On Friday, May 13, Kendrick Lamar returned from a years-long hiatus with his new album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, which may be one of the most highly-anticipated projects in recent memory.
The title is a double album, and while it’s only been out for a few weeks, it is already racking up tens of millions of streams, selling well, and, of course, starting many conversations about its artistic merit and some of the topics discussed within its 18 songs.
One track, in particular, has some members of the LGBTQ community celebrating, while others view the same tune as disgusting. Few could have predicted that when the hip-hop musician returned, he’d stir up so much drama, and especially among gay, lesbian, and trans listeners.
On the song “Auntie Diaries,” Lamar opens up about two family members who identify as trans. He discusses how they underwent surgeries to live their truth, and how he thinks he’s “old enough to understand now.”
That might sound sweet, but there’s a lot in the track that has people not just scratching their heads, but wondering if the cut is actually more harmful than helpful.
Throughout “Auntie Diaries,” Lamar also deadnames people, including Caitlyn Jenner, whom he refers to as Bruce. He describes how when one relative came out as trans, there were quite a few in his family who rejected that person, and that he supported that decision at the time. In fact, he even found joy in doing so.
Lamar also uses the F-word several times, which immediately has some people deciding that it’s no good.
After all, as far as anyone knows, the rapper does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ community, so therefore many feel he should not be using it. In fact, the rapper concludes the tune by referencing an incident at a concert several years back when he invited a white woman on stage to perform one of his songs. She did so, but failed to omit the N-word, much to the chagrin of Lamar and the audience.
At the time, Lamar was upset by the encounter, and he asked her to leave. He points out this conundrum on “Auntie Diaries,” saying, “ain’t no room for contradiction,” and yet, there he is, rapping the F-slur several times.
Some listeners believe that “Auntie Diaries” is a major step forward, as they recognize what a big deal it is to have one of the most celebrated, beloved, and commercially successful rappers of all time putting music out that discusses the trans community.
He not only made it the focus of a song on a CD millions will listen to, but he is honest about his own failings as a person. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, and he even opens up about how the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues has forced him, a devout Christian, to reexamine his relationship with the organization.
On the other hand, many others are upset about how he chose to go about having this discussion.
Yes, it may help some hip-hop aficionados who know nothing about trans people or LGBTQ rights to hear about them from someone they admire, but did he have to use such awful language? Must he involve himself in the practice of deadnaming? Lamar’s actions on “Auntie Diaries” may have others believing that it’s okay for them to engage in these behaviors as well — and that will likely hurt many.
Ultimately, whether “Auntie Diaries” is more of a good thing or a bad thing is entirely up to the listener. There are plenty of reasons to pick one side of the argument over the other, and ultimately, nobody is 100% “right.”
What is inarguable, however, is the fact that the song is bound to continue this conversation, and it’s sure to become at least a minor hit for Lamar.
Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart , and it seems as though most, if not all, of the tunes featured on it will also chart. Including one all about trans family members of the Grammy-winning star.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!