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

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.