Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé were the most acclaimed black music producers of their era.
Between them, the Compton rapper and Houston-born superstar has won 42 Grammys and Pulitzers. (Although, amid the ongoing injustice, neither was honored with the Grammy’s famous album of the year. Taylor Swift and Adele have five in total.)
Neither artist dominates popularity. In terms of sales and traffic, Drake, Swift and Adele have bigger numbers. But both have attained exalted status as important artists who push the culture forward while commanding broad audiences.
According to Rolling Stone, Beyoncé, who has 28 Grammys, is “the world’s greatest living entertainer” — Queen Bey. (Who’s arguing? No one wants to avoid BeyHive’s wrath.)
Lamar is widely regarded as the most skilled rapper of his generation.his 2017 album Damn. used to be Full of compliments to make Lamar The first pop music producer to win a Pulitzer Prize. The committee wrote that it was “a masterful collection of songs” that “…offers vignettes that affect the complexities of modern African-American life.”
So when Lamar or Beyoncé publish a new project, it is registered as a cultural event. They’ve given us two gifts this pop season, with each director returning with a new work that shows how they’re coping with turbulent times. One full of joy, one full of tension.
Mr Morale and the Great InfantryReleased in May as a double album, Lamar Damn.
The album took him to South Philadelphia on Tuesday, when his Big Steppers tour, which also included his cousin Baby Keem and rapper Tanna Leone, who is signed to his pgLang label, arrived at the Wells Fargo Center.
Meanwhile – in case you haven’t heard – Beyonce is back. Her return comes after a long absence. lemonadewhich includes the powerful liberation song “Freedom,” with Lamar, came out back in 2016.
Beyonce’s regeneration It’s only an album, but it’s part of a planned trilogy, “a three-act project,” she said, “recorded for over three years during the pandemic.” The title makes clear its ambitions, It evokes an artistic rebirth from 14th century Florence to 20th century Harlem.
back Damn. and lemonadeLamar and Beyoncé both began producing music for film projects exploring black identity through a pop culture lens.
Lamar supervised and appeared on the soundtrack Black Pantherthe superhero film starring Chadwick Boseman, set in the fictional East African Wakanda, was released in 2018, the year Lamar starred in a role played by Beyoncé’s husband Jay- The Z-curated Philly music festival “Made in America” played exciting headliners.
In 2019, Beyoncé, who twice made headlines for Made in America, starred in Disney’s computer-animated remake lion king, again with Lamar, on “The Nile.”The second year, she started with that piece of music black is kingthe Disney+ movie she directed and starred in.
» Read more: Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ is Beautiful, Powerful, Personal, and Very Very Beyoncé
Add to that the protest song “Black March” released after the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, black is king As a declaration of black pride. Beginning in 2015, demonstrators marched that summer to the “Black March” and Lamar’s tough “Ok” Pimping the Butterfly.
The social awareness thrust of the ‘Black March’ and lemonade “Formation” makes many people look forward to regeneration There will be political leanings, and the song’s title further reinforces that impression: “America Has a Problem.”
But in addition to her many qualities, Beyoncé is also good at room-reading. She definitely realizes her fans need to be lifted and released. regeneration Undoubtedly, it’s a celebration of resilience, as expressed in the lead single, which introduces a punchy house tune as it insists: “You won’t hurt my soul.”
As documented since publication, regeneration It’s a celebration of black queer dance music. It combines references to underground houses and the history of technology with touchstones like Chic, with guitarist Nile Rodgers playing the irresistible “Cuff It.” Donna Summer admonishes dancers to ‘release your swing’ to New Orleans bouncing music queen Big Freedia.
regeneration received some criticism. Kelly took to social media to say she did not have permission to use her 2003 song “Milkshake” for “energy.” Beyoncé has removed brief interpolations, just as she removed lyrics on “Heated” after she was criticized for being competent. (Yes, that’s the same word Lizzo was recently forced to drop from her hit “Grrrls.”)
But this album, released so far without any videos—which has filled all of her recent albums—is largely celebrated rightly for what it is: a party opener that can provide a A lip balm that doesn’t break your soul. The problems plaguing “America” have never been elucidated, but it has been suggested that any solution should include a sensory privilege: “Booty gon’ do what it want to.”
The album cover image of Beyoncé in a bikini on a holographic horse appears to be a reference to a 1977 photo of Bianca Jagger at Studio 54. In her Instagram post revealing the cover, Beyoncé wrote, regeneration “Let me feel free and adventurous when no one else is moving. My purpose is to create a place to scream, release, feel free. I hope you find joy in this music.”
That feeling of release and joy is nothing Mr Morale is all about. Lamar’s work is a thoroughly intense and extremely dense work that tackles black masculinity and shoulders the burden of being the voice of his generation.
The avant-garde on the album cover is there, in stark contrast to Beyoncé as Lady Godiva on the dance floor. Lamar and his fiancée Whitney Alford are pictured with their two children, with the rapper holding one and looking out of the camera. A gun was tucked into his pants, and a crown of thorns was placed on his head. Here comes the trouble.
No one expects Kendrick Lamar to make party music, so it’s no surprise Mr Morale Not all dance floor sausages.Back to his career 2012 album good boy, ad city, Lamar has always been the most self-analytical rapper. His combination of contemplative and combative sides is a big part of his greatness.
still, Mr Morale It’s shocking how important he is to the pressure to be some kind of hip-hop oracle.The tension was there from the start, as Lamar confided “I’m going through something” and cited the exact number of days that passed between releases Damn. and Mr. Morale’s release.
Lamar does find a way to release in the face of personal trauma Mr Morale, but he also spent a lot of time uneasy about what was expected of him.unlike beyonce regenerationhe did take the blame lightly.
It will be interesting to see if he can turn that tension into a catharsis in concert when the Big Steppers tour plays with Wells Fargo on Tuesday.Looking at the gig list since the tour started last month shows that Lamar has been starting and ending the show with a single song Mr Morale His title expresses his lack of interest in being on the dance floor or elsewhere: “Savior.”
Kendrick Lamar, Baby Keem and Tanna Leone on the Big Stepper Tour at Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St., Aug. 9 at 7:30 p.m. $59-169, wellsfargocenterphilly.com.