Monday, December 3, 2012

Powerful Hip-Hop (Kendrick Lamar- HiiPower)

I HIGHLY encourage you all to watch this music video.

Besides being a great song recorded by a very talented artist, this song grapples with many of the tough race issues in America and cites many ethnically relevant historical characters, places, and movements. I have bolded some parts of the lyrics that I feel are particularly relevant to our survey of African American history. First off, Kendrick cites Martin Luther (King-presumably), Malcolm X, Huey Newton, and Marcus Garvey in this song. I find the way in which he does this to be extremely provocative.  Through their individual movements, these are all players in the development of African American culture and the development of the black cultural identity.

I get a very different vibe from Kendrick’s music.  Although he references misogyny and violence saying things like, “I got my finger on the muthafucking pistol
aiming it at a pig” and occasionally talks down to women, he also references intellectual African American leaders, suggests his belief in the power of words (“Grown man should never bite they tongue”), and recognizes how his own background, a “Product of the late 80s,” has contributed to his development as an individual.  Whether you believe him to be influential or not, he has the power and the audience to insert his own opinions on race and “blackness.”

Kendrick’s lyrics also capture the essence of struggle in African American history:

“Every day we fight the system just to make our way. We've been down for too long, but that's all right. We was built to be strong, cause it's our life.”
"I'm falling victim to a revolutionary song" (Cult of vicitimization reference?)

I think that no matter what your final opinion of Kendrick Lamar is, this song will at least stimulate some pretty interesting musings about what it means to be African American and to be a part of a rich, conflict filled race history in the United States today- from the perspective of a rapper, of course.

"Visions of Martin Luther staring at me
Malcolm X put a hex on my future someone catch me
I'm falling victim to a revolutionary song
The Serengeti's cloned
Back to put you backstabbers back on your spinal bone
You slipped your disc when I slipped you my disc
You wanted to diss but jumped on my dick
Grown man should never bite they tongue
Unless you eating p-ssy that smell like it's a stale plum
I got my finger on the muthafucking pistol
Aiming it at a pig, Charlottes Web is gonna miss you
My issue wasn't televised and you ain't gotta tell the wise
How to stay on beat cause our lives an instrumental
This is physical and mental
I wouldn't sugar coat it
You'll die from Diabetes if these other niggas wrote it
And everything on TV just a figment of imagination
I don't want no plastic nation
Dread that like a Haitian
While you muthafuckers waiting
I be off the slave ship, building pyramids writing my own hieroglyphs

Just call this shit hi power
Nigga nothing less than hi power
Five star dishes, food for thought bitches
I mean this shit is Huey Newton going stupid
You can't resist his Hi Power
Throw your hands up for Hi Power

Visions of Martin Luther staring at me
If I seen it how he seen it that would make my parents happy
Sorry momma I can't turn the other cheek
They wanna knock me off the edge like a fucking widows peak, ugh
She always told me pray for the weak, ugh
Them demons got me, I ain't prayed in some weeks, ugh

Dear Lord, come and save me, the Devils working hard
He probably clocking double shifts on all of his jobs

Frightening, so fucking frightening
Enough to drive a man insane
I need a license to kill
I'm standing on a field full of landmines
Doing the moonwalk hoping I blow up in time
'Cause 2012 might not be a fucking legend
Try and be a fucking legend
The man of mankind
Who said a black man in the Illuminati
Last time I checked, that was the biggest racist party

So get up off that slave ship
Build your own pyramids, write your own hieroglyphs


Everyday we fight the system just to make our way
We've been down for too long, but that's all right
We was built to be strong, cause it's our life

Everyday we fight the system, (fight the system)
(Never liked the system)
We've been down for too long, but that's all right

Who said a black man in the Illuminati
Last time I checked, that was the biggest racist party
Last time I checked we was racing with Marcus Garvey
On the freeway to Africa til I broke my Audi
And I want everybody to view my autopsy
So you can see exactly where the government had shot me
No conspiracy my fate is inevitable
They played musical chairs, once I'm on that pedestal
Frightening, so fucking frightening
Enough to drive a man insane, a woman insane
The reason Lauren Hill don't sing or Kurt Cobain
Loaded that clip and then said bang!
The drama it bring is crazy
Product of the late 80s
Tryna stay above water, that's why we shun the navy
Pull your guns and play me
Let's set it off, cause a riot, throw off Molotov's
Somebody told me them pirates ain't got lost
'Cause we've been off slave ships
Got our own pyramids, write our own hieroglyphs


Thug life, thug life!!!"


  1. This is a great song!!!! I love to see artists like Kendrick Lamar, because they offer a different voice in the hip-hop game. It is always refreshing to see a new wave of artists come out, and he is one to be considered a true lyricist and not just a typical rapper. His lyrics have the power to stimulate the mind (instead of the body), and make audiences focus on a subject matter that is out of the norm. I think my favorite line of the song is, “Every day we fight the system just to make our way. We've been down for too long, but that's all right. We was built to be strong, cause it's our life”. To me this line just sums up the foundation of the African American community as a whole. For years we have had to fight to find a way to survive the system, and the current generation of the black community is indeed built out of strength, in my opinion. When rappers utilize lyrics such as these in their songs it illustrates their deep-rooted appreciation for where they came from, and have a desire to share it with the rest of the African American community, in hopes of fostering that same sense of appreciation. I believe that African Americans are blindsided at times; that is to say that we tend to forget the true struggle from which we developed. Additionally our recognition of the past tends to get bogged down into the month of February, so I believe that we need more artists like this to make African American History a history that is celebrated on a daily basis.

  2. I am very impressed by this song. While I continue to cringe at the fact that he has to incorporate violent and degrading lyrics to keep the attention of his listeners, he has definitely taken a further step towards promoting positives images of African Americans in his music compared to most. I feel as far as mainstream conscience rappers go within the Hip-Hop community, Kendrick Lamar will be as close as we can get. He definitely introduces ideas of what it means to be black in society and the importance of knowing where African Americans come from as a people. Clearly this man is well educated on his African American history, which shows his listeners that there is definitely more to him than what meets the ears.

  3. I think this song definitely shows that we cannot make broad statements about every rapper in the industry. Obviously, this artist has a fairly good understanding of some key figures in African American history. Throughout the song he is grappling the same themes and questions we have discussed. However, he is also using language that reflects dominant hip hop themes. I am, however, encouraged by the fact that his lyrics are at least providing some exposure to difficult questions of race and struggle.