The Difference Between Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar’s Pro-Black Performances

Is misogynoir to blame?

The world is still reeling from Beyoncé’s much discussed Super Bowl performance and her surprise music video drop for “Formation”. This was a very different performance from when Beyoncé first headlined the Super Bowl in 2013. This time, the African American community praised her performance for its pro-blackness message as well as showing that the damage of Hurricane Katrina is still affecting parts of Louisiana, while many from the white community were offended at the message of the video and even more so the message of her Super Bowl performance.

Coldplay was considered to be the main act of the halftime performance, but Beyoncé stole the show by performing her new single with Bruno Mars. Both parties, who were all of color, appeared in all black ensembles but Beyoncé and her dancers outfits noticeably resembled those worn by the Black Panther Party. Many took offense to this by saying she was encouraging violence and opposing the police force. To add supposed offense to injury, many also said that her dance formation of an “X” was a salute to Malcolm X and his philosophy of militarization and “By any means necessary”.

Going forward this past Monday the Grammys took place in Los Angeles and one of the night’s biggest winners, Kendrick Lamar, also performed two of his hits titled “Blacker the Berry” and “Alright”. The performance showed him and his background dancers in a jail and in inmate costumes. Later in the performance a scene depicting an African dance and musicians was performed. Interestingly, the expected backlash from Lamar’s very pro-black performance was nowhere near as bad as Beyoncé’s was. Keep in mind that both performances and songs had unarguable pro-black messages and the respective songs performed even had similar lyrics about black features like hair and noses. Beyoncé’s “Formation” lyrics say, “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”; Kendrick Lamar’s “Blacker the Berry” lyrics state, “My hair is nappy, my d*ck is big, my nose is round and wide”.

There could, of course, be countless reasons for the vastly different reactions to the different performances but a few seem to stand out:

  1. Sports are more valued than the arts in this country so although both events are highly anticipated, the Grammys are simply not as hyped up as the Super Bowl, so not as many people watched and or cared.
  2. The Super Bowl’s sole purpose was to promote sports, whereas the Grammys is an event completely dedicated to music, so many thought it was an inappropriate time to show such a strong message.
  3. Although Kendrick Lamar is very popular, he is no Beyoncé and his work has always been obviously pro-black, while some have questioned Beyoncé’s dedication to the community.
  4. As seen in the recent SNL skit, many seemed to forget that Beyoncé is in fact black and has always cared about her community, but perhaps she was simply “too black” for the general public this time.
  5. The Pop/R&B genre has not been commonly used to speak about social issues, whereas rap/hip-hop came from speaking about them.
  6. Classic misogynoir has struck again and the public was simply not ready for a woman of color to be so vocal about her heritage at such a highly publicized event.

Interestingly, a quick Google search of “Kendrick Lamar Grammys” shows the press calling his performance “explosive”, “the only performance that mattered”, and “galvanized Grammys with politically charged performance”. With a “Beyoncé Superbowl” search the first link claims “Tennessee Sheriff Blames Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Halftime Show for Shootings” as well as “backlash to performance continues”, “Anti-Beyoncé protest” and “No stunt’s too shameless for Beyoncé”. Clearly the general public and press got two very different ideas from the performances.

This is not the first time that Beyoncé has been criticized for simply owning her black womanhood. Let us not forget Beyoncé’s 2014 MTV Video Music Award performance where she was criticized for giving a bad name to feminists because of her costume and dancing, while Taylor Swift was praised for proclaiming feminism all while blatantly committing more offensive feats in the name of feminism.

Considering everything that has been said and done the later seems most probable, but everyone is certainly entitled to his or her own opinion.



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1 Comment
  1. […] Motivating African Americans everywhere, Griggs enforces that we should utilize our various platforms to educate others and not repeat history. He hopes to see more positive images of African Americans in the media, especially in music, referencing the recent music of Beyoncé (Formation), J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. […]

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