DW Recommends: “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar


Alls my life I has to fight, n*gga
Alls my life I

I couldn’t tell you which Black death — murder, really — caused me to first play Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” But I know I played it in the minutes after I stood behind my closed office door to mourn Terence Crutcher. That “big bad dude” shot dead in the road reminded me of my big bad father. I wept. My head throbbed with a fierce heat with every wail I swallowed. Then I shuffled to my desk and put on my headphones. I played “Alright” so loud my eardrums ached. I worried my coworkers, mostly white, could hear it and would report me. But I refused to turn it down. I needed the words to knock the pain out of me. After the second replay, I opened my office door.

Wouldn’t you know
We been hurt, been down before

They kept shooting. We kept dying. Our pain, our pleas, our concern wasn’t enough to sway the 2016 presidential election. I knew before I saw the election results. I knew the country had slid further into shadow because it was nothing new to me. The morning after, I queued up the song. I sat on the floor and wept. Then I played it again as I got ready for work. The show must go on.

I can see the evil, I can tell it, I know it’s illegal
I don’t think about it, I deposit every other zero

I come to this song often. Not after every shooting, murder, bombing, or act of violence against Black folks. If that were the case, I’d be a dazed devotee forever at the altar of my musical god. But I play it once for my grief. The spoken word, the horns, and the drums catch my sorrow. The song is upbeat, but I still weep, my singing guttural. Kendrick raps what so many of us Black folks live and endure. Every word extracts my pain like a Sunday hymn until I am cleansed. Then I listen to it again. On the second go ‘round, I snap and bite the words. I shout and dance as the words that once helped me mourn, build me back up and empower me. Then I’m ready to move forward.

N*gga, we gon’ be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

There’s a reason Black people sing “Alright” on street corners with raised fists. There’s a reason we bump it till our cars shake as we cruise down the street. There’s a reason we shout it at rallies. It is the spirit of us. It’s only fitting that “Alright” became and continues to be an anthem of sorts for Black Lives Matter.

DW McKinney is a writer and reviewer living in Las Vegas. You can find her on Twitter (@thedwmckinney) or say hello at dwmckinney.com.

A donation has been made to: Black Visions Collective  a Black, trans, and queer-led organization in Minnesota that seeks liberation for all members of the Black community.

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