Critics misinterpret Kendrick Lamar’s politically significant music

Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar performs at Coachella on Sunday April 16. Lamar’s music seeks to address racism and to empower listeners to evoke change. (Amy Harris/AP Photo)

Fox reporter Geraldo Rivera said in a video on Pitchfork that musician Kendrick Lamar was “indoctrinating young people” with his music by sending a message that police officers are the enemy and violence is the answer to fighting racism.

In reference to Lamar, Rivera also said, “hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.” 

These accusations make a large generalization, claiming all rap and hip-hop music embodies this attitude. Rap, as a genre, features a range of topics and attitudes, allowing several types of artists to express themselves in varying ways. 

Rivera is completely misinterpreting the point of Lamar’s music, which has a very complex and hyper-aware message. Lamar’s recent albums—To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN.—aim to address racism, oppression and violence, questioning where the blame should be placed when it comes to the history of black individuals in America. 

These albums challenge everyone—even Lamar himself—to consider their part in the oppression of black individuals and how we can move forward. In many of his songs, Lamar discusses the idea of inner conflict, even going so far as to call himself the “biggest hypocrite of 2015,” in his song “The Blacker The Berry.” 

This self-questioning clarifies that Lamar does not see himself as the authoritative figure on this subject, and others shouldn’t either; he is just an artist trying to make sense of the complicated world around him.

Rivera’s attack on a black hip-hop artist creating a conversation about important issues is unacceptable. Based on Rivera’s comments, it is clear that they were motivated by Lamar’s race and the ideology behind his music.

“It’s the worst role model, it’s the worst example, it’s the most negative possible message,” Rivera said.

Rivera also claims that, “The real danger to young black men and real brown men now is that their role model will sing about cops being killers and the system being stacked.”

While Lamar’s music is often blunt and unfiltered, that is exactly why it is politically charged and boundary-breaking. The oppression of minorities—particularly black individuals in America—is so deeply inherent in our society. Lamar shedding light on this is imperative. 

Lamar aims to inspire a young black generation, specifically, but also aspires to inform listeners of all ages, races and backgrounds with his music.

Contrary to Rivera’s claims, Lamar has proved to be an incredible role model for fans. Lamar speaks about prioritizing education in high schools; he visits fans, encourages young people to pursue their dreams and performs extensive charity work, according to MTV. 

Lamar recently fought back against Rivera’s comments and featured sound bites of him on his recent album DAMN., causing the controversial comments to resurface. Addressing the negative comments in his music speaks clearly about the message that he is trying to convey.

Anyone who claims that hip-hop music and rappers are “damaging” young black individuals is not only ignorant, but also ridiculous. Instead of criticizing an art form, we should be challenging the deeply engrained racism and oppression in our society that the music is trying to address.