Michael Chabon Annotates Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry” At Genius

Genius is a lyric annotation website that was formerly known as Rap Genius, and while anyone is free to contribute, it’s clear that the site is aiming toward loftier realms given that former New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones recently joined the site’s ranks and Rick Rubin contributed his expertise.

Today, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, screenwriter and occasional New Yorker contributor Michael Chabon annotated the lyrics to Kendrick Lamar’s seething new single “The Blacker The Berry.” Here’s an excerpt:

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.

If you wish to read more of Chabon’s annotations, you can visit the page for “The Blacker The Berry.” You can even write some annotations of your own if you’re so inclined.

This is the second time Chabon has annotated lyrics for the site. He previously expounded on some lyrics from Mark Ronson’s album Uptown Funk, although that contribution made more sense since he helped pen those.

[Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images.]