Michael Chabon Has Some Thoughts on Kendrick Lamar’s New Single
"This revelation forces the listener to a deeper and broader understanding of the song's 'you'"
Genius is on a bit of a roll lately. First, Rick Rubin dropped by to annotate some of the songs he’s worked on, and now, interestingly, renowned author Michael Chabon has some notes on Kendrick Lamar’s walloping new single, “The Blacker the Berry.” Regarding the song’s final couplet, he wrote:
In this final couplet, Kendrick Lamar employs a rhetorical move akin to — and in its way even more devastating than — Common’s move in the last line of “I Used to Love H.E.R.”: snapping an entire lyric into place with a surprise revelation of something hitherto left unspoken. In “H.E.R.”, Common reveals the identity of the song’s “her”—hip hop itself—forcing the listener to re-evaluate the entire meaning and intent of the song. Here, Kendrick Lamar reveals the nature of the enigmatic hypocrisy that the speaker has previously confessed to three times in the song without elaborating: that he grieved over the murder of Trayvon Martin when he himself has been responsible for the death of a young black man. Common’s “her” is not a woman but hip hop itself; Lamar’s “I” is not (or not only) Kendrick Lamar but his community as a whole. This revelation forces the listener to a deeper and broader understanding of the song’s “you”, and to consider the possibility that “hypocrisy” is, in certain situations, a much more complicated moral position than is generally allowed, and perhaps an inevitable one.