Kendrick Lamar’s civil rights anthem ‘Alright’ almost didn’t happen

Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a multiple Grammy award-winning masterpiece.

Its eclectic mix of hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk, and myriad of other styles is a testament to the incredible range of the Compton-born rapper. The album won Lamar four Grammy awards in 2016, bringing his total to seven.

More than just a great album, it features several singles that’ve gone on to become anthems of the modern social justice movement. Most notably, the 2016 single, “Alright” has become the anthem of a generation.

Beyond being an incredible song, its chorus became a rallying cry of protesters in the United States — “a kind of comfort that people of color and other oppressed communities desperately need all too often: the hope — the feeling — that despite tensions in this country growing worse and worse, in the long run, we’re all gon’ be all right,” as Slate culture writer Aisha Harris put it.

In Chicago, when people gathered to protest a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, “We gon’ be alright!” was sung in celebration of the rally’s cancellation:

#TrumpRally protesters chant “We gonna be alright” after announcement of a Trump no-show. pic.twitter.com/FXce08oWzI

— Chicago Reader (@Chicago_Reader) March 12, 2016
And in 2015, a Black Lives Matter assembly in Cleveland chanted the song’s chorus, reportedly in response to police arresting a 14-year-old protester.

Countless other examples exist. More than just a great song, “Alright” is the anthem of the modern civil rights movement.

It’s joined socially-conscious hits like Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” and Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” as bigger than music. “Alright” is an incredible achievement for a man who’s already achieved so much. And it’s one that almost didn’t happen.

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