Awards season is upon us. One of the most talked about nights is The Grammy Awards. Each year we look at the list of nominees. Critics throw their bets in the ring. We speculate about performances and maybe we even feel compelled to talk about those performances for a few days.This year, one artist gave us a performance we will talk about over and over: Kendrick Lamar.
K-Dot entered the stage to wearing chains to the jazz sounds of his band behind bars. That was the moment everyone knew this was going to be an epic performance. Dare I say, more epic than “Queen” Bey?
Yeah, I’ll say it.
He held nothing back. He called out the racism that is rearing its ugly, undead head in our society, but that he’s still a “proud monkey”.
… I’m African-American, I’m African
I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village
Pardon my residence
Came from the bottom of mankind
My hair is nappy, you know that it’s big, my nose is round and wide
You hate me don’t you?
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture …”
He wasn’t done…
The stage went dark and then…
The stage lit up in a REAL bonfire and the vision revealed was ethereal. Dancers dressed in traditional tribal garb joined by the now freed members of the chain gang swarmed Lamar as he went into the new #BlackLivesMatter anthem: We Gon’ Be Alright.
Yes, Mr. Lamar. Yes, we will.
But he wasn’t done. Not yet.
As he left centerstage, as he left the celebration of Black Power, he went back to the darkness that is the present struggle. His last song in the medley was a freestyle about Trayvon Martin.
“I got to prove, on February 26 I lost my life too.
It’s like I’m here in a dark dream, nightmare, hearing screams recorded.
Saying they sound distorted but I know who it was.
That was me yelling for help when he drowned in his blood…
And for our community do you know what this does?
Add to a trail of hatred,
2012 was taken,
for the world to see,
set us back another 400 years,
this is modern-day slavery…”
This was a powerful moment. The anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death is approaching. Martin’s death became the rally around which the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. The 911 calls on the night he died were played over and over, and at trial. The recording captured the screams of a young Trayvon, while others say it was the screams of his attacker.
Then…it was over.
Viewers immediately took to social media to share their experience. Some raved about the art
He’s been revolutionizing the game since Day 1. The power and the skill that is @kendricklamar #Grammys
— Uzo Aduba (@UzoAduba) February 16, 2016
While others saw racism (peep the replies):
Kendrick Lamar does it and it’s called ‘art’, but if Justin Bieber performed with a bunch of black people in chains he’d be called ‘racist’
— Alec Bergman (@Alec_Bergman) February 16, 2016
Even the WHITE HOUSE had something to day about it:
Shoutout to @KendrickLamar and all the artists at the #Grammys working to build a brighter future. #MyBrothersKeeper https://t.co/XM0KwV3jNB
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 16, 2016
Look, it made people uncomfortable and in doing so it helped pull back the rug that’s been covering 400 years of dirt. It’s also music. It’s art. Art was meant to provoke thought and conversation. That’s what K Dot did. It’s what an artist would do.
Unfortunately, the Grammy’s (under UMG) has already removed the full performance of the video from Youtube, but feel free to search and see clips, reviews some poor quality videos. You can also just visit www.theverge.com for it.