Articulations of displacement and dissonance from Compton: Kendrick Lamar in the twenty-first century | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 2 Number 1
  • ISSN: 2632-6825
  • E-ISSN: 2632-6833

Abstract

Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics and subject matter often require repeated listens that reveal perspectives ranging from his upbringing in Compton, his parents’ migration from Chicago to California and broader questions of identity, place, displacement, belonging and home. A self-described Southern California ‘80s baby’, Lamar’s music nevertheless imagines Black self-identification in a broader and global sense. His work reflects rootlessness among continental and diasporic Africans across time and space. Utilizing approaches of British Cultural Studies and African diaspora studies, this article analyses Lamar’s critically acclaimed album (2015). The pursuit of home as a response to the unbound nature of diasporic existence – connected to histories of transatlantic slavery, the Middle Passage and the plantation enterprise in the United States, the Caribbean and South America – reverberates for Lamar as an African American millennial yet also situate him within a continuum of Afro-Atlantic artistic innovators. In places as varied as Chicago, Compton, Jamaica, South Africa and London, Black people reckon with the meanings of home and Lamar offers his unique Afro-diasporic perspective. Lamar’s ruminations on intra-national migrations within the United States allow for a theorization of various iterations of that include specific communities, families, cities, nations, gangs and the comforts of a bottle of vodka. Lamar’s lyrical confessions embrace identification as process, a brilliant and probing strategy that references histories of movement in the United States as well as ethnic tensions in South Africa, post-independence political economic realities in Jamaica and the history of migration from the Caribbean to metropolitan Britain. I suggest that Lamar introduces a particularized twenty-first-century Black racialized humanism where his own position vacillates between predator and victim. Who Lamar is and who he is said or seen to be recurs and reflects the specific conditions he and contemporary diasporans negotiate across the globe.

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND), which allows users to copy, distribute and transmit the article as long as the author is attributed, the article is not used for commercial purposes, and the work is not modified or adapted in any way. To view a copy of the licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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2021-06-01
2024-05-19
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