March 12, 2019
We Gon’ Be Alright
Music has become the most expressive form of power in times of struggle. The Compton born, Kendrick Lamar has been making history all throughout his time in the music industry with one of his most groundbreaking album “To Pimp A Butterfly.” The multi Grammy winning album speaks on many problems people of color face from police brutality to mental health issues in songs like “King Kunta”, “The Blacker the Berry,” “U”, and one of the most influential songs of our time “Alright.” This notable hip hop/rap song and almost the entire album, pulls a rally of emotions from its listeners to call for a push for change in the world we all live in. Who would have known the tremendous impact this song would have on our generation?
I’ve always loved Kendrick Lamar from the very beginning of his career. He is such a diamond in the rough standing out in crowd of rappers who only rap about sex, drugs or money. His music hits you like no other, you can feel the pain, the sadness, the hopefulness and so much more in his songs. Lamar is able to take his tragic life experiences from times of depression to the struggles of growing up as a black man in Compton and turn it all into something so beautiful that the world can relate to. I remember when I first heard Kendrick was coming out with a new album back in 2015, I couldn’t wait to hear what he was about to release. At the time though, I felt that Kendrick Lamar was so underrated because no one commended him for the work he was doing and the difference he was making in the world of rap. I bonded over Kendrick’s music with some of my friends, constantly listening to his songs saying that he will make it big one day as soon as people started listening more closely and appreciating the music he made. We spoke it into existence. He has become the poet of the hip-hop world.
The song “Alright” has reached many platforms from people chanting “we gon’ be alright” at rallies for protest during Black Lives Matter events to even protest at presidential campaign when Trump was running for office. The chants have become so symbolic as the people look for a reason to keep hoping for change. Past acts of oppression and current acts have inspired songs like “Alright” where artists like Kendrick are able to create music that resonates with so many people, helping them get through their own tragedies that they may face on a daily basis. Lamar brings a sense of unity in the song as he creates a reflection that there are better days ahead for those in the black community and it all starts with change within themselves as they persevere through tough times.
Throughout the song, Lamar alludes and makes reference to God quite a few times. The most obvious reference are in some of the opening lines where Kendrick says
Nazareth, I’m fucked up
Homie, you fucked up
But if God got us then we gon’ be alright
From these lines I feel as though Lamar addresses God as the main one who can bring change to anything. With real faith, nothing can harm him or anyone else who truly believes that God will make sure that they will be okay despite their circumstances. The reference to Nazareth, on the other hand, has more of a deeper meaning in the song. Nazareth is said to be the place where Jesus grew up, the city was thought to be a foul place which resulted in Jesus being shun by those who did not like the city. The allusion given to Nazareth can be looked at through the eyes of Kendrick as a comparison to the struggles he faced in Compton being looked down upon as a young black man.
But homicide be looking at you from the face down
And we hate the po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’
In these lines, although they are not in this particular order in the song, all make reference to the constant killings of innocent African Americans by police. The hip-hop world has always made music that reflects the hatred felt towards the officers that should protect us, but rather kill us. “We gon’ be alright” is repeated several times throughout the track to give the people hope that they can survive through all the pain and suffering they face. The injustices the people face will only make them stronger in the long run, so no matter what we go through rest assure “we gon’ be alright.”
The music video starts off with a monologue where Kendrick talks about his journey growing up as a young black man, fighting for himself and those he loved in a society that despises him. Throughout most of the video Lamar is floating in the air, which I found very interesting. I think having Lamar flying in the air is a metaphor for him being a butterfly, watching over those he cares about, alluding back to the album title “To Pimp A Butterfly.” Acts of police brutality are clear within the video as in the song. There are scenes where police officers are shooting at innocent men who solely resisted arrest. In the very last scene of the video, Lamar is standing on top of a lamp post and was shot at by only the fingers of an officer and not a real gun. I believe that this is one of the most symbolic scenes throughout the whole video because to me it meant that black men are being killed by more than just guns.
There are several visuals that Kendrick Lamar uses as metaphors to allude to the black community being able to rise against oppression and police violence. One scene in particular that really caught my attention was when we were showed 4 white police officers carrying a car in which Lamar and his friends sat in. The symbolism behind this scene is so important because it signifies that the black community can and will be alright despite the hardships they face. There are other scenes in which we see singers and dancers on top of police cars acting almost as if there was nothing bad going on around them. This seems to bring a hopeful feel and reassurance to the video that together we are strong and we can get through anything.
“Alright” is an anthem that encourages positivity to influence change, it’s a call for protest. Lamar speaks for so many people in the world who feel like their voices aren’t being heard. We need more artist like Kendrick Lamar who can influence the next generations to come for the better.
Music Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-48u_uWMHY