For many that watched Kendrick Lamar perform his To Pimp A Butterfly single “Alright” from atop of a police cruiser at the BET Awards last weekend, the moment was one of affirmation–a young, brilliant black man putting on for hip-hop, using what for many is a sign of state-mandated injustice as a kind of podium. And so perhaps it’s a sign of just how great an impact that one performance (and the brilliant music video for “Alright”) has made to read that Fox News has now taken aim at Lamar, calling out his music, along with hip-hop in general is “not helpful” and that it has, in the warped view of pundit Geraldo Rivera “done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.”
It’s crucial to remember that what’s at stake here is the fundamental narrative through which America phrases, and attempts to assuage its deep racial issues. On the one hand is Lamar and other engaged black artists (names like Talib Kweli, Killer Mike and Lauryn Hill come to mind), artists who seek a more just and humanistic world and devote their craft and airtime to speaking truths to power. On the other hand is Rivera, O’Reilly and other conservative media figures who seem intensely committed to glossing over police brutality and isolating racist beliefs from the brutal, deadly acts they often engender.
Lamar fired back at Fox News and other conservative critics of hip-hop today in a new, brief interview with TMZ. Referring directly to “Alright”–the song that put Fox into such a tizzy–the MC opined “How can you take a song that’s about hope and turn it into hatred. The overall message is we’re gonna be alright.” Kendrick slammed Rivera for “diluting the real problem, which is the senseless acts, of killings, of these young boys out here…it’s reality. This is my world.”
Lamar spoke directly to his choreographed BET performance, asserting “Me being on the cop car, that’s a performance piece after these senseless acts.” In measured, eloquent tones Kendrick once again defended hip-hop and his motivation for speaking out. Watch the entire interview below, and wen that’s through, give yourself another viewing of his “Alright” video, which is, quite frankly, essential.