Oakland- Jeff Chang & Daniel Levin Becker discuss Kendrick Lamar's new album

Oakland Events

Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland welcomes Jeff Chang and Daniel Levin Becker to the store to discuss Kendrick Lamar's new hip-hop album, To Pimp a Butterfly, on Monday, April 6th, at 8pm. 

Hip hop is an important vehicle and idiom for understanding not simply the value and language of youth today, but more importantly the currents of many levels of culture seen and unseen (social, political, racial, etc.). Reflecting on his mix-tape release, "Section.80" (2011), and his critically lauded followup, "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" (2012), Kendrick Lamar has insisted his songs are best listened to and understood as poems or stories. It's hard to listen to either of these albums and not disagree. (Recently, Pulitizer-prize winning author Michael Chabon took Lamar at his word and wrote a thoughtful annotation to the final lines of Lamar's sneak preview track, "The Blacker the Berry."]

Kendrick Lamar weaves complex narratives -- of love and violence, wrongs gone worse and others redeemed -- alongside braggadocio and swagger. To many, he is one of the greatest rap lyricists recording; for others, he is increasingly controversial for his social commentary. One needn't "like" the music or approve its "message" (as though either quoted words mean any one thing), though, to recognize something needs to be ... cries out to be ... heard. He describes himself particularly well in his important final verse from "Ab-Soul's Outro" (note: explicit lyrics).

We're inviting Jeff Chang and Daniel Levin Becker not simply to celebrate the music, but to grapple with it as a form of literature. You can expect the conversation to be truly unique, fun, & at times explicitly raw (note: which is why we're doing this after our official closing hour). We're inviting you to come and contribute. We'll listen to music, to one another, and possibly hear something we weren't expecting. 

Jeff Chang is a journalist and music critic on hip hop music and culture. He is the author most recently of Who We Be: The Colorization of America, as well as the award-winning book, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. He was also a founding member of the Solesides record label, which was the home to acts like DJ Shadow and Blackalicious.

Daniel Levin Becker is a writer, translator, and critic of various stripes (cultural, musical, literary). In 2009 he became only the second American ever elected member of the French literaryworkshop, Oulipo. He is the author of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature, and is currently the reviews editor of The Believer.

Event date: 
Monday, April 6, 2015 - 8:00pm
Event address: 
Diesel, A Bookstore in Oakland
5433 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618-1502
Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312571290
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: St. Martin's Press - October 21st, 2014

Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation Cover Image
By Jeff Chang, D.J. Kool Herc (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9780312425791
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - December 27th, 2005

Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780674065772
Availability: Special Order - Please call to confirm availability
Published: Harvard University Press - April 30th, 2012