In the latest video installment from the TDE’s franchise player, Kendrick Lamar, comes a surreal 7-minute short film that showcases what its like to be someone in pain. Most of the time, the rap protagonist is always on the delivering end of the pain and punishment. That’s why we love it so much and can explain our infatuation with mafia films, and dead white gangsters from the Prohibition Era. The administration of pain. A feeling the black community can relate to, far too well.
Pain is a hell of a drug…
Tamir Rice’s mother, balled her eyes out on National TV while CNN got paid millions of dollars to show us the image of it. I chose not to watch, like most of us, I already knew what the verdict was going to be. We haven’t applied enough pressure yet to make things change in this country. And to be honest, I don’t know exactly what will change it, but I know that its going to take a lot more than protests, which means, a lot more pain is on the horizon.
However, its going to take films like this. Music like Kendrick is making, that’s both introspective and honest about the internal crisis that Black America faces in times where racial tensions and injustices are manifesting themselves in record numbers since the Civil Rights Movement. We’re living in a time where death is a normality and luxury a mirage on an oasis of change. Kweli said it best on one of my most favorite Black Star records “KOS” back between 96-98 when they were recording this:
“Inner-city concentration camps where no one pays attention, Or mentions the ascension of death, til nothing’s left”- Talib Kweli
Kendrick is paying attention. And he chooses to address it, rather than act like its not happening.
K.Dot provides us a glimpse into this surreal luxury insane asylum disguised as a hotel room in his portrait of “U”, one of the best songs on the album next to Momma and Alright. In this room, he’s drunk out of his mind, yet still coherent. Beating himself up for the choices that he’s made to become one of the greatest to do it, we witness how that decision has taken a violent toll on his soul as he spills his liquor and his pain to a mirror and the audience that’s observing his crisis in public.
“You ain’t no brother, you ain’t no disciple, you ain’t no friend/ A friend never leave Compton for profit or leave his best friend Little brother, you promised you’d watch him before they shot him/ Where was your antennas/ on the road, bottles and bitches/ You faced time the one time, that’s unforgiven”
Is Pain An Addiction?
Its heavily debated by medical professionals if in fact pain is “addictive”, it is know that stress and pain are the largest factors that lead to the release of endorphins. Those endorphins interact with our brain’s opiate receptors to reduce our experience of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. Its claimed that activation of the opiate receptors do not lead to addiction, however, studies show that scientists are targeting brain receptors called “Mu opiate receptors” to battle addictive disorders.
Dr. Rijita Sinha from the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University affirms that “stress is well known in the development of addiction…” “The deleterious effects of early life stress, child maltreatment, and accumulated adversity… are discussed as the underlying pathophysiology associated with stress-related risk of addiction.”
Coming from Compton during the 90’s, or better yet, coming from most working class Black neighborhoods in the 80’s and 90’s and experiencing heroine to crack, alcohol and cigarette addiction, the plague of HIV and AIDS, and not to mention, the gang violence and police brutality of the times, one can say life was pretty “stressful”.
Yet, the typical contemporary representation of the Black experience from our brothers and sisters in poetry paints images of luxury and excess despite the reality that money and fame are merely band-aids cautiously placed over stabs wounds.
The Evils Of Lucy Was All Around Me
In Kendrick’s vignette for his esoteric tale of a conversation with Lucifer, “For Sale?” Kendrick begins with a title card that suggest that everything is 100% off for this clearance sale as an image of a man is dunked in water to be baptized. A calm, cool blue dominants the room before we cut to a titty shot of a stripper in a fiery red lit strip club. He hits us with another set of titles, Life Is Like A Box Of Chicken, Instagram 2016= DUSSY UNLIMTED, “If I Blame You For A Loss, Ill Be Giving You All The Credit”, Good Dussy Can Make You Melt, and Always Trust A Nigga With Cornrolls” before establishing that in fact man’s greatest temptation is the goddess of sin, the divine yoni, the warm and wet, cloaked in white light, piercing right into his eyes, as if she’s Lucifer.
As we enter the trance, the world flips upside down, she begins to seduce him, telling him that she sees herself both with him and in him, and that she’s got everything he’ll ever need, money, cars, clothes, jewels, pussy, all for the price of his loyalty and allegiance to her symbolizing how Jesus was tempted by the devil.
Everywhere we look in this country it seems like being Black is synonymous with pain and suffering. From the times our teachers taught us that our beginnings consisted of us in chains, to when our beloved Maya Angelou recently reminded us on Common’s The Dreamer record before she passed:
“Dare to let your dreams reach beyond you/ Know that history holds more than it seems/ We are here alive today because our ancestors dared to dream” -Maya Angelou
Through Kendrick’s powerful ode and visual metaphor, he exemplifies his belief in salvation through Christ, which visually represents the dream that will carry on once man’s body is laid to rest and his sins are atoned. However, for the Christian devotee, why does the salvation of man have to come at the end of his life? Will he ever be able to overcome the adversities that confront him while he stands above ground?
The Black Exodus
Marcus Garvey popularized the idea of African people in America migrating back to Africa, to seek refuge, and build a nation of their own in efforts to afford themselves a greater opportunity for prosperity and a better life in the 19th Century. It was a move that was supported by many African people in America and former White slave owners which over time has come up in pockets of discussions, mostly during times where there seems to be no other option besides jumpstarting a race war.
In the last scene of the God Is Gangsta as Kendrick emerges from the waters washed from his sins, we’re transported to the Pont Alexandre III, bridge in Paris where Kendrick walks away from the camera, alone, in all black, occasionally looking over his shoulder, anew, suggesting that the end to his sufferings were his leap of faith toward God and his life outside the walls of America.
The conversation of Blacks leaving America to countries that are more socially and culturally advanced than America has risen over the last few years. Theroot.com published an article that listed 5 places that Blacks could escape to in the event that “they had enough” in America.
Mind you, there is no place on the planet, one can “run to” unless you are deemed an asset to the nation. And studies show there are high levels of racism all around the world, not just against Blacks.
Visualize And Put Yourself In The Picture
One of my favorite points in KRS-One’s tenure as an educator, philosopher, scholar, and poet was his appearance on Def Poetry Jam where he performed his piece 2nd Quarter:
I liken his words to the imagery of where Kendrick finds himself at the end of God Is Gangsta, fresh out the waters, a clean start, a new future ahead of him, atoned for his past transgressions, and rid of the self ridicule from the things that were beyond his control, he imagines himself walking the streets of Paris, free. A place known as a country where the world’s most talented artists sought and found refuge.