Kendrick Lamar's 'The Blacker the Berry' is a sign that real hip-hop is back

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Okay, so “real” hip-hop never went anywhere — music that prizes beats, lyrical skill, and content is actually easier to find than ever, thanks to the internet and social media. But after a few wasteland years on mainstream levels, 2015 might represent yet another shift in what’s hitting the mainstream.


Case in point: Kendrick Lamar’s new song “The Blacker the Berry,” five and a half minutes of searing, boom-bap beats with unapologetically racially conscious, charged lyrics:

“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.”


It’s the hungriest vocal delivery from Kendrick of late, his breath control never slipping as he snarls in deserved indignation. And the whole thing just goes hard in a way that updates the old-school — in a nod to the music’s roots, there’s even a looping sample of KRS-One’s “You Must Learn.” (It’s really just a stuttering repetition of the word “you,” but for hip-hop heads, it’s there and it’s significant.)

So is it time for hip-hop purists to rejoice? Well, if three is a trend, we can look at the following:

1) Iggy Azalea actually didn’t take home any rap awards on Sunday night at the Grammys, rendering a few death-knell-of-hip-hop think-pieces moot. (Bonus: Kendrick, of course, won one himself, when "i" scored best rap song.)

2) Joey Bada$$, a true MC in the best tradition, took the number-one hip-hop/R&B album slot on the Billboard charts for B4.Da.$$.

3) “The Blacker the Berry” is all anyone can talk about today.

Bonus 4) The “Straight Outta Compton” movie looks amazing and will shine a spotlight on the hip-hop traditions of Kendrick’s Southern California stomping grounds.


Olds and Youngs, unite in celebration of it all, and if you haven’t already, stop and listen to “The Blacker the Berry” right now.

Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.

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