1 Verse, 1 Hearse #22, Kendrick Lamar – Black Boy Fly
Kendrick have a dream! Last week his dreams came true when he dropped his debut album, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City. Like expected, it got hip-hop talking, but it was surprisingly polarizing. If it wasn’t a classic, it was “trash.” You either felt it or you didn’t. Part of the blame lies in the album’s concept. GKMC is Kendrick spitting his story on the mic’. If you’ve never been in a “Sherane” situation or if you aren’t a good kid in a m.A.A.d. city, the album might’ve been trash. However, one thing that is indisputable is the album’s lyrical presentation. The flows, rhyme structures, and concepts are rock solid, and one of the best that hip-hop has seen over the last few years. Kendrick revolutionized the new West Coast with his introspective raps, alternating voices, and thug-less-ness. Of course we don’t know yet, but Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City might go down as something special. Right now, we should just soak it in and enjoy it. One of the most introspective tracks off the album was “Black Boy Fly” from the deluxe version. Momma Lamar’s mini van is m.A.A.d. cool, but nothing is more killer than our own hearse. So jump in the backseat, read, and don’t let anyone kill your vibe ya bish.
At first I was shocked that “Black Boy Fly” wasn’t in the standard edition, but upon further thought, the track doesn’t really “flow” with the album’s story. But to me, “Black Boy Fly” could’ve been a good 13th track with “Now Or Never” as the triumphant 14th. Another factor in the album’s polarization was its gloominess. It isn’t a sad album, but it doesn’t have those emotionally uplifting songs like “#HiiiPower” per se. It lets us know about problems in society, but it doesn’t always offer a way out. When the album did get turnt up, with the exception of “Swimming Pools,” Kendrick lost his balance and went a little bit too ig’nant. Again, the album’s concept limited Kendrick because it’s his story. It’s not a political album, but a little more energy could’ve helped.
I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo
I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo
He was the one to follow
He was the only leader foreseeing brighter tomorrows
He would live in the gym
We was living in sorrow
Total envy of him
He made a dream become a reality
Actually making it possible to swim
His way out of Compton with further more to accomplish
Graduate with honors, a sponsor of basketball scholars
It’s 2004 and I’m watching him score 30
Remember vividly how them victory points had hurt me
‘Cause every basket was a reaction or a reminder
That we was just moving backwards
The bungalow where you find us
The art of us ditching classes heading nowhere fast
Stick my head inside the study hall, he focused on math
Determination, ambition, plus dedication and wisdom
Qualities he was given was the shit we didn’t have
Dug inside of his book bag when Coach Palmer asked for his finals
He had his back like a spinal meanwhile
We singing the same old song spinning the vinyl
11 graders gone wrong
He focused on the NBA we focused on some Patron
Now watch that black boy fly
“Black Boy Fly” dives into the stereotype that the only way for an African-American to reach success is through sports or music. Although Kendrick praises those who fly, the emotion he put into the hook makes it seem like it’s same ol’ same ol’ in Compton. Blacks becoming rappers or athletes is the only way out. When addressing whether he is in fact jealous of Arron Afflalo and Game he raps, “I wasn’t jealous ’cause of the talents they got, I was terrified they’ll be the last black boys to fly, out of Compton.” Compton has consistently been churning out successful people like the Williams sisters, Pete Rozelle, Dr. Dre, and more recently people like Tyga and of course Kendrick. It’s not that Kendrick doesn’t believe in Compton’s talents, it’s that he doesn’t fully believe in the way success is achieved. Very few athletes or musicians maintain their successful lifestyle, and not everyone is born with musical or athletic talents. Only a selected few can achieve success meaning that everyone in Compton can’t play in the NBA, so they have to look elsewhere for success. So maybe, just maybe, Kendrick is telling his fellow people to pursue other means of success such as through education.
With jealousy now explained, let’s jump to Lamar’s first verse where he looks at the attention his good friend Arron Afflalo got while in high school. One line of interest is when Lamar raps, “[Afflalo] dug inside of his book bag when Coach Palmer asked for his finals.” We all know Kendrick isn’t jealous, but we can see that Kendrick feels depreciated when coach, and the school in general, give the star athlete all of their attention. Kendrick is just an on-looker with nothing to do but drown in swimming pools of liquor. Maybe that’s why Compton is full of crime too, teachers give the star athletes all of the attention. This tiny exchange where Coach Palmer asks Arron for his final goes a long way in solidifying the theme of the track. Nobody was asking Kendrick for his report because nobody pays normal kids like Kendrick any mind. Kendrick wasn’t given “determination, ambition, plus dedication and wisdom.” Teachers just assume that he’s not worth the time. No matter how good a kid is, he’s only as good as the environment he’s in. Because teachers couldn’t care less about Lamar, he’s diving into liquor with his friends. You can blame Kendrick and his friends all day for not taking control of their lives, but remember that they’re just kids. They don’t have the guidance that the star athletes like Afflalo have.
Eventhough this track was just a bonus, it is one of the most active tracks on the entire album. Many tracks dealt with a lot of Lamar’s personal issues that could be traced back to problems in the culture, but “Black Boy Fly” looked at the school system in a completely different way. A “cliche” conscious rapper would’ve looked at the crappy teachers. In this case, teachers aren’t necessarily crappy, they’re just careless with non-star students. Kendrick was very blunt in his critique, but like Kendrick always does, he tip-toed the boundaries to perfection. He didn’t attack the stereotype, he went straight to the root. Compton schools and the Compton culture in general think that the only way to reach success is through sports or music. That is false, but if it works, hey, let that black boy fly. Kendrick, you killed it.