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Artist Kendrick Lamar’s powerful Grammy 2016 performance

Posted by: | February 16, 2016 | 1 Comment |

Grammy award winning writer/artist Kendrick Lamar gave a highly lauded performance yesterday evening on the Grammys.

And it was epochal.

Kendrick Lamar

(Getty Images/The Rolling Stone)

The reasons why this performance is going to be rightly viewed by critics as well as those who are well-versed in the arts as powerful and socially progressive are innumerable. Kendrick is known for his provocative poetry which expounds upon various subjects ranging from social oppression, to societal ills and the human condition.

The basis of his singularity is rooted in his efforts to help redefine/reconstruct what it means to be a modern day rap/hip hop artist in an industry plagued with materialism, ostentation and misogyny. He didn’t use his opportunity to perform at the Grammys to go on stage and flaunt his endless supply of exotic cars and zeros in his bank account, with half naked gyrating women and gold chains. He didn’t strive for a ridiculously over-the-top performance that would just get him the most cheap press and publicity (i.e. the Miley Cyrus’ of the industry). This artist instead, used his opportunity as a platform to speak out on racial issues plaguing the nation and produced a thought provoking, highly conceptual critical performance piece highlighting and giving reference to the decades of oppression that has been endured by African-Americans throughout history.

Kendrick opened his performance in a dark jail setting and shuffled to the microphone with other men in classic chain gang style — the chains and prison suit being a metaphor of the oppressed in society (in this case, specifically referencing African Americans–because, quite obviously, this is the marginalized group in society with which he identifies most strongly with due to his background). He then proceeded to use this time to deliver a thought provoking message in a stand-up, open mic poetry manner  and segued into his most recent single entitled “We Gon Be Alright” as a nod to his solidarity with the history of and current struggles facing his fellow African Americans.

This quite easily described as “controversial” approach, coupled with the emotional depth, vulnerability and level of profound introspection (i.e. – professing self-love for his African traits in a society that has long held Eurocentric ideals of beauty which minority individuals of color tend to struggle with) that his writing is critically hailed for — and often classified as poetry for the same reasons — makes it progressive and valuable.

Critics look for conceptual/theoretical foundations in the arts. When an individual conceives of a social critique piece with historical nods that is both controversial and progressive — that is art in the most prized and esteemed sense of the term.

Many believe Mr. Lamar has just solidified his place in history as one of the most influential and progressive hip hop artists of our generation.

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