Kendrick Lamar’s highly anticipated new album includes a personal, if problematic, song about his transgender relatives.
In the song “Auntie Diaries,” from his new record “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” Lamar raps about his uncle and cousin — portrayed as two important and beloved characters in his life — who are all two trans.
The response to the track was sharply divided: Although Lamar is praised for acknowledging trans people in a positive way, he is also heavily criticized. Some listeners have taken issue with Lamar misinterpreting his relatives – Lamar uses both the pronouns “he/him” and “she/her” interchangeably for the two family members. Other critics point to her use of her cousin’s former name and repeated use of anti-LGBTQ slurs.
“My aunt became a man and I was proud of that,” Lamar said on the new track, saying he had “gotten used to” his uncle’s transition as a youngster.
He says later in the song that his uncle was the “first person (he) saw writing a rap”, introducing him to the art form he would eventually dominate.
Lamar also mentions his “favorite cousin” and their transition and how he “still loved them”, although the relationship between the two was strained for a time because his cousin “wasn’t comfortable” with him. .
When Lamar addresses his past use of homophobic language, he uses the f-slur repeatedly throughout.
“I told them F-bombs, I don’t know any better,” he said at one point, later referring to an incident at a concert when a white fan used a racial slur onstage while rapping over one of Lamar’s songs.
Variety music critic Jem Aswad hailed “Auntie Diaries” as a “powerful and life-altering statement on transphobia” and Lamar’s changing views.
But the song was not uniformly praised among listeners. Some called it “transphobic” and “selfish” for Lamar to focus on a story about his trans relatives while repeatedly using incorrect pronouns and a slur, while others defended it as the reflection of Lamar on his past and his love for his family. Still others said that, flawed as the song was, it was significant to hear a rapper of Lamar’s caliber – he’s the only rapper to win a Pulitzer for his work – say he supports trans people. .
Preston Mitchum, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, spoke of his mixed reaction to the song.
“I’m grateful he spoke out for love and acceptance for trans brothers – even after admitting what society did to them first,” he said. tweeted. “The [slur] dumped me because that’s not his word to use. But that’s his point of view in the end.
The song was released at a controversial time for trans rights: according to a March report, states had introduced more than 200 bills targeting LGBTQ people, especially trans youth.
Reviews for the long-awaited “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” keep rolling in, but “Auntie Diaries” is already one of his most talked about songs. Lamar has just announced a world tour in support of the album, starting in July.