Skip to content

How Kendrick Lamar forced America to experience racism at the Grammys


Photo credit: CBS screenshot

With shackles around his ankles and wrists, dressed in a blue prison uniform, and chained to four other men, Kendrick Lamar approached the microphone at the 58th Grammy Awards with sweat dripping from his forehead and a look of distress. He then began to rap the first verse of “Blacker the Berry.”

“I’m African American, I’m African/I’m Black as the moon, heritage of a small village/Pardon my residence/Came from the bottom of mankind …You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture/You’re evil.” Lamar rapped with fury.

It soon became evident that Lamar’s performance was more than a tribute to Blackness. He was forcing viewers to experience the ugliness of racism.

One week prior to Lamar’s performance at the Grammy Awards, Beyoncé created an uproar with her Super Bowl performance of “Formation.” With dancers dressed in all-black outfits, “Formation” was an ode to the Black Panthers and allowed Beyoncé to embrace being a strong Black woman. But while some conservatives were offended by Beyoncé at the Super Bowl, the performance was merely a tribute to Black culture. Lamar’s performance, on the other hand, was a study of racism and its harmful effects.

Shackles and chains have always served as a vivid reminder of Black oppression. From the slave ships to current day issues of mass incarceration, chains represent how the basic rights of freedom can be a fleeting reality for Blacks in America. Viewers who witnessed Lamar rapping while chained to other Black men got a glimpse of this national problem. Black males from the ages of 25-44 represent the largest segment of incarcerated persons in America, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Lamar goes one step further by suggesting the root cause of such high incarceration rates.

“You sabotage my community/makin’ a killin’/You made me a killer, emancipation of a real hitter,” Lamar rapped.

Since the abolition of slavery, Black communities have been under siege. The bombing of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921; the redlining of Chicago and other discriminatory policies in real estate; the influx of crack cocaine and guns into Black communities in the 1980s; and the gentrification of historically Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, and Oakland, California. The economic and physical pillage of the Black community continues.

Before segueing into his hit song, “Alright,” Lamar broke from the shackles and yelled, “Trap our bodies, but [you] can’t lock our minds!”

Surrounded by African drummers and dancers, the performance of “Alright” began as a celebration for surviving the tribulations of the past and present. But the moment only intensified as a bonfire behind him grew.

Lamar’s performance eventually transformed into a one-man stage show as he paid homage to the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, which occurred on Feb. 26, 2012.

“On Feb. 26, I lost my life too. That was me yelling for help when he drowned in his blood/why didn’t he defend himself? Why couldn’t he throw a punch?/ And for a community, do you know what this does?/ Add to a trail of hatred, 2012 was taken from the world to see, set us back another 400 years/this is modern-day slavery,” Lamar rapped.

Lamar’s performance ended with a silhouette of a map of Africa with the word Compton inside. It was bold. It was unapologetically Black. It was needed for the times.

But more importantly, for a brief moment, it forced the nation to experience the brutal effects of racism on Black Americans.

Lamar won five Grammy Awards including Best Rap Album (for “To Pimp a Butterfly”), Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song (both for “Alright”) and Best Rap/ Sung Collaboration (“These Walls”).

Watch performance HERE


  1. guest on February 16, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I’m looking forward to seeing this. Maybe after the popularity of Beyoncé and Kendrick’s performances socially conscious music will make a comeback. I hope so.

    • Nigg_Newton on February 16, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      MORE STATS — for you GOOD BLACKS:

      – 96% of all BLACK WOMEN have or are wearing WEAVE!

      – 94% of all BLACK WOMEN have or will have and ABORTION!

      – 92% of all BLACK WOMEN know or have had an STD!

      – 92% of all BLACK WOMEN are or will need WELFARE in their lifetime!

      – 89% of all BLACK WOMEN believe they are Black Queens.

      – 86% of all BLACK WOMEN have dated or want to date another WOMAN

      – 72% of all BLACK WOMEN have babies OUT-OF-WEDLOCK!

      – 69% of all BLACK WOMEN believe in STRIPPING as a career option!

      – 53% of all BLACK WOMEN will be SINGLE forever!

      – 28% of ALL BLACK WOMEN will get MARRIED!

      – 22% of ALL Bi-Racial Children raised by White Mothers will be President, CEO, Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, Engineer or Astronaut.

      >>>> NOW how do you like them DAMN STATISTICS… <<<<

      — Black Women have FAILED our BLACK AMERICA…Black WOMEN have ruined our Black America!

      • 2Real4MFs on February 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        Everyone has some trace of African Heritage in them, because that’s the origin of man & woman. Studies show that they were of color. No matter how much you want to hate, belittle, etc., the truth is, you wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for BLACK WOMEN. That’s not statistics. That’s science. It’s a hard pill for us to swallow, but it’s the truth.

        • Tommy on February 18, 2016 at 1:32 am

          it’s called evolution… check the stats on IQ tests… everyone was from Africa back when continents were closer together and there was an ice bridge to “Europe” – so hardly “Africa”. And if you wanna quote studies – how about the psychology studies that prove prejudice is equal between all races, nationalities, and ethnici

          • Tommy on February 18, 2016 at 1:34 am

            E.G. (Milgram’s lost Letter experiment)

          • 2Real4MFs on February 18, 2016 at 4:32 am

            Actually it’s called Genealogy, so check go back and check your IQ Stats Einstein. I wasn’t referring to psychology, so you could’ve saved the one quote that almost made you appear intelligent DUMB ASS. I was referring to the lineage of mankind that obviously traces back to The Garden of Eden. Based on the rivers that are described to border and run through The Garden of Eden, it was located in Egypt…and where is Egypt SMART ASS? Sooooo…WTBS, if you want to quote studies, at least know WTF you’re talking about. BYE & HAVE A NICE DAY.

          • Tommy on February 4, 2017 at 3:41 am

            genealogy is a sub-science of evolutionary science…

      • Rosie McKinney McCallister on February 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm

        same can be said for many other races too.. next

      • Malibu Jones on February 16, 2016 at 8:56 pm

        Check your facts…fake stats

        • Nigg_Newton on February 24, 2016 at 10:07 am

          Malibu J., the facts are not FAKE!

          I researched them myself. For my BOOK! I pulled the data, analyzed it, and presented the findings. I have a PhD..

          IF YOU — still don’t believe me — BUY MY BOOK coming out in Spring 2016!

          Read it for yourself, and see the research data!

          Drops MIC…

      • Morso Denutink on February 16, 2016 at 11:48 pm

        FACT: These “Statistics” are FAKE.

        Look them up for yourselves. Google is right there.

      • Missy on February 18, 2016 at 9:36 am

        Put the othe stats up

      • JAEMPRESS on February 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

        You are a LIAR!

      • Teezy on February 19, 2016 at 10:55 am

        You again?

        What do you do? Troll on the genitals of melaninated people waiting for articles like this to continually post this garbage in sabotage, huh? Lol.

        Dude, honestly, get a life.

        I know you’re mad because we’re waking up to your people’s bullsh#t.

        You are the product of yet another scared, calcified pineal glanded, 3rd dimensional thick skulled, low vibrational, Caucazoid that makes it difficult for others who want to separate themselves from people like you.

        You have no life. While at the same time keep a copy of these stats so you can suck life from others not like you.

        You and those on the same level as you will eventually be eradicated by nature continuing this frequency.

        Global warming is just a subtle way of saying cosmic cleansing.

        And it’s commencing.

      • Gerald Tuchman on February 20, 2016 at 12:20 pm


      • Kirby Tommy Cineas on February 24, 2016 at 4:09 am

        So you agree with Kendrick.

    • dipstick10 on February 16, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Socially conscious music is great and Beyonce & Kendrick probably have good intentions but their perfomances have gotten attention mainly because they’re controversial not because of musical quality. “Formation” is a piece of junk, I cannot believe it took four people to write that.

      • lardygrant on February 16, 2016 at 8:01 pm

        have you not heard to pimp a butterfly?

  2. Carter on February 16, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I don’t get Kendricks argument. More whites are killed by cops than any other race, and how does he experience oppression when he is on stage in front of millions being paid massive amounts of money?

    • Not about that life on February 16, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Do you know what they call a rich and famous black man? Ni%@*r!

      • Mayborn7 on February 16, 2016 at 8:53 pm

        Tuh. They don’t hear you, though.

    • MarkyMark NdaHouse on February 16, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Yes you are right, you don’t get it. Maybe you will never ‘get it”. Maybe it was not in you to “get it” so just roll back over and go back to sleep. Besides, life is good ain’t it? Eyes wide shut serves YOU well enough .

      • larry tate on February 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        coon kendrick needs to keep his trap shut and so do you boy. I’m sick of black racism. They need to stop bringing up the past as an excuse for their criminal behavior and their reliance on da welfare.

        • Eli. P on February 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

          Yes, Larry. Very poignant statement there. Filled with all the nuances I’d expect from looking at your profile picture. Just screams, “I get it!”.

          You’re EXACTLY the kind of person who knows what black people need to do to stop being killed in the streets for holding a toy gun, or holding no gun, or having no clothes on whatsoever. They all just need to forget the past, and move on with life. Because America has proved how much she loves people of any colour darker than a light beige hasn’t she?

          Lol thanks for hitting the nail on the head, buddy. Be sure to pass on that message of “forget the past!” Over to the Jews and the Australian Aboriginees.

          • Julius Barber on February 16, 2016 at 6:07 pm

            Well said my brother,i was gonna reply to him but it would be a waste of my time.

          • Bluef on February 17, 2016 at 11:33 pm

            When people are unhappy, under-appreciated, bullied they are looking for better life. Are you familiar with word immigration? Africa is such large continent you can move there. Why not… after all how many people emigrate each year? Why not Africa? I wonder how accepted you will be in your motherland.

          • Eli. P on February 18, 2016 at 11:27 am

            See, Bleuf. I’m actually happy here in the U.K. doesn’t mean I’m not able to advocate for black people across the Atlantic though.

            Also, are you basically trying to water down the cliché “go back to Africa!” statement? Bit tasteless don’t you think, coming from someone who clearly hasn’t got the best grasp on the language of a country they seem to feel entitled to…

          • dacap on February 20, 2016 at 9:40 pm

            Go back to your country I bet it’s less blacks there and more incest☺???

          • larry tate on February 22, 2016 at 11:39 pm

            Please get some help for your hate towards anyone who points out crime statistics.

        • Beautifully Black! on February 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm

          I love it that y’all poor white trash believing the hype! Lol! We coming for you! Educated, intellectuals, beautiful, rich, poor, light skin, dark skin! My son is in law , my daughter medicine, you keep believing what your media writes! Because We Are Coming!

          • larry tate on February 22, 2016 at 11:37 pm

            that’s great that your children decided to be productive members of society. So what is your point?

        • MarkyMark NdaHouse on February 19, 2016 at 1:09 am

          Do you feel all better now? You sound so much like the uneducated low information buffoon that you are.

          • larry tate on February 22, 2016 at 11:35 pm

            Actually Dickwad, I’m retired.

          • MarkyMark NdaHouse on February 23, 2016 at 3:15 am

            If you are retired then there is no other use for you on this planet. Eat a bullet and ber done with it. Your racist attitude stinks and the sooner you leave this world the better it will be,

          • larry tate on February 22, 2016 at 11:43 pm

            keep your trap shut blackie.

    • Aria Whitaker on February 16, 2016 at 11:48 am

      Of course more whites are killed by cops Carter, there are 4-5 times more Whites in this country than any other race! What is important to look at is RATIOS and PERCENTAGES. If, for example: When a cop has an encounter with whites it results in death/injury 11% of the time, but when they encounter Blacks…it results in death/injury 29% of the time…that means its a discrepancy. That is what is important. If 1 out of 5 black arrests result in death/injury but only 1 in 12 white arrests result in death/injury, that RATIO is off, no matter how they measure up numerically .

      • Jason on February 16, 2016 at 12:10 pm

        You can’t teach one who refuses to learn. There are too many dumb “geniuses” in the world who take pride in their ignorance.

      • Fred on February 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm

        Your numbers are off. It would be 1/9 whites and roughly 1/3 blacks. There is a lot more to the statistics than just percentages though. Who is getting injured/killed? What are the crimes they’re being accused of? What are the locations or situations? If these are happening during drug busts, that’s one thing, during a traffic stop is another. You can’t look at numbers without looking at variables, and there are variables that significantly change the impact of those stats.

        • Aria Whitaker on February 17, 2016 at 4:43 pm

          My numbers are “off” because they were just examples of the aforementioned ratios and percentages… If you read carefully, you would notice the sentence started with the words “IF, for example…”. I was illustrating how a ratio or a percentage would be more significant than raw numbers, not trying to be accurate regarding the actual stat.

      • Julius Barber on February 16, 2016 at 6:11 pm

        Well sir,well done but it don’t matter these people just don’t want to feel or deal, if you know any white people,find out there relationship with there family (immediate) and that will tell you a story of there compassion towards others.

    • Vandellish on February 16, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      To piggyback on Aria’s comment I have to ask you how many instances of unarmed whites were killed by cops? On video?

    • Yahoshua Isking on February 16, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      There’s 280 million whites.
      There’s 38 million blacks.
      What don’t you get. There’s far more white than blacks yet the amount of blacks killed is almost even to that of whites, if it was truly fair then the number of whites killed would be more like 7000 yearly by police and most of them would be unnamed. If it was fair, then the prison system works have almost 6million white people in prison for nonviolent drug related crimes. If it was a fair works then there wouldn’t be only 5 black CEO’s there’s be thousands. But people like you don’t see because you don’t want to see the truth.

    • 2Real4MFs on February 16, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      That’s true, but the majority of the Whites killed by officers were violent criminals or armed. That’s not the case w/ minorities. I’m not on either side, but that’s the entire truth. You might want to look up unarmed people killed by cops based on race and you’ll see a difference.

    • Julius Barber on February 16, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Carter if you could just think with me for a minute,i know it’s quite confusing seeing a form of success and equating that to non oppression,but you must remember he wasn’t always well off, he just got money,but he still has people he care about dealing with the same problems he some what left behind.Its a selfish person who see people hurting and in need and won’t lend a hand to help. Are you suggesting he just pretend to be blind or someone else because he got money now, money isn’t end all be all.

    • LordSuperb on February 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      He wasn’t always rich

    • Nu Age on February 18, 2016 at 12:59 am

      They are talking about the killing of unarmed black men and racial profiling. Unarmed black men are 2x more likely to be killed than their white counterpart

    • JAEMPRESS on February 18, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      He is speaking FOR us. He did not always command and audience and he did not alway make $$$millions

    • Kirby Tommy Cineas on February 24, 2016 at 4:10 am

      You don’t get it.

  3. alexandron on February 16, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    RAP is slowly becoming an acronym for Racist African Poetry. Sadly if it does, it will negatively impact the tremendous wealth maker this art form has achieved for the past three decades..

    • George Smith on February 16, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      It needs to change and evolve. The money and influence has destroyed the essence of the ART FORM. Most Rappers don’t even white their lyrics or even freestyle anymore.

    • Vandellish on February 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Oh really now? Why don’t you give us some examples of what you’re talking about? I seriously doubt you can. Off the top of my head I can give you Gun-n-Roses “One in a Million” and the countless artists that have performed “Rock and Roll [email protected]@ar.” As of today there are no Johnny Rebels in rap. Again, pro black doesn’t mean anti-white.
      Also HIP HOP music, not rap, will exist until the end of time regardless of how much wealth it does or doesn’t generate. Hip Hop in its essence is inclusive as opposed to exclusive so I have no idea what kind you’ve been listening to to shape this opinion of yours.

    • Likewaterforchoc on February 16, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Rap is an African American art form. Always was and always will be. It is not slowly becoming anything. We have just stopped rapping about the bs we have been just because white people started listening. Ever heard of Public Enemy, EPMD, NWA, Tupac, Lost Poets (The Revolution will not be Televised)? Don’t speak on it unless you know the history. Kendrick is taking cues from his predecessors. Rap was created by black people to express our experiences in America. It expressed our happiness, troubles, sadness & anger in a creative way. It was an art form for us and by us. Rap has gone mainstream and now that white people are consuming it (and also “performing” it), they feel that they can dictate how black artists express themselves. They want to plantationalize black artists and say “you can’t say that!” because, of course, freedom of speech only belongs to them.

      • LeeJohnson Erikson on February 16, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        I personally thought it was an incredibly powerful performance last night. It was rap in its purest sense–which was back when it talked about the injustices and inequalities that the black community faced then and which sadly it still faces. I think it takes a lot of courage to perform a statement piece like Lamar did–or like Beyonce did at the Super Bowl. As evidenced by the level of vitriol on this thread many people are clearly threatened when faced with reality.

    • Jabari Williams on February 16, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      @alexandron:disqus Being pro-Black and stating facts about America does not make Black people anti-White. It only sheds light on the reality of this country.

    • Tashee on February 16, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      RAP is not “…African Poetry” first of all. It’s African-AMERICAN. Understand the difference please.

      • Julius Barber on February 16, 2016 at 6:50 pm

        Everything thats black derived from Africa,especially Rap everything starts with a rhythm,a drum beat,Africa,then a BPM is formed,then synchronize words to that beat ,Poetry,which is Rap,Which came from African descent,so yeah you wrong

        • Tashee on February 16, 2016 at 8:39 pm

          Ummm…..So I guess by your theory everything white is European? lol. I mean I guess if you REALLY want to stretch it.

          In actuality rap has roots in Jamaica not Africa. African pride is cool and all but maybe cut the cord a little bit. It’s time.

          • Julius Barber on February 17, 2016 at 7:08 pm

            So do some research on Jamaica on its origin and then re answer,I said everything that’s black derived from Africa,and yeah early hip hop does get alot of its influence from Jamaican culture,but that derived from lets say it together,A-fri-ca JK,but fr

          • Tashee on February 17, 2016 at 9:01 pm

            LOL…I know all about Jamaica. My family is Jamaican….unless you’re Jamaican I’m sure you know less about Jamaican culture than I do. And again my point stands. If you really want to go way back in history, you’re right all things go back to Africa for black people.. And likewise all things for white people go back to Europe…but honestly it’s time to move on from momma Africa. Going back in history when it’s convenient makes no sense. Hip hop is a black American thing. Not African. I don’t hear people saying country music is European.

            And by the way, the original poster to whom I responded was trying to denigrate RAP. My point was in defense of its New York (American roots). I’m not sure how we got into this tit-for-tat about Africa but whatever. Have a good one.

          • Jesse F on February 18, 2016 at 10:26 am

            Dave Mathews is African-American.

    • Julius Barber on February 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      If thats true name me 10 rappers that offend you racially,and how, I ll tell you’re mis informed,Kendrick Lamar is out here at this point by himself especially on this platform,and he still hasn’t said anything derogatory towards white people,all he is doing is stating the obvious that you and other people have this sickness called racism,some of you know it and embrace it,some hide,some are totally in denial, and some are totally unaware they are racist,which this is probably you.But to inform you until black people become the majority in this country the definition and understanding of racism cant be labeled as such.

  4. Lionfart on February 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I did not feel the forced part, like its racism everywhere and I’m forced to live through it. How are people forced when it happens everyday. I’m forced to live in a community that does not understand how it was set up to fail. Brah we in a age where Drake used to be an actor but wont tell the kids to do the same. How we cant win awards but whitey dressed up in black face to represent us. Forget the Grammy’s support the Image Awards

  5. Spoonie Gee on February 16, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    White America is suffering from knee grow fatigue.

  6. Adam on February 16, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Bull fucking shit. Kendrick Lamar could’ve farted into a microphone for his performance and the race baiting black community would eat it up. You fucking cooks are so giddy about your 15 minutes everything seems historic to you. I can’t wait for this current wave of black pride to be over, makes me sick

    • Aria Whitaker on February 17, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Then settle in for a lengthy illness Adam…LOL….and a “coon” is a small furry mammal, not a human with dark skin….you don’t seem to be the brightest bulb, so just thought I’d let you know, you seemed a bit confused dear. ?

      • Adam on February 17, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        Learn to read you dumb fucker I wrote “cooks” not coons. As in crazy fools. Nice to see your racism show with your Freudian slip.

        • Aria Whitaker on February 18, 2016 at 8:20 am

          No you did not. Cute edit tho ?

          • Adam on February 18, 2016 at 9:55 am

            Nope no edit. You’re just another self righteous race warrior who got caught trying to make something out of nothing. It’s funny you think I care enough about your feelings to edit my post. I mean, if I wanted to call you a coon I wouldn’t sugar coat it, I’d just call you a nigger. But I wouldn’t do that ??

          • Aria Whitaker on February 18, 2016 at 10:54 am

            Funny how you call others ” dummy” …but “cooks” doesn’t even make any damn sense. Lol. Face it, you are nothing but a filthy, stupid racist who got called out for being stupid…and call me what you want sweetie, I know what I am and no namecalling from a repulsive little man who needs to be racist to feel better about his own loser self will ever change that. So go throw your little tantrum about blacks daring to feel any pride about themselves back to stormfront and the other pathetic souls like yourself. I’ll be here jamming to ” Formation” and “Blacker the Berry”. ?

          • Adam on February 18, 2016 at 1:23 pm

            You must have reading comprehension problems. I clearly wrote “zooks”. Enjoy your hippity hop music while I’m consistently making more money and having a longer life expectancy than you. I hope a cop shoots your dog in a raid ?

          • Aria Whitaker on February 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm

            Awww..poor little racist piggy?, having to lie to not sound like the filthy, racist weirdo that he is!! Its okay honey, your empty insults are just pathetic at this point, seeing as though you have no idea how much money I make or the fact that your ass could be killed tomorrow. Its really pitiful when you have to wish death on a damn dog, though…lol…oooh that one hurt!!! Lol, lame ass. ✋

  7. Rapper Gi on February 16, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    I supported rap since Run D Mc and I have to say I am very upset where it has gone. People watch movies/videos for escape not to experience reality or soapbox. Yo you dont like your hood move. Stop wit the kkk shit, ur the facist

  8. jj on February 17, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I guess I’m getting old maybe at 35? Cause I couldn’t understand half the stuff he was saying when he was rapping, and it seemed he never found the beat. His rapping and he beat were way off and not synced.

    I’m sure he had something to say but i couldn’t even understand it. And I really tried.

    Also, as an African I might be offended by him comparing south central to Africa. Comparing African American culture to African culture is not responsible. Black in Africa are not like blacks in America.

    Africans are gang bangers killing each other. Africans have pride and respect themselves, and each other.

  9. Dbudasi on February 17, 2016 at 8:55 am


  10. Steve Hopkins on February 17, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Kendrick’s picking up where Gil Scott Heron left off. Glad somebody’s doing it. As an old white guy walking around with a Colonel Sanders beard, I get to hear disturbing racist comments from my neighbors in the Dunkin’ Donuts, the diner and walking down the street on Sunday near an all-white church. A virulent racism still exists among whites of all stripes impacting people of color, A less virulent but no less galling form manifests itself in nearly everything we do, insidiously and below the radar. Here’s a song about that.