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Alright–Kendrick Lamar

“Alright” is from rapper Kendrick Lamar’s third album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” The music video was produced in 2014 after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement—an intersectional activist community that was formed in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. It won multiple Grammy Awards. The video opens with a stark black and white shot of the Oakland-Bay Bridge in San Francisco, California. The video progresses through a series of bleak portraits of the city, featuring violence, destruction, and police brutality–the effects of what he calls a “war based on apartheid and discrimination.” The song’s lyrics nonetheless affirm “we gon’ be alright” as Lamar literally floats above the city until the final moment, when shot by a police officer, he falls to the ground and smiles to the camera.

discussion

Who is speaking at the beginning, and what is the story being told? How does the opening prelude to the song offer a story about oppression?

How does the black and white footage contribute to the tone and message of the video? Is the message black and white?

Consider where and how Lamar is situated in the video. How does his positioning relate to the themes in the song and video? (floating above the city? part of the crowd? in the car? falling from the lamp post? lying in the dirt?)

How does the video explore a tension between hard times, oppression, victimization and unity, jubilation, being “alright”?

The song has been called an anthem of the Black Lives Matter Movement. What makes a song an anthem? Do you think this song fits the criteria? Why? Why not?