Review: Kendrick Lamar – ‘The Blacker The Berry’

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The polar opposite of previous single 'i', 'The Blacker The Berry' looks outward to society, and Lamar doesn't like what he sees.

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September 2014 saw the release of ‘i’, the first single from Kendrick Lamar’s forthcoming album. Revolving around the phrase “I love myself”, the track is one of the most positive, feel-good rap songs to grace the mainstream in recent years, and won two awards at this year’s Grammys.

In order to capitalise on ‘i’s success, Lamar immediately dropped ‘The Blacker The Berry’, both thematically and aurally the polar opposite. Where ‘i’ looked inside to find optimism, ‘The Blacker The Berry’ instead looks outward to society, and Lamar doesn’t like what he sees, touching on the Ferguson riots amongst other issues. Contradicting itself from the introduction “I don’t want black, I want everything black, I ain’t need black”, the track deals with the frustration and double-consciousness experienced by the black community in America.

Each of the three verses begins with the yelled line “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”, as Lamar proceeds to furiously challenge the identity of the modern African American, underpinned by a beat that’s equal parts aggressive and soulful. The final couplet of the track explains just how, as he asks “why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street? When gangbanging made me kill a nigga blacker than me?” Kendrick explains the hypocrisy of the black community, and in doing so makes it explicit that the narrator of both ‘i’ and ‘The Blacker The Berry’ is not Lamar himself, but the community as a whole.

‘The Blacker The Berry’ will be available on Kendrick Lamar’s forthcoming album, released via Top Dawg Entertainment.

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