For the few thousand in attendance and the millions around the world this was the indelible image that Kendrick wanted to leave imprinted in everyone's psyche at the end of a sensational and breathless performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards.
The gawd emcee from Compton, LA took home five awards out of the eleven he was nominated and stole the show with a heart thumping performance. He entered from centre stage clad in prisoners attire at the head of a chain gang breaking in to the opening of "The Blacker The Berry" from the now decorated "To Pimp A Butterfly" album.
His posture and tone were strong and direct, no half stepping in the deliver of an uncompromising lyrical depiction of the reality for a group of people who remain disenfranchised by the nation they reside in. Many in that room won't fully understand the underlying message that the image portrays and some will choose to ignore it but this doesn't detract from its power.
In the city of angels, a city that symbolises the extravagance that it's country can provide for privileged individuals sits an area that has been systematically left to its own devices by the powers that govern both the state and the nation. Today, it bares the legacy of an era when crack cocaine infiltrated African American neighborhoods’ in south LA for the benefit of others who are now known.
The evidence of the message of inspiration behind this album has been consistent since the lead single“…I love myself…” was heard by the masses. But some rejected it, probably due to the absence of 808’s. Since then there has been an assortment of powerful images and videos throughout the year culminated in arguably the most poignant moment at the end of his Grammy Award performance.
The image speaks of a good kid who has traversed the landscape of his environment and the challenges of navigating the backdrop of colour lines. Not just of the melanin kind but those drawn by gang affiliations and them other boys in blue. This partly explains why Kendrick's response to last year’s needless murder of a young Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of a police officer. He took a different angle to those whose emotions were charged, clouding their ability to understand the perspective shown by the emcee. In his immediate environment the murder of young black youths including friends and relatives has been commonplace throughout his life, often at the hands of people that look like them.
His outlook was that black people should also look at improving the dynamic within and amongst themselves in order to gain strength and move forward. A mindset woven into the lyrics of lead single "I" from the platinum selling album.
The image speaks of the similarities between the world's eye view of the continent of Africa to every socially and economically abused region in the world that tends to house an inordinate percentage of the African diaspora. In the eyes of the western world they're both viewed as the bottom-feeders of local and global society, dependent, used for their talent and natural resources but neglected for their basic human requirements.
The image also invokes a feeling that the African side of the "racial group" - African American has long been overlooked and even scorned upon in ignorance by some African Americans themselves. Perhaps if black communities in these regions, in the main, had a firm understanding of their heritage then a greater sense of comradeship would be fostered rather than having a disregard for another. Perhaps.
It could be argued that the negative reception of "To Pimp A Butterfly" by a minority of mainly black rap music fans provides further evidence of the ignorance towards a message that needs to be heard by the very people rejecting it. For now the eyes of their understanding are wide shut. Nevertheless the hope is, much like the album to those slow on the uptake, that with time the message will penetrate and the beauty of both the music and their rich heritage will be revealed like the butterfly.