Kendrick Lamar, who led the 2016 Grammys in nominations (with eleven for his brilliant sophomore album To Pimp a Butterfly), wowed at Sunday night’s ceremony with a live performance of “The Blacker the Berry,” “Alright,” and a new song. After entering the stage in shackles on a prison set, Lamar delivered a dynamic performance while the set transformed into a fanfare of fire that later revealed the set’s final image: the continent of Africa with the word COMPTON on it.
Kendrick Lamar Singlehandedly Made the 2016 Grammys Must-Watch TV
His “Blacker the Berry”/”Alright” medley wasn’t just a bright spot in a night full of oddly mellow live performances. It’s a political performance to remember.
Last week, Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance of “Foundation,” a song that celebrates black identity and culture, ruffled some feathers of people who felt threatened by… something. Black empowerment, I guess? One can only imagine their feelings on Lamar’s electrifyingly political performance, which addressed issues facing black communities in America.
Said Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich, “Kendrick came to us and said that we live in a time where these issues confront us every day and that it’s important that they be given a public forum, and he would like to use his X number of minutes to create a great performance that is consistent with his this year. It is overtly political and it is overtly provocative, and I think if nothing else it’s going to give people something to think about and talk about… I suspect there will be a portion of the audience that… I don’t know that I’d use the word ‘offended,’ but certainly will be provoked by it.”
Probably a true story. In a music industry that’s grown faster than the Grammys could keep up with—and on a night generally dominated by sleepy-looking songsters with guitars—Lamar snapped the evening back into relevance.