why he starts every verse by calling himself a hypocrite. He caps it off with a pretty powerful few bars talking about all the things he could try to do for the movement before finishing his rap off with “so why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gangbanging made me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite!” The way I see it, this is a direct response to his recent comments about Ferguson and Staten Island. I still don’t think it totally justifies what he said, but it’s for sure an explanation. At the very least, it makes me feel a little better about Kendrick. Say whatever you want, but Kendrick is real.

Overall, it’s a good sound

Musically, the track also makes me feel better about Kendrick’s next album. It’s got a beat that sounds half classic West Coast cruising beat, with the other half being a bit spacier and more experimental, coming together for a mad tight beat you can nod to for a while as you take in Kendrick’s thoughts. If I had to guess, his next album is gonna have a mostly tight and classic sound that’s just a bit ambitious, while he’s dropping knowledge in dope rhymes, even if I don’t always agree with what he’s saying. The Blacker the Berry is definitely worth a few spins.

How do you think it compares to his other recent tracks?

I think it’s easily the best of his last 3 tracks, and I think people everywhere feel better about Kendrick’s next album now. The social commentary he’s laying down is pretty interesting, especially when thinking about what he has said about Ferguson and Staten Island. But most importantly, did you think this track was dope? Listen to it and let me know.

Spit Talking

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