Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and screenwriter Michael Chabon headed over to Genius.com today to annotate part of Kendrick Lamar’s new song, “The Blacker The Berry." The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay author used his deep understanding of metaphors to peel back the layers of the last few lines of the song
The lyrics read, "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me/Hypocrite!" You can read the whole annotation here but an excerpt is below:
In this final couplet, Kendrick Lamar employs a rhetorical move akin to—and in its way even more devastating than—Common’s move in the last line of “I Used to Love H.E.R.”: snapping an entire lyric into place with a surprise revelation of something hitherto left unspoken. In “H.E.R.”, Common reveals the identity of the song’s “her”—hip hop itself—forcing the listener to re-evaluate the entire meaning and intent of the song. Here, Kendrick Lamar reveals the nature of the enigmatic hypocrisy that the speaker has previously confessed to three times in the song without elaborating: that he grieved over the murder of Trayvon Martin when he himself has been responsible for the death of a young black man. Common’s “her” is not a woman but hip hop itself; Lamar’s “I” is not (or not only) Kendrick Lamar but his community as a whole.