Lil Baby’s Grammy night rendition of “The Bigger Picture” is the most talked about performance from Sunday night’s show. But the response to his Killer Mike and Tamika Mallory-featured protest performance isn’t all positive.
There were many viewers who thought the performance, which depicted the Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police, as well as a demonstration which mirrored still-ongoing anti police actions, was a powerful way to raise awareness about police brutality. But Samaria Rice, the mother of the late Tamir Rice, spoke for many others when she exclaimed “FUCK A GRAMMY WHEN MY SON IS DEAD,” giving a thumbs down to Tamika Mallory and the performance as a whole.
Those agreeing with Rice thought the protest-depicting backdrop was exploitative to social justice movements, and some viewers were disturbed by the scene depicting a police shooting. Black people are inundated with videos and images of their death every day. There were some who didn’t want to see that during a music awards show.
Lil Baby, Mike, Mallory, and everyone else involved likely had good intentions. But was their performance more provocative or trauma-triggering? Is it ever a good idea to put on performances that depict police brutality, jail, and other facets of Black oppression, especially on the stages of white institutions? There’s the chance that these displays enlighten some viewers to the gravity of American oppression, but there is also the reality that they come off as pandering and upset people directly impacted by state violence.
Complex Music staff writers Jessica Mckinney and Andre Gee discussed the value, or harm, of these performances.