at some point each day, i pray for Kendrick Lamar. i’ve been doing this for a while…… since reading Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s When the Lights Shut Off, after a deejay i have mad respect for sent it to me….i’ve been intentional about this prayer since good Kid, m.A.A.d city…became part of the canon of grad school listening, as ‘Bitch, don’t kill my vibe” wafted through open windows making a particularly painful ethics class bearable, Adi and i wrote resistance in the margins, passing notes between brown hands…Kendrick’s words disrupted the rhythm that sought to colonize minds….as brown students listened to white teachers talk about efficiency and patronize brown bodies to get results…..Kendrick’s words became the only response needed…. in my mind, he has become the archetype of Assata’s youngblood in mainstream consciousness, a throwback reminiscent of her nephew, Black masculine vulnerability in industry rap, engaging with his cultural productions over the years, the fervor of this prayer has increased…. it has increased since ever 28 hours has been reduced to every 8…..since ‘i’ become an space for self love and celebration….the intensity of my prayers grew as i listened to “To Pimp a Butterfly”….as he again, so willingly lay bear the fractured complexity of processes of dehumanization, the honesty in talking about how white supremacy drives us toward mental illness as we attempt to hold on to our dignity and our humanity, as he explicitly calls out all the bullshit that leads to these social conditions. his critique is not always the critical analysis that “conscious” folk hope for. in fact a friend said it best on her facebook wall today (s/o to Queenita McRoberts), ” Kendrick may not have the deepest and/or critical analysis nor does he always get it right but when he does!” this was her response to Kendrick going in on Geraldo Rivera for his general fuckery and white supremacist (il)logic blaming current social condition on rap music (have a thousand seats Rivera….your rhetoric is wack, weak and tired…you ain’t got shit new to say). and this is one of the many reason i love Kendrick, he comes with an authenticity that is undeniable.
so why do i pray for Kendrick….hmmm…if you are wondering that, maybe you just don’t understand. no amount of visibility, no amount of being good, no amount of status or celebrity will save you from the fate of being Black in AmeriKKKa. Kendrick’s most recent video for Alight, highlights the very personal social conditions of his existence against the violent reality of white supremacist Amerikka. i’ve watch the video multiple times, and in each viewing something different resonates. The aesthetics of shooting in black and white make one thing visibly clear, that white supremacy cannot exist without Anti-Blackness in the world, the video is a celebration of Blackness. i pray for him because the end of the video feels eerily similar to the way i used to feel after watching/listen to Tupac. i pray that his artistic creations do not become prophetic, i pray that his existence and self-love do not become too much of a threat, i pray that he is able to find the support he needs when anxiety and depression take hold. i pray that he remembers his own words in times like those, “We gon’ be alright. Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright”, i pray that he knows how much his music influences youth and helps them make sense of the world. but mostly i pray that he like the Black men i know and love on a much more personal level, find safe places to rest their heads each night, that peace comes to them, and that each morning they are able to walk with their heads held high in a world that tells them they shouldn’t exist.