Graffitied cop cars and tattered American flags — those were the visual centerpieces of “King” Kendrick’s massively popular opener for the 2015 BET Awards last night in Los Angeles. The rapper performed his hit “Alright,” from his most recent album, To Pimp A Butterfly, an ostensibly self-empowering anthem that also happens to be baldly anti-cop.
“We hate the po-po / wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho,” the song goes. The scene — and the raucous reception — certainly may have disturbed many Americans who rued the destruction of public property and attacks on law enforcement the country’s cities saw this spring.
But there’s a bright side: Conservatives could look past this setting of the politically charged “Alright” and notice the more conservative and libertarian messages Mr. Lamar was bringing to a young audience.
“Alright” contains religious themes (“But if God got us / Then we gon’ be alright”) and pro-capitalist, pro-work motifs (“Diggin’ in my pocket, ain’t a profit big enough to feed you / Everyday my logic, get another dollar just to keep you”). Lamar certainly seems to be tossing a bone to Grover Norquist when he suggests avoiding taxation of his business profits: (“I can see the evil, I can tell it, I know it’s illegal / I don’t think about it, I deposit every little zero.”)
A vague call for reparations for black Americans – “What you want, you a house, you a car? / 40 acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?” — may seem to break up the capitalist love story, but, of course, Robert Nozick, the late proto-minarchist, once accepted the general principle of reparations.
Later in the evening, Mr. Lamar won the award for Best Male Hip Hop Artist.
— Isaac Cohen is an intern at National Review.