TV One invited Sho Baraka on its show NewsOne Now this week to share his perspective on Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar taking advantage of their enormous platforms at the Super Bowl and Grammy Awards “to speak to black issues.”
Beyoncé performed her new song “Formation,” the music video of which references police brutality, at the halftime show of Super Bowl 50 and used backup dancers dressed like Black Panther Party members in the 1960s. Kendrick Lamar walked on stage at the 2016 Grammy Awards to perform his To Pimp A Butterfly track “The Blacker the Berry” dressed like a prisoner in chains.
“I think it’s a huge commentary on where popular artists are going right now,” Sho Baraka said. “It shows that they’re willing to take the risk and not necessarily pander to a majority white audience, but that there’s rewards socially from their fan bases. There’s also a reward emotionally, I’m sure, but that also it could also be a financial reward in being able to communicate this black conscious thought in music.
“But my caution is anything that becomes celebrated within mainstream culture has the potential to be high-jacked by opportunists and culture vultures. I would say it’s a great thing, but I would say that there is some caution because black consciousness could be marketable pretty soon.”
Sho Baraka expressed this concern as an artist who in the past has fearlessly addressed social injustice in music.
In Jan. 2013, Sho Baraka released his latest album Talented 10th, track No. 9 of which, titled “Jim Crow”, drew criticism for its use of the N-word as he tackled modern-day racism in America.
There’s ignorance in the masses /
Too many people think racism is past tense /
But we don’t know what black is /
I know it ain’t the zero sum of white men /
They wanna know how to reach the hood like there’s magic /
Like we’re all the same, like we’re not dynamic /
Hollywood wants to pimp us to get dough /
Exploit us, but give us money, somebody say “Ho!”
Kendrick Lamar communicated a similar message three years later at the 2016 Grammys.
“I’m African-American,” Lamar rapped. “I’m African. I’m black as the moon. Heritage of a small village, pardon my residence. Came from the bottom of mankind. … You hate me, don’t you? You hate my people. Your plan is to terminate my culture.”
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