Case Study 3: Kendrick Lamar- Alright

(Structure and Sonic Characteristic on VAT)

Kendrick Lamar is an African-American rapper, I chose his track Alright (Produced by Pharrell Williams), released early 2015 on the album To Pimp A Butterfly. The album as a whole falls under a few different genres/sub-genres. The obvious being rap and hiphop, with trap and jazz fusion vibes.

Genre

The genre of this track is Rap, with sub-genres of Trap and Jazz Fusion. Opening up Lamar’s music to a larger audience. I feel as if he uses influences from jazz music to represent the roots of where jazz came from, being back along with Blues, where African American slaves would sing about oppression and their experiences within that.

Era

Released in 2015, the song obviously has modern day rap entities. The theme of the song calls on the recent police brutality on the black community, with the murder of several African Americans.

Target Audience/ Demographic

Kendrick Lamar not only reached out to the African American community in this track but he also has a large mainstream following as well.

Cultural Significance

This song is very culturally rich, talking about the struggles and experiences of himself and the whole community as a whole. Reflecting on the cultural differences and discrimination mostly by police and the whole justice system.

Not only does he speak of the African American culture but religion as well, as the whole album is a very religion based and themed.

Para-musical Intent 

This track is the interlude in the album that establishes a “moment of hope” impression. The song has a strong sense of repression as its theme, which is based on the recent police brutality of African-American citizens in the United States.

Lamar attempts to convey to the black communities of American a sense of reassurance and that everything is going to be alright. This message is widely embraced, specifically by the individuals who participated in a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest following the release of the album. In a rally the groups chanted “We gon’ be alright”.

Another mantra of the track is that all thats happening is just God’s plan for him, with many references to Christianity such as “I’m at the Preacher’s Door”, “Nazareth” and “Lucy” (referring to Lucifer). Further evidence of Lamar’s message was shown when he teamed up with Colin Tilley to create an extended music video for the track.

Aesthetic Quality

In this track they use mostly synthetic and sampled instruments and sounds with the exception of the vocals and trumpet. Like most rap songs, the feeling is very dry, placing emphasis on the powerful connotations produced by the lyrical content and overall message being conveyed.

I feel as if they chose to use the vocal sample throughout the track to signify unity within the black community. The jazz trumpet played throughout the song was a phenomenal creative decision, as it links back to the songs themes stated. The Jazz sounds in the track are meant to emulate the sound created by African-American slaves in the 1900’s. The trumpet’s raw sound and lack of processing reenforces the ideologies of the track. It is used once again to signify and represent a specific community and their pain and struggles.

The poem spoken by Lamar at the end is a crucial part of the album, he speaks of his struggles and refers to the evils of “Lucy” (Saint Lucifer, Satan) as surrounding him and now he’s following God’s plan for him, which ultimately links back to the fact that everything’s going to be alright.

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Case Study 3: Kendrick Lamar- Alright

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