First, let me say this: Kendrick Lamar’s i, the debut single off the upcoming sophomore follow-up to his brilliant debut album, “good kid, M.A.A.D city,” is downright delicious and deserved both Grammy awards it received Sunday night.
Oh, you didn’t know? After being snubbed last year, Kendrick took home two Grammies—Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his majorly upbeat, deliciously hyped i, a ditty that borrows heavily from the Isley Brothers’ That Lady, for the infectious track that roars unapologetically, “I love myself!”
Honestly, that Kendrick won the Grammies for a rap song that uplifts rather than debases Black people in general and Black women in particular, was treat enough. The cream cheese frosting on the Hip Hop cake? Iggy Azalea, hailed all last year as the savior of rap music (*gags*), completely unabashed in her cultural appropriation and nominated in practically every important category for that over-hyped mess she passes off as Hip Hop, went home with nary a win. This made me cackle. I know. I’m petty.
But in my hatred of Iggy and the Grammy Awards ceremony in general, I forgot to celebrate Kendrick. We all did, really. And with good reason: practically every category that has anything to do with the music we created, innovated and loved—from jazz to hip hop to blues to soul and R&B—was awarded before the televised ceremony, when hardly anyone was watching. We had to actively Google and search to find out who won the categories, and really, no one does that when they’re busy watching the feting of artists who win in the categories that are considered “bigger” and, therefore, televised.
Now, I don’t know why I do it to myself, but this weekend, like every year, I suffered through the Grammy Awards ceremony—mad the entire three and a half hours that almost every act that warbled into the mic on the stage was either a pop or rock act that I neither knew or cared about, or was some “Blue-Eyed Soul” singer trading on the cultural capital of Black folks to make themselves relevant—and winners (*cough* Sam Smith *cough*). Save for a few highlight performances by Pharrell, Beyonce, John Legend and Common—all of who incorporated a “Black Lives Matter” message in their presentations—and Usher’s beautiful cover of Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” missing from the stage, as usual, were the artists and the music we tend to respect, admire and adore. As music critic Kris Ex wrote in his piece on Complex, this was no accident, and it is I who is the real dummy for having wasted my time expecting the Grammies to give a damn about and honor diverse, artistic, non-pop-conforming talent.
Thing is, while I was busy griping about and mourning those who were not there, or the dream performances I would have rather seen—say, “The Roots,” backing up D’Angelo and the Vanguard, or J. Cole offering up his beautiful tribute to Ferguson, or Ledisi singing, just, like, anything—I neglected to celebrate Kendrick Lamar’s i. Many of us did. And that wasn’t right. Kendrick Lamar’s i deserves the praise, as does the accomplishment of being hailed the best rap song and performance of 2014.
Watch the video up top—it’s dark and colorful and grimy and perfect in every way. And when he gets to the chorus, consider what he’s saying:
And I love myself
(The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs)
I love myself
(But it can do what it want whenever it wants and I don’t mind)
I love myself
(He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
I love myself
(One day at the time, sun gone shine)
Sun. Gone. Shine.
That’s right, Kendrick. That’s right.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.