Kendrick Lamar Said Something Dumb. Looks Like Rappers Are People, Too.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

In a recent cover story for Billboard magazine, hip-hop wunderkind Kendrick Lamar spoke on Ferguson in comments that lit up the Blackosphere and caught the ire of self-imposed musical Civil Rights leader and idiot savant, Azealia Banks:

"I wish somebody would look in our neighborhood knowing that it's already a situation, mentally, where it's f—-ked up. What happened to [Michael Brown] should've never happened. Never. But when we don't have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don't start with just a rally, don't start from looting — it starts from within." Lamar, who has said that he wasn't raised devoutly religious, fingers the small figure of Christ dangling from a chain around his neck. "We're in the last days, man — I truly in my heart believe that. It's written. I could go on with Biblical situations and things my grandma told me. But it's about being at peace with myself and making good with the people around me."


The bolded sentences are the ones that have caught the ire of, well, any Black person who has read them. And rightfully so. Blaming the death of Michael Brown - or anybody for that matter - on the people who are dead at the hands of folks who have taken their power too far because of lack of self-respect is idiotic by any stretch of the imagination. It's that Don Lemon madness. I'm sure that if somebody were to sit down with Kendrick and really explain to him what he said, he'd probably see the error in that line of thinking. I truly believe this. He seems smart enough.

But one only needs to truly read the entire quote, including the next lines, to realize that Kendrick really has no fucking clue what he's talking about anyway. He was asked a question and he responded to it. Any time somebody says, "I could go on about Biblical situations and things…" lets you know that they probably can't. Or at least not in any articulate fashion, kind of like Lupe Fiasco. And that's how I like to think of most rappers. There are those that we perceive to be smart. For instance, and with very little backing outside of his musical output, many feel that Kanye West is a very smart individual. Same with Common. Or Talib Kweli. Or Mos Def. Basically, we perceive artists that rap about topics we think are socially relevant over non-trap sounding beats to be smart enough to speak on the Black condition. Except that doesn't make them smart. Not in a traditional sense. These guys are able to brilliantly craft verses and put pen to paper and write their own thoughts and words. They're super creative and super artistic.

Usually until you corner them into actually defending or discussing shit. Rappers NOTORIOUSLY, sound like idiots when it comes to important stuff. Not all mind you. There are definitely some rappers who are both well read and extremely articulate about non-personal issues. Killer Mike and KRS-One to name a only few. There's a reason you can put those guys on television and they don't embarass us all.

On the other hand, Kendrick Lamar has never come across as the kind of guy who was anything more than extremely gifted at telling his story from his perspective. Period. Lupe Fiasco is the posterchild for this. Many moons ago on whatever song it was - I'm not a huge Lupe fan despite respecting the hell out of his abilities as a rapper - when Lupe was calling Obama a terrorist and Bill O'Reilly brought him on to discuss his views, Lupe sounded like the king idiot. He couldn't express in any cogent fashion why what he said made any real sense. I cringed watching the inteview. Sure I disagreed with Lupe, but its his opinion and he has a right to it. The problem for many rappers comes in when they are asked to explain or defend those opinions. The beauty about music in the past was that it was a one way street. Rappers dropped their albums and and said what they wanted and if provocative enough - you know, got the people going - then maybe it was picked up by a news outlet or something. For the most part, rappers, the world's most ardent conspiracy theorists, got to say what they wanted with reckless abandon without having to answer for any of that shit in public.

Enter the interwebs and people devouring the musical output of rappers left and right. Now, if you say something stupid, there's a good chance if you're famous enough that somebody is going to ask you to explain yourself. Like, for reelz, I never want to sit through listening to Nas trying to explain shit ever again. The good thing about conspiracy theories is that the people who believe them will support the hell out of you. The bad thing is that the other 80 percent of the population will write you off or ask you what the fuck you're talking about now and there's a good chance these rappers will have zero ability to say shit that even makes the slightest sense.

Rappers are usually just that, rappers.

Back to Kendrick. His statement is not smart. At all. At some point, I like to think he will know that. But I hate to say that I'm not surprised by anything dumb a rapper says. Any rapper. It's not that I think they're all dumb, it's just that I know a lot of really dumb smart people who have read lots of leatherbound books and have degrees that validate their educations. One run through Facebook when a particularly controversial topic arises will let you know that even "smart" people say really dumb things often. Hell, Kendrick's statement has been echoed by several "smart" Black people. Or, if you want to see REALLY dumb statements by individuals who can't WAIT to say them, start an argument about something gender-related.


People say stupid, indefensible, or off-base things all the time. People you know. People we respect. The educated masses of individuals do it frequently. Rappers are people. Kendrick is both a people and a rapper. His job is to entertain. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable for his words and I do hope that he will at least think about what he really said. But he's a rapper, and I just don't expect 99 percent of rappers to give enough fucks to articulately speak on the state of the Black community in a way that is deep and resonant. Chris Rock does this because his entire job is built around observation and analysis. Most comedians who are super successful are masters of both. They see the angle nobody else sees and are able to analyze then present in a fashion that is digestible but also makes you think.

Maybe I'm letting Kendrick off the hook. I am surprised by his statement. But then again I'm not because I don't think he's truly spent that much time thinking about it. I feel he's like most people who know, "Ferguson. Bad." without really delving into the nuances of what the outcomes really mean.


Thank God we have Azelia Banks to let him know how fucked up he is. Luckily for Kendrick, he loves himself.



I wrote about what Kendrick said, but I didn't have any energy to focus on him saying it. I heard those words coming out of the mouth of my accountant friend, and my teacher friend, and my pastor. It's not just dumb rappers who think this; it's a segment of the Black population searching for an answer to oppression.

"Why are Black people’s criminal skirmishes with each other used as a reasoning for White oppression or police brutality? Respectability politics, a heart-wrenching appeal for love? If Black people were just ____ enough, White people would finally see us as human.

No, they wouldn’t.

It’s a con game. In other words, using this model of respect, Black people would have to be perfect in order to deserve life. Such thinking lets oppressors off the hook for reckoning with their own culpability. It positions abuse as the rightful default for treatment of Black people in America. But racists don’t need an excuse to disregard the sanctity of Black lives; it is as natural to them as breathing.

Kendrick Lamar asked, “But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us?”

The answer is “Because we are human.” That's reason enough."