“Alright” discusses a multitude of different social critiques throughout the song, some more obvious than others. Kendrick Lamar is well known for making his songs have more than just one meaning to them, and he is very famous for talking about political topics as well as controversial ones. “Alright” is just one of the many songs off his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly that does just this. Looking at the lyrics directly, we can see many references to the social critique of racism, especially in this country. We see it in the intro of the song as well as the pre-hook verse that carries throughout:


“All’s my life I has to fight, N-word”


This line is in reference to the 1985 film, The Color Purple. As I have stated in previous posts, this movie was based on the book by Alice Walker, which tells the story of Celie Harris, an African-American girl living in Georgia during the early 20th century. Throughout the movie, we see the hardships that African Americans, especially women, had to face after slavery was abolished and how there were not many differences between those two time periods. Sofia Johnson, Oprah Winfrey’s character, is the one who says these famous lines during the scene where she talks to Celie about sticking up to her husband when he was being abusive to her. In the scene, she talks about how her whole life she’s had to fight to stay alive between all the men who have been abusive to her in her family, and that she was not about to have the man she married do the same. After knowing this, it makes Kendrick’s choice in words even more powerful. We can correlate that he is also not going to take abuse from anyone and that African Americans are fighting against people who have been taking advantage and abusing them for too long. This is one of the main reasons why this song became an anthem in 2015 for the Black Lives Matter movement, because there was a direct connection between the lyrics and the meaning behind them. During the pre-hook of the song, Lamar raps


“Wouldn’t you know

We been hurt, been down before

N-word, when our pride was low

Lookin’ at the world like, “Where do we go?”

N-word, and we hate po-po

Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho’

N-word, I’m at the preacher’s door

My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow

But we gon’ be alright”


It is this part of the song that the topic of racism solidifies as a meaning. He uses the N-word in the song, as in he is speaking to someone else, so it is reasonable to assume that he is speaking to an African American. When you hear him rap this part of the song, he puts an emphasis on the N-word and there is even a pause in his cadence for when he says it. When he says the part about the police killing “us”, he is referring to African Americans. Therefore, this part of the song sounds like someone who is trying to rally people together – African Americans who are all fighting for the same cause; equality in America. After this song came out, Fox News correspondents criticized Lamar for speaking “about the police this way” which he then sampled in his song DNA off his latest album DAMN. Which in my opinion is genius.



One of the other social topics that the song discusses is poverty. Throughout the whole album, Lamar make references to poverty and to the idea of celebrities who made it out of poverty and then have a hard time not “blowing their money”. For this concept, we meet the character Uncle Sam/Lucy “Lucifer”. In the first song off of To Pimp A Butterfly titled “Wesley’s Theory”. In this song Lamar raps,


“What you want you? A house or a car?

Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?

Anythin’, see, my name is Uncle Sam, I’m your dog

Motherfucker, you can live at the mall”

This is where it gets interesting. In “Alright” Lamar raps the same lyrics, however, replacing Uncle Sam with the name Lucy, as in Lucifer.


“What you want you? A house or a car?

Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?

Anythin’, see, my name is Lucy, I’m your dog

Motherfucker, you can live at the mall”




These lines reiterate this idea that when you have money, you can buy anything. For people who aren’t used to having a surplus of money, it can be easy to fall and buy anything, even things that are unnecessary or extensive. Uncle Sam and Lucy are interchangeable characters because they harp on vulnerable people. In this scenario, Uncle Sam/Lucy are trying to get Kendrick to buy all these things and then screw him over when he has to file for his taxes. This all also plays on the concept of minorities, people who tend to live in poverty, never escaping poverty because they are not receiving the financial help they need. Because of this, minorities will stay in poverty, keeping the same unequal social system that we have today.