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K-Dot & Gangsta Rap

Kendrick Lamar & NWA via Kendrick Lamar on Billboard.com

When NWA (N****z Wit Attitudes) rap, their lyrical content aligned with their attitudes towards the political system and in the “Straight Outta Compton” song and video, their actions are directed at the police. NWA was the living embodiment of the streets of Compton, and highlighted the violence, poverty, and gang activities within their city. Their lyrical style, matched with the imagery from the music video allows people to connect with their experiences of racism in Los Angeles at the time. Police officers were rarely shown any repercussions for the violence they inflicted on people of color, and NWA’s music was a voice for people who faced the same oppression. Ice cube said, “Music was our only weapon. But it was also fun, too, so it’s a crazy mixture of good times and bad times,”.  “Our music really displayed the good, the bad and the ugly. A lot of people can take the good and the bad, but they don’t want to hear about the ugly, and we didn’t mind putting the ugly right out there.” The negative attention only gave NWA more fame and allowed their influence to spread around the nation, even without radio play or promotions from their label.

 

 

Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker the Berry” video and lyrics highlight the same imagery seen in “Straight Outta Compton.” The video highlights similar themes from the “Straight Outta Compton” music video, like police brutality, poverty, and gang activity. Lamar’s mindset towards racism and police violence is shown in the beginning of the video, when he raps against racism and the stereotypes that blacks face in America, all while calling himself “the biggest hypocrite of 2015”. “The Blacker the Berry” music video is a story of Lamar’s life in Compton and how he copes with the experiences of his younger self, and his message to the younger people of color in America to unify against a greater enemy. Lamar and NWA are both fighting the same things through their music, but it is evident in the lyrics of each song, NWA wants retaliation against the system that causes them to live in oppression. Lamar’s approach is different in that his message is targeted at black people, saying that, “when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us,” us being black people. Both songs are call to arms for black people, and the highlight the generational change in attitudes towards racial oppression in America.

 

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