Why Kendrick Lamar's fiery Grammys performance was the most important moment of the night


At the Grammys last night, a few things happened. Teens were confused by the musical Hamilton. Adele had some sound issues. Taylor Swift got stuck into Kanye again for his weird lyrics claiming he “made” her.  But the part of the show that mattered most–the part that still has the power to send shivers down your spine if you watch it a day later–was when Kendrick Lamar walked out in a chain gang and stopped everything else with this performance:

“I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village/ Pardon my residence/ Came from the bottom of mankind/ My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide/ You hate me don’t you?/ You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture/ You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey” he rapped, still in chains.

The medley included a new track and two tracks from his last album, “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright”, which became an unofficial Black Lives Matter anthem for activists during protests against police brutality last summer. And as he transitioned into “Alright” last night, he walked alongside African tribal drummers and into the scene of a bonfire–maybe one of the best parts of this whole glorious moment was watching Kendrick rapping “Let me tell you ’bout my life,” the fire glowing red behind him, and the camera cutting to a man in the audience, buttoned up in a tuxedo and looking like he’s not quite sure what hit him.

Kendrick missed out on album of the year for “To Pimp A Butterfly”–something he told Billboard magazine would have meant a symbolic win for hip-hop culture. But he walked away with five other awards last night, and surely the undisputed respect of anyone who watched his powerful performance, which he ended on this image:

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