I know that you guys had mentioned Alright as a unifying message, but I had written about how it connects to We Shall Overcome, and I wanted to share it with you guys! Could be a good combo to think about…

Finally, Lamar has accidentally and unknowingly solidified an identity for the Black Lives Matter activists, which illustrates the somewhat illicit power that music has in creating a social identity.  It is  commonly known that “social groups have beliefs which are articulated in its music… articulates in itself  an understanding of both group relations and individuality, on the basis of which ethical codes and social ideologies are understood”. When social movements choose an anthem, it often preaches their deepest desires. Much like the heartfelt cry of “We Shall Overcome” during the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Lives Matter movement have undeniably clung onto Lamar’s anthem “Alright” as their form of protest. The lyrics poignantly addressing police brutality by saying “nigga, and we hate po-po/Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho”, but then reassuringly preaching at each verse that “We gon’ be alright”.  This unifying, simple and uplifting phrase has quickly spread throughout the country as the beacon of hope for the movement when looking at what seems like an impossible fight, and Lamar’s words have undeniably highlighted the increasingly dangerous position black Americans are in.

The social identity that Kendrick Lamar is trying to create is one of an empowered black population with the knowledge that they’re institutionally and systematically being repressed, but finding allegiance with the other people who identify with Lamar’s (greater) experience as an African American in 2016. To return to the title of the album, he encourages his fellow Americans to fight this inequality with their beauty rather than with the hypocritical violence that is and has been inflicted upon them.

[1] Frith, Simon. “Music and Identity.” Questions of Cultural Identity: 108-27. Georgetown. Web. <http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Frith-Music-and-Identity-1996.pdf&gt;.

[2] Lamar, Kendrick. “Alright” 2015.

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2 responses »

  1. maddiernelson says:

    Thank you so much Lena I wish I had read this before our presentation haha. You’re articulation is so on point really appreciate you sharing this with us!

  2. I really love that last paragraph. Especially the quote,

    “The social identity that Kendrick Lamar is trying to create is one of an empowered black population with the knowledge that they’re institutionally and systematically being repressed, but finding allegiance with the other people who identify with Lamar’s (greater) experience as an African American in 2016.”

    He is a unique and gifted artist due to his empowering message he gives which is to encourage fellow african-americans to fight inequality in america.

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