On my Twitter feed not too long ago, I saw a lot of uproar from a tweet by Slate pubbing a story about Kendrick Lamar’s new album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
The story Slate wrote centers around how white listeners should interpret and perceive King Kendrick’s newest album. The album, which has been lauded by music critics and my friends alike, starts with a 45 second verse that repeats. The verse says “every n—- is a star” over and over again, growing louder and louder until finally breaking off into the first track’s actual beat.
Some of the individuals I follow blew up at Slate’s tweet, many reiterating a common sentiment: Kendrick didn’t make this album for you, white people.
First, I need to qualify myself. I’m white. I’m from the suburbs. I like Kendrick’s new album, but, at least at the time of writing this, I enjoyed his first album, “Good Kidd, M.A.A.D. City,” more.
But my thoughts when I hear that his album wasn’t made for white people are simple: I don’t think this was made for anyone but himself.
Kendrick is one of the most intelligent artists alive right now, I truly believe this. And he knows it. That’s why I think when he makes music, he is his toughest critic. That’s why it took so long for his second album to come out after he became a household name following his first album’s success. If he doesn’t love the way his music sounds, then he doesn’t produce it.
Do I think he made it the album with race in mind? Probably. Race is one of the most dominating and polarizing topics in the nation right now, and I think Kendrick, who I have always considered to be very socially conscious when it comes to talking about drugs, women and his hometown of Compton, was definitely aware and engaged with the national narratives and debates surrounding Ferguson.
But to me, the album doesn’t play like something that’s supposed to put off white people. If anything, I think it is something that is meant to give white people a chance to understand issues with race that we have never been able to see.
I think Kendrick is incredible, and the album stimulating. As white person, I listened to it with the conscious thought that I may or may not understand everything. To this point, I think the argument can be made that it was not made for me. It was not meant for me to relate to everything — and maybe other white listeners have complained about that.
I just don’t believe Kendrick made it with intent for only a segment of the population to listen to it.