XXL Magazine tried to do some Erin Andrews instant-reaction journalism yesterday, releasing part of an interview done with Kendrick Lamar shortly after his unexpected loss in every Grammy category that he was nominated for. But Kendrick was perfectly cool, calm, and collected about the whole thing in the snippets released so far. He’s just a down-to-earth and talented guy excited about the future and who already seems to be over the Grammy “snub”, fan reaction, and Macklemore’s odd Instagram apology-receipt.
And while Kendrick Lamar is cool, calm and collected–how else could anyone give such a poignant and constrained response to their hardest-fought and most public loss ever-it is not in the way many of us are accustomed. There is so much raging-intellectual-shade being thrown at Macklemore, the Grammys, and the entire state of the universe in Kendrick’s brief statements to XXL that they actually turn into light. Since most Americans are pretty bad at identifying when a black man is truly angry, I’ve taken the liberty of translating Kendrick’s remarks for you.
Quote: “It’s well deserved;”
Translation: “No bitch can kill my vibe.”
It was not “well deserved.” Whenever someone says that something was honestly earned, the sentence ends there. If it ever continues with a “but…” or weird punctuation mark (such as “;”), a shade bomb is about to be thrown.) Kendrick’s decision now or in the future to answer any question about Macklemore beyond the point of simple congratulation is a signal for everyone to hold their breath and duck.
Quote: “He did what he did, man.”
Translation: “In the very upside down world of Popular Music Today, Macklemore is king.”
By “he,” Kendrick obviously means Macklemore, but by “did what he did,” Kendrick is not conceding that Macklemore made quality music in-any-way-superior-or-deserving-of-recognition. This is Kendrick dismissing the state of music today if “what he did” earned Mack Grammy gold.
Quote: “He went out there and hustled and grinded.”
Translation:” …but the one in front of the gun lives forever.”
As much as we may wish it did, Kendrick does not mean to suggest that Macklemore gave people oral sex in order to win Grammys. Instead, Macklemore created and distributed sub-par music and appropriated (almost) as many cultures as the entire history of colonialism while acting-and-looking like a children’s cartoon villain. Macklemore did the hustle-and-grind necessary to trick the mainstream into somehow believing he’s interesting and talented. Kendrick is OK with not winning a Grammy right now if they’re giving them out to folks like Macklemore. He’ll get his eternal glory some day.
Quote: “Everything happens for a reason; the universe comes back around, that’s how it go.”
Translation: “It’s bigger than your religion, perfected by niggas that manifested music to live in.”
Kendrick makes this claim about the nature of the universe to let everyone know that losing to Macklemore is all part of his pre-destined life arc. It serves as a mantra to both he and fellow freedom fighters to continue hustling and grinding the right way in hopes that their own life-work will be validated in some form, some day.
Quote: “I definitely feel like they should always have more of the culture up in there, for sure, because we definitely stand out just like any other genre.”
Translation: “We need some poetic justice.”
This is one of those cul-de-sac questions where everyone agrees that diversity is important and good and more of it is important and good, but tangible steps towards that goal are never vocalized. Kendrick thinks it’d be cool if the system wasn’t completely in shambles, but it is. Cuz, like, MACKLEMORE?
Quote: “We part of the world. We part of the movement. So I think any awards, including the Grammys, should always push for more hip-hop because it’s music as a whole, it’s not just splitting different regions. Everything moves as far as sound and vibrations, and that’s how it goes. And we are a part of that.”
Translation: “Everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody sit your bitch ass down and listen.”
Kendrick’s wink to the universe, the world, spiritual wholeness, and a linked human network is a plain request for other people not to invest much energy in this whole thing. (It’s not like we’re the ones who just lost four Grammys to Macklemore.) It is Kendrick’s wish that, instead, we continue to honestly engage and explore the musical world around us without carrying the full-weight of our explicit and implicit biases. Senselessly dividing and separating ourselves in the creative realm can only result in harm-unless, of course, it’s Macklemore we’re excluding (just for a little while please?).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2014