Rap, in General VI: An Open Letter to Kendrick Lamar

By Opheli Garcia Lawler

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Via Ppcorn

Dear Kendrick,

I’ve had many conversations about your work. I’ve debated, praised and questioned with so many people. Maybe too many people. I made a fool of myself in the London Tube by stopping to kiss your TPAB poster. But my love for your work goes far beyond the fangirl-esque behavior I sometime exhibit. Your work did something for me, far beyond providing me with some good beats, far beyond providing me with a favorite song, or favorite album. Far beyond giving me conversation topics at any party I go to.

Your work, especially TPAB, let me assess and contend with my own guilt. In ways completely different, but also very similar, I had survivor’s guilt. I too, made it out of a special set of circumstances, and my newfound position left me questioning myself. I know you didn’t make this album for me, but it found me anyways. And while the topics of your songs address much larger issues, issues I will never have to deal with because of certain privileges I have.

I’ve been trying to analyze why I connected to your music so much, why my love for it went past appreciation. Why when “U” came on, I cried not only for you, but for myself. When “I” comes on, no matter where I am, or what I’m doing, I’m flooded with a sense of relief. Why? Your music is good, but this was a little much, even for me. Then I started therapy. It made me realize how much I connected with that feeling of leaving behind those who needed me. I may not be from Compton, but I grew up poor and aware in Florida, which has it’s own set of issues.

I left home when my family needed me most, at a time when our personal demons threatened to overtake us. I left my mom struggling to keep my brother and sisters afloat, with no job. I went off to school halfway across the world and went to have an amazing year full of adventure, while they were still there, still struggling. I don’t know if I will ever look back on that year and not feel guilty. But TPAB at least helped me, at a base level, to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. And while we left very different places to chase very different dreams, I felt a sense of camaraderie with you nonetheless.

So I just wanted to thank you, and to let you know that while your bangers may make the shows I’ve seen be the most fun; your albums, your work, your honesty, are what makes you my favorite artist. Thank you for allowing me to examine my own guilt by being so open with yours.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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