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Arts & Culture

Kendrick Lamar's new song 'Auntie Diaries' divides the LGBTQ+ community

Kendrick Lamar performs in March 2019 during the third day of Lollapalooza Buenos Airesat Hipodromo de San Isidro.
Santiago Bluguermann
/
Getty Images
Kendrick Lamar performs in March 2019 during the third day of Lollapalooza Buenos Airesat Hipodromo de San Isidro.

Updated May 19, 2022 at 12:13 PM ET

After five years, Kendrick Lamar released his latest album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers last week. One of its tracks immediately proved divisive among LGBTQ+ people.

"Auntie Diaries" features Lamar rapping in the first person about how he learned to embrace his family members' gender transitions. To critics, the problems begin with the first line of the first verse: "My auntie is a man now."

" 'Auntie Diaries' is really about Kendrick's relationship with — not actually his auntie — but really his uncle," said Raquel Willis, an author, activist and former executive editor of Out magazine.

Speaking to Morning Edition co-host Rachel Martin, Willis said she understood Lamar's intention of "reckoning with both homophobia and transphobia, particularly within the Black community," but found his execution confusing.

In the song, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper repeatedly says a slur commonly wielded against queer people. He also mixes up his relatives' pronouns, and he "deadnames" them — using names that they no longer use.

He does the same to Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist, reality TV star, and erstwhile candidate for governor in California.

"That felt jarring," Willis said. "And I think maybe for a lot of other trans people it felt that way, because these are actual, real experiences we've had with family members who refuse to respect us and our identities, or have taken a long time to, kind of, evolve."

"I said those f-bombs, I ain't know any better," Kendrick Lamar raps. "Mistakenly, I ain't think that you'd know any different."

The song is in keeping with the confessional style Lamar cultivates on Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. The album art depicts him crowned with thorns, and he writes openly about struggles with a messiah complex and working it all out in therapy and in art.

The song culminates with Lamar standing up to a bigoted minister, asking, "Mr. Preacherman, should we love thy neighbor? The laws of the land or the heart, what's greater?"

Some on social media have praised "Auntie Diaries" for using real vernacular to depict personal growth, but Willis says greater artistic rewards lie beyond a cisgender man's journey to acceptance.

"I would be more impressed for him to talk about the epidemic of violence in which it's largely Black, cisgender men, killing Black and brown trans women, or talking about the numerous bills, moving around the country, to restrict our rights," she said. "We've got to move beyond this getting-the-names-right, getting-the-pronouns-right conversation."

The LGBTQ rights group Freedom For All says hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have gone before state legislatures in 2022.

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