When White Journalists try to Pimp a Butterfly
Words: Adria Bani and Saba G / March 21, 2015
When Kendrick Lamar drops an album, it’s no surprise that every media entity with even a remote connection to hip-hop will feel compelled to write about it. He’s the biggest rapper in the world, after all.
I skimmed some reviews, but my days since the release were spent mostly LISTENING, not reading or writing (or judging). Then an article a friend alerted me to made me realize that a review IS in order…not of the masterpiece that is To Pimp a Butterfly, but of the entitled and racist stance that some authors have taken in their articles on the album.
One published on Mic.com that claimed to be about what everyone should be “debating” around TPAB said that the album “turns a critical eye to… the idea that some [racism] is invited through behavior.” The white author then uses interview quotes from Kendrick and assumed meaning from some TPAB tracks to illustrate “Lamar’s belief that black culture is partially at fault for our country’s current racial conflicts…” Fuck. That.
No, Tom Barnes, this album is no illustration of Kendrick believing any such thing. On TPAB Lamar pours his heart into his art, trying to exorcise the demons that the system you unconsciously speak for has burdened him with. Your inability to think outside that system renders you a fraction of the creator that your subject is.
Kendrick Lamar is sharing HIMSELF on To Pimp a Butterfly—his glowing talent and growing self-love, empowerment, and acceptance of leadership, and a consciousness weighed down by the traumatic environments and self-hating messages that he and his community have been subjected to from an oppressive state and mainstream media.
Any journalist who tries to use this album to blame Black folks for the injustices they face is twisting Kendrick’s honesty about feelings of doubt and self-hatred, and in so many words telling him and his community that maybe they should, in fact, hate themselves. You are Uncle Sam. You are Lucy. You are trying to pimp the butterfly, using this Black music to support your unexamined white supremacist leanings.
But you will not succeed.
He is flying too far above you now, and the vibrations of his wings will continue to move us in the direction of truth.