30 Days of Iconic Music Video Blackness With VSB, Day 30: Kendrick Lamar and SZA, 'All The Stars'

Illustration for article titled 30 Days of Iconic Music Video Blackness With VSB, Day 30: Kendrick Lamar and SZA, 'All The Stars'
Screenshot: Kendrick Lamar featuring SZA “All The Stars”

Today is the last day of Black Music Month so I decided to go with one of the Blackest videos in recent memory—which unsurprisingly was the lead single from the one of the (if not the) Blackest moments of the 2010s, Marvel’s The Black Panther—Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars.” In fact, the only thing Blacker than this video is that movie. We started out this series with a video for a song featuring Kendrick and we’re ending with Kendrick. Kendrick makes some Black art, folks.


Kendrick Lamar & SZA “All The Stars” (2018)

I wrote about this video back in February 2018, when it dropped so I will cheat again by plagiarizing myself in part. It’s a significantly black video and I wrote about the 10 blackest things from it. It’s important to note that this video and Black Panther represented a sea change in the consciousness of Black America that had been bubbling. There was a time in Black America that proximity and adjacency to Africa was neither aspirational nor embraced (there’s an entire series to be written about this waiting to happen). That isn’t the case anymore. Black Panther came through and crushed the buildings. We went from DNA testing and trying to figure out where we come from to Black Panther to turning Accra, Ghana, into the new Miami. I’m here for it, but embracing the continent hasn’t always been as popular as it is now.

I bring this up because part of what makes this video so Black is its embrace of the spirit of Africa. Wakanda isn’t a real place, but for many of us it represents a spiritual return, even a home, of sorts. But the visuals in this video draw from many parts of Africa, particularly west Africa. It’s important to note this.

Here are a few of the reasons why this video is so Black, and thus iconic. It did not let up on the Blackness, one bit.

2. This actual video literally starts out with the throwing of the hands in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. Except all of those hands are a sea of blackness while Kendrick glides through on one of Moana’s boats in a lovely fur-and-bubble-esque ensemble. All black everything. This opening scene is literally all black everything. There are even black clouds. We’re starting off pretty black here.

5. My G, at the 1:00 mark, we have what looks to be African dance. Or it could just be black people dancing, which I always attribute to African dance. Kendrick also looks EXTRA swayze in his red getup. There’s a remarkable number of Chuck Taylors in this video. The Negro Delegation approves. I called. I asked.

6. I cannot stress enough how colorful this video is and how every single ounce of this video draped in color looks absolutely amazing. We are a colorful people, and we all look great in black, but we look great in various colorways and patterns. Basically, we are the only group on the planet that could make Cross Colours and African-American College Alliance Clothing work. This video is proof. I’m trying to go to Wakanda, like, tomorrow. What them tickets hittin’ fo?

8. Y’all, SZA is gorgeous. She lays on a kente cloth kaleidoscope—out here lookin’ like a bag of cedi—circled by pink-feather-dressed dancers. I shed a tear. Why? I don’t know. I’m black; it’s what we do when we’re happy. Also, SZA is giving me shades of Lil’ Kim in the “Crush on You” video with all the colors she’s rocking. That blue gives me life. You go, SZA. You go, wit’ yo black ass.

9. There’s a scene where Kendrick walks into a room full of black women dressed in gold with golden wigs and gold is all around. They are literally the black gold of the sun. I can’t stress enough how gorgeous the imagery is in this video. I’m claiming this for Zamunda and Wakanda.

10. Kendrick walks on water. Like Black Jesus (looking like a pirate, and I now want to wear that outfit to see the movie). To stand at the altar of four black women who are clearly goddesses. I don’t know shit about Black Panther, remember, so this is probably an allusion to the movie. But man, that was some powerful blackness right there. I’m blacker now.

Any video steeped in this much homage-centric Blackness is beautiful. My Black is beautiful. Your Black is beautiful. Black is beautiful. And it is iconic. Happy Black Music Month.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



I probably should have thought of suggesting this early in the month, but I don’t suppose you’d be interested in doing a series on proto-music-videos, like musical shorts, soundies, and video jukeboxes? It seems like it could either be a fun look at figures you don’t usually see in action or a pain in the ass search through old archives.

Also, there has to be a funny editorial on the music industry’s constant changing of what were originally called “race records.”