Kendrick Lamar’s Theology of ‘Alright’

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If you have seen Kendrick Lamar’s latest music video, “Alright,” then you know it is arguably one of the most epic music videos of all time. Along with its hip-hop bravado, lyrical brilliance, cultural creativity, and breath-taking videography, I was captivated by its central message of hope. Lamar’s “Alright” gives you a lift of hope in the midst of perpetual antipathy for black and brown human lives in our world today.

While stunning the world with his, To Pimp a Butterfly album, Lamar demonstrates his ability to use his artistic prowess for the uplifting of oppressed peoples. Within this album, the theme of hope is demonstrated in the Alright music video. As this video address a myriad of problems, from domestic violence to police brutality, it offers practical hope for real life problems.

An ongoing tension between many communities of faith and activists is the ability to connect theology with reality. Many clergy leaders ignore the work of establishing concrete hope in our present realities, foregoing practical hope for pearly gates. However, Kendrick Lamar’s Alright demonstrates how downtrodden people can have hope in a world of violence, tragedy and death.

It is impossible to speak about violence in 2015 without addressing police brutality–this is a major theme throughout the song. When a person of color is shot by a police officer in the beginning of Lamar’s music video, it evokes the numerous deaths of black and brown people as a result of police brutality. As the bullet shoots faster than the nails that pierced the body of Jesus, I think about the barrage of bullets that began in the minds of white supremacy and ended in the bodies of black and brown people. We may even think of the violence enacted on Sandra Bland and Sam DuBose.

The succinct glimpse of the church in the introduction of the video brings to mind the mass shooting carried out by Dylan Roof, who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, On June 17, 2015.

Violence is not endemic to systemically oppressed communities in the U.S, but it is a global issue. Colin Tiley, video director of “Alright,” explains that Kendrick Lamar shot the video from the Bay area to L.A. to emphasis the universalism of his message. He connects the violence associated with Apartheid in South Africa with police brutality in the United States.

The universalism of Lamar’s message also connects the violence that claimed the lives of seven -year-old Aiyana Jones (Detroit) and 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh (Palestine), who were both sleeping in their homes at the times of their deaths.

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Source: Huffington Post | Stanley T. Talbert

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