The Afro-Anarchist’s Guide to Kendrick Lamar

On "To Pimp a Butterfly," is Kendrick being ironic when he wonders "How Much a Dollar Cost"?

Kendrick Lamar. By NRP P3 via Flickr CC Licensed.

You’ve recently resigned yourself to the fact that at a certain point in a rapper’s career, usually when he/she is already steering the yacht of mainstream success after having surmounted the crab-infested grime of the underground, they must decide whether or not to submit to the allure of pop-cultural relevance, or stick to their creative instincts, and create on their own terms. So, you start asking yourself if Kendrick is being ironic when he wonders ‘How Much a Dollar Cost?’

If you are a Compton native with Dr. Dre’s blessings like Kendrick, wouldn’t you want to decipher Wesley’s Theory with one to whom West Coast Hip-Hop owes much of its earlier sound? Wouldn’t you want George Clinton, the funk master himself right there as you channel James Brown? Wouldn’t you ride alongside Snoop in a ’64 drop top, and laugh at how ‘every nigga is a star’ on the nightly news?

In fact, you are feeling ‘alright’ because last night, you bombed an Exxon gas station with a red “Fuck Pigs!” tag, yet you still find yourself  ‘screaming in a hotel room’ as you are bombarded with news of Oscar Grant, the Bay Area, Trayvon Martin, Florida, Michael Brown, Ferguson, Jordan Davis, Staten Island and Eric Garner. News of acquittals, “I can’t breathes,” and banners of #BlackLivesMatter.

Between tears, you might even start wondering what would happen if ‘these walls could talk,’ and you heard you were the ‘realest Negus alive.’

In this era of trigger-happy cops and Super PACS, crown yourself ‘King Kunta’, and banish Toby from memory because the fact is ‘from Compton to Congress’ there’s already ‘a new gang in town’, and everyone’s talking about ‘who dis?’ and ‘who dat?’

Let Bilal sing you away to tomorrow’s wet dreams, but remember ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ is just another declassified chapter from the post-millennial ‘Hood Politics’ files. But shit, ‘ain’t nothin’ new but a flu of new DemoCrips and ReBloodlicans.’ Baptize yourself like Kendrick, after all the Grammys is a heist.

Resurrect Du Bois. Resurrect Garvey. Resurrect Mandela. Then declare; ‘I’m African American, I’m African/I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village/Pardon my residence. Screaming across ‘These Walls’ that separate us, swim across the Black Atlantic to the Cape Coast with a water proof iPod. Kendrick says he came to his senses at 16 years old. When did you?

Finally, tell the world that Pac said, ‘the ground is gonna open up and swallow the evil,’ and that ‘ground is the symbol for the poor people.’ But never forget what ‘momma said’ about not lying ‘to kick it, my nigga.’

Further Reading

The politics of influence

Influence exhilarates. It also makes people nervous. Writers, artists, scholars, researchers—we all seem to want to be “influential.” Less often do we want to admit to being “influenced.”

Good influence

It is unfair to expect coherent politics from Naira Marley or his fans, the Marlians. We should, instead, chastise the Nigerian state for stifling its people and keeping its young perpetually waiting.