The problem with hip-hop… sh*t nothing at all. It’s an artform that ranges and it changes it evolves. It’s not always for the better, but be patient with it y’all. For our time will come and the wicked will fall – Murs
Recently Justin Charity published an article on Complex criticizing the positive reception of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Referring to it as unpleasant, Justin questioned why anyone would enjoy a record that picked at reality’s most taboo scabs.
In “An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis” James Baldwin said the following,
White people…have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this — which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never — the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”
Justin’s reaction to the album read as narrow-minded, obliviously fueled by bias. In two separate instances he mentioned white listeners should struggle to enjoy an album rooted in the black experience. This sort of assumption doesn’t reflect a problem in his critique of the music, rather his understanding of the problems with race in America. This suggests white people should not try and understand the impacts of racism and live obliviously. Kendrick’s album was as much directed to white people as it was to black people. A white person in America should not be turned off by the opinions of a person of color. Kendrick is sharing his experiences through this music for black people to relate to, and for white people to better understand the grief of living as a black person in a system of white supremacy.
As Brother Ali says on “The Travelers”
Everything that the passenger do
The driver experience too
So if humanity is one
Then we all get burned when it’s hell that we’re traveling through.
Justin, despite his insistence otherwise, misses many of the record’s strongest messages. He refers to the track “i” as an anthem against self-harm (and considers it a useless message), when the insistence to love one’s self is clearly a response to America’s culture constantly branding black people with inferiority. That is furthered on “Complexion” challenging the nation’s beauty standards; blatant omission of men and women of color.
As for his criticism in regards to TPAB being judged on cultural relevance versus musical content, I ask what we as Hip Hop fans base classic albums on? Was Biggie’s Ready To Die lauded as a classic because it was his best work or was it because of it’s impact outside of the genre? I would think I’m not the only one to consider musicality isn’t the sole moving force in crowning an album “classic”.
I think Justin classifying TPAB’s “overwhelming blackness” as a negative quality is interesting. I’ve yet to hear an album be criticized for “overwhelming whiteness”, it seems his problems with the album reflect a skewed perception of racism; which negates most of his points of critique on this project.
I don’t fear Kendrick’s message. Neither should you.
Art by your homie Arthur Banach
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