Dashiki | A letter to Kendrick Lamar

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Kendrick Lamar in The Heart Part 5. Photo: YouTube/Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar in The Heart Part 5. Photo: YouTube/Kendrick Lamar


Dear Kendrick,

My first love was music. It was the only thing that made sense, and the only thing that ever personified who I really was. It was a secret world just for me, where all the worries of the world fell away.

I remember discovering you, Kendrick, while sitting at the bottom of the stairs in an institution I had grown weary of.

Then you came to me, Kendrick, and made a change to my life. You, a badass rapper from Compton, California, who made sense of what it meant to be black in a world that hated you and wouldn’t give you a chance.

Your words resonated with me, Kendrick. The world suddenly made sense. Your words articulated my frustrations and hopes.

I remember rapping your lyrics word for word:

We on the mission for bad b*tches and trouble/ I hope the universe love you today/ ‘Cause the energy we bringin’ sure to carry away/ A flock of positive activists and fill their body with hate/ If it’s necessary, bumpin’ Jeezy first album lookin’ distracted/ Speakin’ language only we know, you think it’s an accent.

These were the lyrics to my favourite song, The Art of Peer Pressure. When I listened to this and many other songs of yours, the world would often melt away, as we spoke a language only we knew the words to in my head.

These are the words you used to describe the institutions that constrained us:

I remember you was conflicted/ Misusing your influence.

I was always in awe of a black man with a rock star’s attitude. You were the person I aspired to be. Your thoughts clicked with mine. We fitted like two perfect puzzle pieces.

A decade later, my world was shattered. Your words became the noise I fought so hard to ignore. “F*ggot.../ My auntie is a man now” is what you sang.

When I was 15 you were my rap soulmate. But when I was 24, you broke my heart with your bigoted and hateful lyrics.

As a queer black person who found their voice through your lyrical genius, it gave me goosebumps to hear what I and my community were to you.

Your piece Auntie Diaries became the beginning of the end in my relationship with you. The veil was broken. I still don’t know whether I can turn back the hands of time and dance with you once again.

To be black and queer means to be ostracised. Through your power and influence, you only reinforced anti-queer language.

Now when reality becomes too much to bear, who will I turn to, whose language will I have to speak to find comfort again? I am in pain, Kendrick.

Deep pain. You betrayed me.


Janice Phiri  

Culture Writer

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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