LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Rapper Kendrick Lamar (C) performs onstage during The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for NARAS) ORG XMIT: 604247301 ORIG FILE ID: 510497502

Monday, February 15th was the night of the 2016 Grammy Awards Ceremony, held at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, California. And, nothing else shook the news media and blogs afterwards quite like Kendrick Lamar‘s performance. Nominated for 11 categories, he would go on to win 5 Grammy trophies including for Best Rap Album for “To Pimp A Butterfly.” It was all a well deserved and karmic moment, for Kendrick after being snubbed by the same award ceremony two years before in 2014.

Kendrick Lamar performs a medley of songs at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni - RTX273N1
Kendrick Lamar performs a medley of songs at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni – RTX273N1

Although, Kendrick Lamar and his sophomore album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” was nominated for “Best Rap Album” and “Album of the Year” in 2014, he did not win a single Grammy. It was considered a major slight, and even Macklemore who won the Best Rap Album category for “The Heist”, categorically claimed that Kendrick Lamar was robbed on social media.

About two months before the 2014 Grammy snob, Kendrick Lamar was on the cover of GQ magazine on the December 2013 issue, as a “man of the year.” The accompanying article written by Steve Marsh, was however displeasing to Kendrick Lamar’s record label, Top Dawg Entertainment. The founder and CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith said the article had “racial overtones,” calling it “disrespectful.”

Anothony Tiffith released the following statement, and pulled Kendrick Lamar from attending as well as performing at the GQ’s annual ‘Man Of The Year’ party.

In 2004, I founded Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) with the goal of providing a home for west coast artists and a platform for these artists to express themselves freely and to give their music to the world. From our beginning in 2005 with Jay Rock, to developing Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, to most recently signing Isaiah Rashad and SZA. We, as TDE, have always prided ourselves in doing everything with heart, honor, and respect.

This week, Kendrick Lamar was named one of GQ’s 2013 Men Of The Year, an honor that should have been celebrated as a milestone in his career and for the company. Instead, the story, written by Steve Marsh, put myself and my company in a negative light. Marsh’s story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or bs. To say he was “surprised at our discipline” is completely disrespectful. Instead of putting emphasis on the good that TDE has done for west coast music, and for hip hop as a whole, he spoke on what most people would consider whats wrong with Hip Hop music. Furthermore, Kendrick deserved to be accurately documented. The racial overtones, immediately reminded everyone of a time in hip-hop that was destroyed by violence, resulting in the loss of two of our biggest stars. We would expect more from a publication with the stature and reputation that GQ has. As a result of this misrepresentation, I pulled Kendrick from his performance at GQ’s annual Man Of The Year party Tuesday, November 12th.

While we think it’s a tremendous honor to be named as one of the Men Of The Year, these lazy comparisons and offensive suggestions are something we won’t tolerate. Our reputation, work ethic, and product is something that we guard with our lives.

The editor of GQ magazine, Jim Nelson, wasn’t pleased and released his own statement saying ” We were mystified and sorely disappointed by Top Dawg’s decision to pull him at the last minute from the performance he had promised to give.”

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It’s not a stretch of the imagination that this misunderstanding between Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg and GQ magazine could have precipitated his snob at the 2014 Grammy Awards on January 24.

However, this didn’t stop, deter, or discourage Kendrick Lamar. He went back to work and kept doing what he was about. On March 15, 2015 he released his third album “To Pimp A Butterfly,” to rave reviews, with Rollingstone magazine calling it “a masterpiece of fiery outrage, deep jazz and ruthless self-critique.” The album also broke a Spotify record when it was streamed more than 9.6 million times around the world after its release.

In early January 2016, Invited by the president, Kendrick Lamar visited the White House. He spent time in the Oval Office with President Obama, who earlier had said his favorite song of 2015 was “How Much A Dollar Cost,” from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly album.

kendrick lamar obama

Nietzsche said “… no price is to high for the privileged of owning yourself.” In Top Dawg Entertainment’s firm stand on self-respect and dignity, Kendrick Lamar was free to own his space and creativity, and the world had no choice but to conform.

With 11 nominations, Kendrick Lamar was the most-nominated artist at the 2016 Grammy awards, and he won 5 categories, including “Best Rap Album” and “Best Music Video.”

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The explosion and subsequent reverberation created by Kendrick Lamar’s performance of his songs “The Blacker The Berry” and iconic “Alright” at the 2016 Grammy Awards stole the entire show. The performance was an unapologetic critique of a mainstream that seeks to profit from a culture, while dismissing its protagonists. It was an unguarded and unburdened moment against police-brutality, as Kendrick paid homage to the passing of Trayvorn Martin.

It was an unflattering and unflinching self-reflection that ended with Kendrick Lamar’s silhouette superimposed on a gigantic African continent, on which was written the words “Compton.” CNN declared, “Kendrick Lamar’s fiery performance won Grammy night.”

Two days before the 2016 Grammy’s, on February 13, Kendrick Lamar was presented the Keys To The City of his hometown of Compton, California.

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