Essay Sample on Kendrick Lamar's Music Video

Published: 2023-03-08
Essay Sample on Kendrick Lamar's Music Video
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Racism Music Discrimination Social change
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1218 words
11 min read

In the music video, Kendrick Lamar looks into the aspect of racism in the context of the social and urban settings. The video carries the message of assuring African Americans that all will be well in the face of the adversities and prejudice that they contend with in America owing to the institutionalized discrimination and bigotry. Through the use of words and images, he constructs the music on ways in which institutions have been shaped into thinking in a prejudiced perspective and goes further to state its destructive effects in different settings. Watching and listening through this music video, it is clear that Lamar painstakingly works towards providing profound facts and reliable information for the enlightenment of the viewer on the racial prejudice in America.

In the introduction phase, Lamar utilizes the beginning image of the Oakland-Bay channel as the background for the ensuing graphics. He presents an utterly monochromatic picture to elucidate the disparity between white and black in the American context. He as well employs the initial imagery as a representation of the American society, more so what it means to be an African American. Contextualized by the lyrics, the video reveals how black people cope with the sad reality without concealing aspects of despair and anguish. The imagery continues for close to two minutes with a cynical presentation of the reality. A notable image in the scene is where three persons stand on the top of a law enforcement vehicle with black hoods covering their visage. Perhaps this presentation acts as a way of articulating hate against the police as represented in different Hip-Hop works (Rastas & Seye, 2018). As later revealed in the lyrics, Lamar states "We hate Popo, when they kill us dead in the street for show." His message on police brutality against the African Americans clearly underscores his call against racial discrimination.

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The music video then proceeds to attack the worldview on America as a utopian society that continuously corrupts the picture, manipulating individuals into developing a mentality full of devotion to systemic racism. His assertion is backed up by a faster series of images with a rather irregular and intense disposition. The imagery reveals the reality in America as ruthless, inconsistent and chaotic society that is significantly overtaken by systemic racial evils which give rise to chaos that relegate the oppressed to a life of fear and trepidation. The last scene before the lyrics begin shows the constant police cruelty against African Americans. A black gentleman gets banged against a wall by a violent white policeman who ruthlessly manhandles him. Before being handcuffed, the individual breaks into a run and instead of chasing, the policeman instantly draws his gun and almost without warning pulls the trigger. Lamar sadly remarks the plight of being in a battle based on discrimination.

Chaney (2018) asserts that Hip-Hop music serves as a system of social disapproval and rebellion against racial discrimination, compounded by the hyperawareness of the rappers on the marginalization and vulnerability of African Americans in modern-day America. Using his experience, Lamar condemns the status quo, and seeks to empower African Americans and to inspire change in society. He achieves this feat through a scene depicting himself and others in a car bouncing to the beat of his music. As the viewer later realizes, some police officers actually carry the vehicle in a rather empowering change of circumstances. Rather than oppressing the African Americans, the officers serve them in utmost dutifulness.

In the closing scenes of the music video, a police vehicle stops close to him but oblivious of the situation Lamar keeps on dancing atop the post. At the same time, the policeman exits his car wielding a gun and ready to attack. However, he puts it away and folding his fingers in the shape of a gun, he shoots down Lamar with a bang. From its construction, perhaps Lamar seeks to indicate that the use of guns is not the solo means used to kill African American people. Sharing this view, Pendry (2011) asserts that the criminal justice system is just one of the institutions seemingly oppressive to African Americans. He adds other contributors such as the lack of opportunity, resources, and empowerment as critical elements that oppress such persons.

Critical Race Theory

In the topic of discussion, one of the applicable theories is the critical race theory. This theory looks into the dominance of the white people in America, with all aspects of political, social and economic bent on serving their interests. This theory began as a revolutionary movement by the blacks in their quest for equal treatment. The first tenet of this theory is the use of methods of countering the effects of racial injustices experienced in the past by ensuring that everyone have their voices heard (Watkins, 2017). The second tenet is on the permanent position held by racism, a position that seems impossible to rule out. It seems that racism formed and still occupies a great part in civilization as evidenced in the unmatched privileges enjoyed by the whites in all sphere of life. This tenet connects directly with the third tenet that shows being white as being entitled to wealth and possessions as well as every other right (Watkins, 2017). In the fourth tenet, the legislation of civil rights is seen as benefitting whites before other people. In the fifth tenet, equality for all in terms of opportunities is mentioned as well as the position of law as a neutral aspect.

Notably, the key belief underlined is in the critical race theory is the diversity of humanity and that is evident in the world. In light of this theory, the differences among different races have to be appreciated and upheld as an inevitable and irreversible aspect of humanity. By acknowledging the permanence of racial diversity, the dominance of one race over others is clearly seen and criticized. Similarly, the epistemology of the critical race theory fairly supports the philosophical assumptions underlining the perceptions of racial discrimination (Watkins, 2017). Although racial diversity remains a natural and permanent feature in society, racism is not a human construct that must be repealed. An overarching objective behind this theory's worldview is asserting the equality of all races despite their color and insisting on their ability to live together in harmony. It remains a widely accepted worldview, that all human beings, though diverse, are equal.

In conclusion, pop culture occurs in a variety of ways and is inspired by different reasons. In the case of Hip-Hop, the determination to establish a cultural uniqueness in the face of profound psychological and physical prejudice remains a major theme articulated in the music. To a great extent, it appears that the existence of strong truths as underlined by the critical race theory inspires the imagery and lyrical expressions prevalent in Hip-Hop. Through continually raising issues of racial discrimination affecting the African Americans in society, rappers challenge the system and seek to empower the oppressed. They not only concentrate on musical accomplishment and growth of rappers in marginalized people, but also advocate for cross-cultural integration, engagement and the resolution of systemic racism in modern American society. As seen in Kendrick Lamar's video, the potency of art in pushing for and bringing about social change cannot be underestimated.


Chaney, C. (2018). 'You Can Never Kill Me': Racism and resilience in Hip Hop

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