Kendrick Lamar won five Grammy Awards during Monday night’s ceremonies, a feat that we’re sure his fans feel he greatly deserved. During the show, he delivered a moving performance of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright.” Soon after, some viewers took to social media to point out a variety of style elements that are similar to those of a theatrical work titled The Last Jimmy by Philadelphia rapper Dice Raw.
Kendrick’s performance opened with the rapper in chains, surrounded by prisoners and a saxophonist playing from behind prison bars. It goes into an African dance breakdown before a stunning run of lines with giant flames in the background. He finishes the performance solo, and is cheered on by a standing ovation from the esteemed audience.
Raw told Philly.com that he noticed similarities as he was watching the performance on television, “Oh yeah, the prison thing. That’s a point. Then the gold cages onstage, yeah that’s another coincidence. Are those musicians in cages? OK. African dance in the middle of that montage — another coincidence, too.”
“We’re both fighting the same fight,” Raw said before he joked, “It isn’t Kendrick Lamar—he’s not the enemy…but maybe his choreographer is.” On Twitter, Raw said that he isn’t mad at Kendrick and seems content that a voice so loud is able to advocate for their shared social cause.
I know Kendrick don't know he bit my play but the person who told him to do that dose. I'm not mad @kendricklamar fightmassincarceration
— DiceRaw jenkins (@DICERAW) February 16, 2016
Regardless of the lack of bad blood between the rappers, Raw’s publicist, Seandra Sims, stated that Dice Raw’s lawyers reached out to Kendrick’s representatives regarding the matter. “This is a legal situation and legal people need to be in charge of it.”
Wendell Patrick, the musical director of The Last Jimmy, voiced his opinion in a statement posted to social media. He also said that he has no problem with Kendrick. “I want to be clear that I do not have a beef with Kendrick Lamar personally, but his creative team and or producers around him and the Grammy’s might want to give an ear to the murmuring online for both his and my artistic integrity.” He also cited similarities between the performances in his post.
The issue is Kendrick, who I deem as a brother and fellow solider in this fight against mass incarceration, performed his song, “The Blacker the Berry, ” in the theatrical setting/elements of what appeared to be gold jail cells, wearing chained cuffs around his hands, dancers in prison outfits, musicians inside of jail cells, an African dance transition and a back-screen projecting Africa – all of which shockingly matches the artistic elements that I use my musical that I co-created over two years ago.
Watch Kendrick’s Grammy Awards performance in the video above and compare with clips from The Last Jimmy below.