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"The Blacker the Berry" is a song by American rapper Kendrick Lamar. It was released on February 9, 2015 as the second single from his third studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly.[1] The song features vocals from Jamaican artist Assassin. It shares its title with the novel The Blacker the Berry by American author Wallace Thurman, which deals with similar themes of racism. The album version of the song also features additional vocals from neo soul singer Lalah Hathaway.

"The Blacker the Berry"
The Blacker The Berry Kendrick Lamar Art.png
Single by Kendrick Lamar
from the album To Pimp a Butterfly
ReleasedFebruary 9, 2015 (2015-02-09)
FormatDigital download
Kendrick Lamar singles chronology
"Never Catch Me"
"The Blacker the Berry"
"King Kunta"
Audio sample



"The Blacker the Berry" is a racially charged song, noted for being a departure from the "self-love-promoting" "i", a single released in late 2014. The song features a "boom-bap beat", with lyrics that celebrate his African-American heritage, and "tackles hatred, racism, and hypocrisy head on."[2] Lamar introduces the themes with lyrics such as; "Came from the bottom of mankind / My hair is nappy, my dick is big, my nose is round and wide / You hate me don’t you / You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture / You’re fucking evil / I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey / You vandalize my perception, but can’t take style from me."[2]

The song's hook is performed by Jamaican dancehall artist Assassin, notable for performing on Kanye West's 2013 LP Yeezus, whose lyrics similarly address racial inequality, specifically against African Americans.[3][4]

Critical receptionEdit

"The Blacker the Berry" received rave reviews from music critics, who widely praised the production and Lamar's racially charged lyrics. Steven J. Horowitz of Billboard gave the song four-and-a-half stars out of five, writing that "Lamar swings at racial injustice, letting rage break his usual cool veneer".[5] Pitchfork named it their "Best New Track", with reviewer Jayson Greene saying that the song "might be [Lamar's] most focused and upsetting performance."[6]

Live performanceEdit

Lamar performed a medley of "The Blacker the Berry" and "Alright" at the 58th Grammy Awards. Following an intro from actor Don Cheadle, the rapper marched out onstage in chains with a backdrop imitating a prison for "The Blacker The Berry" before creating a bonfire for "Alright" and wrapping his set with an illuminated image of his native city Compton in the outline of Africa. In the untitled freestyle finale, Lamar references Feb. 26, the date of Trayvon Martin's death in 2012. "On February twenty sixth I lost my life too / It’s like I’m here in a dark dream / Man hear screams recorded / Say that it sounds distorted but they know who it was," he rapped.[7]


"The Blacker the Berry" elicited controversy following the lines, "So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang-banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me? Hypocrite!" which people perceived to be Lamar judging the black community.[8] Lamar later spoke on the lyrics in a NPR interview, saying "It's not me pointing at my community; it's me pointing at myself, I don't talk about these things if I haven't lived them, and I've hurt people in my life. It's something I still have to think about when I sleep at night."[9]

Artwork lawsuitEdit

On July 10, 2015, a lawsuit was filed by photographer Giordano Cipriani, stating that Lamar and the song's associated record labels (Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope) used a photo of his without permission or payment. The photo in question features a mother breastfeeding two children. Cipriani states that he had taken the photo in 2011 while he was in Africa. He is also demanding $150,000 for each time the photo was used.[10][11]

Track listingEdit

Digital download
1."The Blacker the Berry"5:38


Chart (2015) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[12] 87
Belgium Urban (Ultratop Flanders)[13] 44
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[14] 83
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[15] 20
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 66
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[17] 32


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[18] Gold 500,000 

 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Pelly, Jenn. "Kendrick Lamar Shares New Song "The Blacker the Berry"". Pitchfork.
  2. ^ a b "New Music: Kendrick Lamar – 'The Blacker The Berry'". Rap-Up. February 9, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-12. Retrieved 2015-02-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Emmanuel C.M. (February 11, 2015). "Assassin Breaks Down Kendrick Lamar's 'The Blacker The Berry'". XXL. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Billboard staff (February 13, 2015). "Best and Worst Singles of the Week -- From Kendrick Lamar to Kip Moore". Billboard. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  6. ^ Greene, Jayson (February 9, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar 'The Blacker the Berry'". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Platon, Adelle (February 15, 2016). "Kendrick Lamar Performs 'The Blacker The Berry' In Chains & Lights Up Stage with 'Alright' at the 2016 Grammys". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2016.
  8. ^ "8 song lyrics that caused a storm of controversy". BBC Music. July 21, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  9. ^ "Kendrick Lamar: 'I Can't Change The World Until I Change Myself First'". Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  10. ^ Stutz, Colin (July 13, 2015). "Kendrick Lamar Sued Over 'Blacker the Berry' Single Artwork". Billboard. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  11. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Sued Over "The Blacker the Berry" Artwork". Pitchfork Media. July 13, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  12. ^ " – Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  13. ^ " – Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry" (in Dutch). Ultratop Urban. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  14. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "Official R&B Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  16. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  17. ^ "Kendrick Lamar Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  18. ^ "American single certifications – Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved June 13, 2018. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit