WVAU’s #9 Song of 2015: "Alright" by Kendrick Lamar

Bisah Suh

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Courtesy of Empire Radio

It‰’s ironic that I was asked to write an article about a song from Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly because I had not actually listened to the album until about a month ago. Although Kendrick is one of my favorite rappers, I had been putting off listening to the album for months, for reasons that I won‰’t really get into (Google Kendrick Lamar‰’s statements on Ferguson).

But this year has been hard for a lot of people. It has been filled with a lot of hurt and pain and like many, I was struggling to keep it all together. However, as I sat and watched threats being made on the lives of students at the University of Missouri, I felt myself fall apart. I couldn‰’t keep it in anymore. The pain was too much. I had no one to turn to, so I turned to the music, and I wasn‰’t disappointed.

As expected, To Pimp A Butterfly was a masterpiece. The critically acclaimed album dropped on March 15th. It has received endless positive reviews and has been hailed as one of the best albums of the year, gaining Lamar 11 Grammy nominations. With its deeply rooted jazz, funk, and soul influences the album has an unapologetically Black sound. With singles such as “I‰” and “King Kunta‰” which emphasize self-love and self-empowerment, the different themes of the songs on the album flow together into a creative masterpiece. However, it was “Alright” that specifically helped me dry my tears and go to class that day. As I sat and listened to the song on repeat, I felt something that I hadn‰’t felt in a while: hope.

In an otherwise bleak album, “Alright‰” stands out. The song was perfectly placed in the middle of the album, coming right after the song “U,” where we hear Lamar crying. The extreme emotion hits the listener as Lamar chokes and drowns in his pain. It seems to be Lamar‰’s breaking point and the listener isn‰’t sure if he‰’s going to make it, but then “Alright‰” appears. It is his saving breath and the light at the end of the dark tunnel. “Alright‰” changes the entire direction of the album.

The song hits the listener from the start as Kendrick yells that popular line from The Color Purple:

“Alls my life I has to fight, n*gga/ Alls my life, I Hard times like, “God!‰Û/ Bad trips like, “God!‰Û/ Nazareth, I‰’m f*cked up/ Homie, you f*cked up/ But if God got us, then we gon‰’ be alright.‰”

Although, it starts with the same sad, and hopeless feelings of the other songs in this album, there‰’s a sudden change as we hear Lamar scream “ we gon‰’ be alright!‰Û This is followed by chanting of the line by Pharrell Williams. Williams brings a power and assurance to the chant and the more he repeats it, the more you begin to believe it yourself. His chant paired with the marvelous beat, Terrace Martin‰’s angelic saxophone riffs and drums by Soundwave creates a masterpiece that could never be duplicated.

The artistic accomplishments alone are enough to name it the song of the year. However, I can‰’t talk about this song without talking about the importance it has had with the civil unrest of the year. These last few years have been riddled with the loss of so many Black lives as a result of police brutality, from Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown to Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, and many others. Yet “Alright‰” shines bright and brings hope even in the darkest of times. Even when things look hopeless, the song is there with its optimistic reassurance as Kendrick tells us “Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon‰’ be alright.‰Û

Throughout the year protesters have chanted “we gon‰’ be alright‰” at Black Lives Matter rallies across the country. It was heard at marches in Ferguson, at Cleveland State University, the Million Man March in Washington, DC this October and at the one-year anniversary of Mike Brown‰’s murder, while protesters were being handcuffed. Throughout the year the song has come to mean much more, it has become an anthem for Black struggle.

I don‰’t know if I will ever see a day when Black people are not shot in the streets like animals. I don‰’t know if I will ever see a day where we don‰’t have to fight to be treated like human beings. One thing I do know is that no matter how hard things get, we gon‰’ be alright.