Kendrick Lamar – Complexion (A Zulu Love)

In today’s society image is everything! Girls of all ages are reminded through social media, such as movies, magazines, and songs that they must maintain their appearance. It is through social media that girls are constantly hyper-sexualized based on their appearance, particularly African American girls and women. On the other hand, if they are not hyper-sexualized then they are being told what “beauty” is. Not only does social media downplay African American women’s beauty, but they make the implicit argument that being “thin and white” or having lighter skin is beautiful. This is problematic because young, African American girls today are retaining these ideas and seeking approval from society. Karen Coats, author of the Keywords Essay Identity states, “rather than a condition of sameness…identity has become more of an outward show seeking recognition and uptake” (110). It is through socialization and media that young girls take these beauty tips. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the protagonist Pecola, suffers from her identity. She does not like her complexion because she thinks she is “too black and ugly”, so she yearns for blue eyes. The blue eyes symbolize young, white girls that everybody adores such as Shirley Temple. This relates to the author’s view of how books acknowledge “the importance of society in the construction of identity” (111).

AA girls

However, the hip-hop rapper Kendrick Lamar does a great job telling young, African American girls to love their complexion and identity. In the song, he emphasizes that society’s construction of identity and complexion does not matter. He states the history of how complexion started with slavery and now mediates in popular culture. Also in the song he mentions, “Beauty is what you make it…woman love the creation.” He challenges society’s views that being “white” or having “lighter skin” is the definition of beautiful. Kendrick Lamar says,

The new James Bond gon’ be black as me
Black as brown, hazelnut, cinnamon, black tea
And it’s all beautiful to me

to help African American girls love the skin they are in!

4 thoughts on “Complexion”

  1. I like the fact that you chose a positive representation of darker complexions in the media. Too often, people of color are implicitly and explicitly taught that lighter skin is more beautiful. This is related to the controversy in Hollywood related to the lack of diversity of actors in award-winning films, leading to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. This movement brought awareness to the fact that all Oscar nominees in 2016 were White. This has implications on identity development of people of color, because they have few role models in media who look like them.

  2. This is a really good example of something positive in the media about skin color and body image, thank you for sharing! Too often everything we see in the media is degrading to women or African-Americans but this song is very insightful and fitting.

  3. I think Kendrick Lamar’s song is a great way for African American girls to view themselves in a positive way. Since Lamar is a famous singer and has a huge fan base, girls who don’t see themselves as beautiful are more likely to love themselves after hearing a famous person tell them that they are beautiful. Even though hearing they’re beautiful from a celebrity, these girls also need to learn to hear it from themselves – to be able to look in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful” and believe it with all their hearts. Unfortunately, that’s a struggle in today’s society for girls of color, and a song by a famous celebrity can help boost their self-esteem.

  4. I really like the message that goes along with this song and it isn’t the first song to attempt to send a message about loving the skin that you’re in. Artists like Meghan Trainer have also released songs telling women to love their bodies. Music is a very influential and powerful medium for sending messages like this. Music brings people together and makes them feel like they are a part of something; like they are not alone. So whether it is blaring out of speakers at a concert or buzzing in the headphones of the individual, music has a way of making people feel something, especially when it comes to such sensitive issues as race and body image.

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