And why I don't think that this is, presuming the best of his audience (which, I admit, is stupid) an unapproachable album. I'd bet most people have this moment in their lives, no matter how much weight is balanced on the choice. I could argue I've made it three times, much lower stakes of course - in fact, so low it's not worth reading this post unless we can start from a baseline that Kendrick is rapping about some fundamentally really relatable issues for men in their 30s in the 2020s, despite a lot of circumstantial differences:
1. I wound up a white kid with so many Af-Am Studies credits I had no choice but to major in a related subject or essentially reset to sophomore year because I just kept digging into what I wanted to learn and talk about. I was good friends with the dean of the program at the time; I stayed at his apartment while his buddies from DC visited, we'd sit and watch music videos in his office while I tried to do some kind of other sociology homework, etc. But I genuinely hated the idea of being a white adult taking tenure around the country lecturing other white people (because let's face it, especially in the Midwest a lot of Af-Am courses are white folk taking ethnicity credits) about problems I could only empathize with, so I balked. Dropped out, started bartending.
2. Won't be long-winded from here (because in re-reading that last paragraph, I already recognize the next two are irrelevant and plausibly the first was as well) but I wound up managing a very successful bar and restaurant, made a ton of connections and saw the path where I could continue the lineage of people in this town that take people's money to make their own ideas for a better hospitality experience happen. I balked and took less money for less responsibility and more personal happiness/time.
3. I just don't talk to my dad anymore. We try sometimes, and when he comes up I'm usually nostalgic for the things I learned from him when I was younger and he seemed invincible. But as an adult, I realize that he either faked a lot of the things I thought were good about him or lost them over time, and also recognize that finding that in him forced me to find myself in that and I didn't have the tools to cope with it. Depending on who you'd ask in my family, they'd quickly point to how I learned all the wrong things from my father and used them as excuses to take advantage of the positives I had/have going for me in life.
I get why, especially in shoes far less socially normative than my white-hetero dumb ass it would sound and feel wildly disappointing to hear Kendrick say he's actually not interested in wearing the crown he was handed. But I think that's incredibly, bafflingly emotionally mature of him considering the pressure that gets placed on prominent Black artists (even more than academics, politicians or businessmen) to provide a salve for the country's pain, historically. Again, obviously, what I'm relating to that choice is so far below and so much less significant than the choice he appears to be making, but I was also never a 13 year old in Compton dreaming of rapping on Dr. Dre beats with a Lil' Wayne feature. I can only surmise that it's not a huge stretch to think, maybe, balancing the artistic apex of Black pop music with featuring on Taylor Swift and U2 tracks might not be the goal he had, and certainly isn't comfortable with.
Let alone what he has to deal with in his personal life, which sounds like, y'know, a LOT.
"This is the streets, and I am the trap." � Jay Bilas
Hip Hop Handbook: http://tinyurl.com/ll4kzz