“Alright” covers many different themes within the song, some more relatable than others. Two of the themes that I decided to find lineages for are institutional racism and dealing with success/fame. While not as many people deal with fame, we can all relate to the feeling of thinking that once we reach a certain level of success that we will be happy, to then find out it might not be all that. For me, it was easy to find songs that could connect to these themes because there are so many artists that have dealt with both of these issues. What I also find interesting about both of these is that artists who sang songs about these 50 years ago could release them now and they would still be relevant. That’s why Kendrick Lamar will forever be one of the best rappers of all time because his music is transcendent and timeless, but I digress.


Institutional racism: “Is It Because I’m Black?” > “They Don’t Care About Us” > “Changes” > “Alright”



The first song, “Is It Because I’m Black?” by Syl Johnson starts off this lineage. Written in 1970, it depicts a black man in America who keeps asking “is it because I’m black?” because he doesn’t understand why he is treated differently. For example, in the lyrics it states, “You see, I want diamond rings and things, like you do/ I wanna be somebody so bad/ But you keep on putting your foot on me.” The term ‘you’ in this sense is referencing white people in America. He is singing that in order to be someone, as precedented by white people, you need money. But because he is black, it is harder for him to get money since the system has been structured to oppress minorities and people of color.


The second song, “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson, was written in 1995. Jackson writes about being black in America and how he is not letting it stop him from still being a successful artist. When doing research about this song, I found out that he was writing in reference to issues he had with his label. It was interesting to think about that while listening to the lyrics. For example, “Tell me, what has become of my rights? / Am I invisible ‘cause you ignore me? / Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now / I’m tired of being the victim of shame.” Thinking about this in the sense of racism in America, these lines depicts the reality of not being as free or having the deserved rights that people claim African Americans were receiving.



The Third song is “Changes” by 2pac written in 1997, only two years after the Michael Jackson song was released. It felt necessary at some point in this post to talk about 2pac since he has been noted to have such a heavy influence on Lamar. Side note, the last song in To Pimp A Butterfly, actually is featuring 2pac. This song has a similar message as the Michael Jackson song, talking about how there should be all this change, but there isn’t. For example, 2pac writes, “I see no changes, all I see is racist faces / Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races / we under, I wonder what it takes to make this/ one better place, let’s erase the wasted.” For this song, not only do the themes and messages relate to “Alright”, but also 2pac as an artist is an important part of the lineage.




Fame: “Fame” > “Mo Money Mo Problems” > “Love Yours” > “Alright


The first song that I chose was David Bowie’s “Fame” which was written in 1975. David Bowie is known as one of the most iconic and influential people in the music and fashion industries. We had always viewed him as a God in some sense, but he talks about fame in this song as something inhibiting. For example, he says that, “Fame, makes a man take things over / Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow / fame puts you there where things are hollow / fame.” In these lines, Bowie talks about how fame takes everything from you. When you’re famous, you now need more people to help with your money, scheduling, etc. Therefore, you’re losing a sense of control and how you have to give all of yourself, therefore becoming hollow.


The second song I chose for this lineage is “Mo Money Mo Problems” by Notorious B.I.G written 1997. Since I already talked about 2pac, it’s only right that I also talk about Biggie. During 1997, rap was really stepping into it’s spot as a genre, and this idea of rappers being business entrepreneurs. In this song, Ma$e, Puff Daddy, and Biggie all rap about how much money they have and how other people can’t “beat” them. However, in the hook Kelly Price sings, “I don’t know what they want from me / it’s like the more money we come around, the more problems we see.” Now that they are famous, they always have to show how much money they have and what they can afford because otherwise, people won’t find them legitimate. This idea of always having to flaunt what you have in order to get people to like you starts once you get a little bit of money, you always feel like you have to outdo yourself from the previous time.


The third song that I chose for this lineage was “Love Yourz” by Jcole written in 2014, only a year before “Alright.” In this song, Jcole raps about his struggles with being famous and how he sometimes wishes he wasn’t because even though the money has helped him, being famous doesn’t solve all your problems. For example, in the song he raps, “It’s beauty in the struggle, ugliness in the success / hear my words or listen to my signal of distress / I grew up in the city and though sometimes we had less / compared to some of my n-words down the block, man, we were blessed.” In these lines, Jcole talks about how when you’re struggling financially, being rich and famous looks like it solves all of your problems. However, he starts off the song with saying this is a warning, and to not get caught up in it all.