It is said that depression is anger turned inward. And if that’s true, then the entirety of Black America suffers from a depression. The collective emotional toll of the violence and abuse of the last nearly 500 years shows up in a lot of ways. Sometimes outward, sometime inward. But always present. So much so that it takes an unusual amount of skill emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, just to show up as a normal adult, to survive growing up without destroying ourselves or anyone else. But then again to be angry at the world around us IS to destroy ourselves. For when we are even perceived as a threat, the response is swift, violent, and institutionally excused. If we are angry, then we are checked, but to remain silent is to eat our own flesh from the inside out. It is a maddening proposition. The only way to not go batshit crazy or unable to function is to become deeply powerful at living.
Kendrick Lamar is deeply powerful. He is deeply powerful because he can flow and flow is, in many ways, the magic ingredient that turns despair into hope, pain into action. As long as you can flow, you can do something. Just listen to the transition from the rueful mirror monologue of "u" to the exhilarating rapid fire of "Alright" on the new album To Pimp a Butterfly which dropped unexpectedly on Monday. Notice what it feels like to be riding that momentum, carried along by waves of harmony, nearly but not quite crashing, so soon after digging so deeply into the earth of your own despair. You will understand a little bit about why black people make music.