It was in your face, unapologetic, gritty, and real. And, at the end, the people of a grateful nation stood up and proudly proclaimed we gon’ be alright!
Of course, we have to congratulate Lamar for his five Grammy wins. Thank you for remembering those who paved the path for you and remained unrecognized.
Starting off by performing The Blacker The Berry by coming out to a stage set as a prison at the head of a chain gang, breaking free at the end. He then moved on to perform Alright in front of a blazing bonfire surrounded by dancers in African garb doing tribal steps, connecting to his African roots. But the highlight of the already powerful set had to be Untitled 3, an all-new track that Lamar debuted (and will likely not perform again) at this year’s awards that spoke on the death of Trayvon Martin and how it effected how he saw himself and his nation.
On a side note, it’s been interesting seeing the difference in response to this and Formation. At the time this was written, Beyoncé’s video has just over 27 million views…2 million more than the number of people who watched the Grammys (this is partially due to the fact that Formation is, apparently, still unlisted on YouTube). That number explains to me why the biggest cries of foul were about the Super Bowl performance instead of the video itself; the audience was over four times bigger. Despite how much attention Lamar’s performance garnered him on social media at the time, there have essentially been crickets from the expected critics. But then…that Beyoncé protest didn’t really amount to anything either, did it?
In some ways, this is highly affirming and disappointing at the same time. Affirming in that it shows that a part of this country sees performances deemed to be pro-black as a proclamation of self-love without downing others. Disappointing in that I know that, for another part, they just ignore them and hope the uncomfortable moments will go away and be forgotten.
I wish I had more to say here. There has to be something that better a writer than myself can make of two such drastically different performances being done within eight days of each other, each purporting to showcase a pro-black theme, and how that shows either the potential doom or salvation of the black community and our nation. It has to mean something that all the hyperbolic analysis of either of these performances being anti-cop were, at the very least, rejected and seen as the type of race-baiting that they were accusing others of. Two very different views of blackness got their due on some of the biggest and whitest stages in the country. It shows that something is stirring, right? There are so many things roiling around in my head that I just can’t seem to put into words.
I do know how to say what I feel, though. I feel nervous that there aren’t as many black people quoting Kendrick and running out to buy plane tickets to Africa as there were hashtagging Beyoncé lyrics and running out to Red Lobster. I feel good that people who set up GoFundMe pages for Formation World Tour tickets are getting even less attention than people who set them up for college tuition. I’m interested the thinking of people who feel To Pimp A Butterfly “only won best [rap] album because of the message; the songs themselves were trash.” I hate that Blacker The Berry had been out for a year by the time the Grammys aired and yet most people seem to just be hearing it for the first time. I’m disappointed that none of this seems to be translating into greater political action in the black community just yet.
But mostly, I’m curious to see where, if anywhere, this all leads; I’m just scared it will be nowhere.