Hope for the Future as seen in “Beloved” by Tony Morrison and “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

After reading Beloved by Tony Morrison I was left with a sense of hope. Slavery is a gruesome and terrible time in America’s past. When writing about this period in our nation’s history, most author’s stress the inhumanity in the way that African American were treated. They describe the atrocities of the Slave Trade and the plantations. They point and say, look how these victims were abused, look at how bad things were.

Morrison, however, decides to take a different approach. She does not only focus on condemning slavery, but also on the growth and healing afterward. The novel is set a decade after the civil war. Therefore, it is more relevant and focuses on an issue we still deal with today: how to live after slavery. At the end of the novel, Sethe and Paul D, two former slaves that had worked at the same plantation, mend their relationship and try to live a normal life together. The book gives the reader hope for the future. Morrison shows that although this terrible thing happened to these group of people, we can survive and we can are strong enough to get past this.

The hope I got after reading beloved reminded me of another song by a more recent writer. Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” condemns the issues African American’s still face in the twenty first century:

I recognize you’re looking at me for the pay cut

But homicide be looking at you from the face down

What MAC-11 even boom with the bass down?

Here he talks about African American’s role in society as seen by White America. Although Kendrick is one of the most popular and influential rappers, he still feels he is only seen as a way for the record industry to make money. Similar to slavery, Kendrick is not seen as a person, but rather a tool to profit off of. With the next two lines he then focuses on the problem of gang violence and the nation’s ignorance to the issue.

However, just like Morrison, he still has hope for the future and knows that African American’s can overcome and survive racism. During the chorus of the song Kendrick says,

My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright

Although Kendrick is fed up with the state of oppression African Americans are in (“My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow”), he still has hope for the future that everything will work out (“we gon’ be alright”). Kendrick and Morrison’s focus on the future is empowering. If we only focus on the past, how can we grow?

Limit To Your Love

The song “Limit to Your Love” by James Blake is from his premier album James Blake. The speaker of the song seems to be a heartbroken person who is trying to understand and analyze why his audience does not fully love him. The audience is the person the speaker is most likely in love with. The song is very self explanatory. It is extremely concise with only three verses that detail how limited his audience’s love truly is.

The song highlights just how truly hopeless the speaker seems to be. Although, the song is three verses they are made up of the same 5 lines, which are:

There’s a limit to your love

Like a waterfall in slow motion

Like a map with no ocean

So carelessly there, is it truth or dare

There’s a limit to your care

The combination and repetition of the verses reinforces the feeling of hopelessness the speaker feels. You can tell through the lyrics that they are frustrated their audience does not care so deeply for them.

Of the 5 repeated lines, two of them utilize similes. “like a waterfall in slow motion” and “like a map with no ocean.” The careful choice of metaphor clearly depicts how their audience’s love is not complete. Waterfalls are loud and fast and a waterfall in slow motion would hardly be a waterfall at all. A map without an ocean would hardly be complete and lead one to be confused if they were trying to use a map to direct themselves or find an area. The metaphors show how lacking the love is the speaker is describing.

The speaker also utilizes what I would call “rolling diction” (which is a term I just made up). The L sounds that are used repetitively in “limit, love, carelessly, slow, waterfall and like” quite literally roll off the tongue. The contrast in the softness of the L sound and the cutting tone of hopelessness portrayed in the actual meaning of the words displays just how complex the speaker feels. Their audience has no love for them, but they compare it so such beautiful things but they are still trying to figure out the true depth of this limited love.

False Alarm

One song that stands out to me as poetry is “False Alarm” by Matoma and Becky Hill, in the album One In A Million. This song tells the story of two people in love, and the artists use assonance, imagery, and repetition to explain that when faced with an intense and seemingly scary relationship, sometimes the best outcome will come from jumping right in, because relationships like this are often misinterpreted.

Throughout the song, the lyrics “I’m dancing in flames, I ain’t scared of the blaze” is repeated many times. The words “flames” and “blaze” are examples of assonance, and they are both used to emphasize the words and draw attention to them. The emphasis of these words suggests a hardship and scariness that comes with the relationship that the speaker is getting himself into. There is sometimes a stigma around relationships that everyone getting themselves into a serious one will get hurt and that it is harmful, and this part of the song is clearly going along with that. The idea of this serious relationship seems like a scary, detrimental fire.

This is also linked to all of the imagery that Matoma uses throughout the song. Most of it stems from the constant references to flames and fire, and it paints the picture of how this relationship makes him feel. One line says “now I’m burning in your arms,” leading listeners to imagine two people wrapped in a fiery embrace, further hinting at the intensity that is caused by this relationship. He also includes a line about the “sirens in my head from the first time that we met.” This alone also depicts a strong image of this thing acting as a warning, or alert, something new, in the back of his mind when he first met this girl.

At first, this all seems to be slightly negative, but then, the repetition of certain phrases suggest otherwise. While a lot of lines are repeated throughout the song – the repetition of the line “But it’s not a false alarm” is one that stands out greatly. This repetition is a large hint that this relationship is not a “false” alarm, and that in reality, despite the scary parts established by the fire references, it is not going to be a disaster – it is real. While the assonance and references to flames depict a terror and hesitance, this line talks that down and suggests that this isn’t always a negative thing, because this relationship is the real deal and is something very special. It even goes a step further to suggest that all of this fire that seems to be suggesting pain, is actually not pain, but the intensity and passion of the relationship.

Instead of ending on a negative note, burning to flames in the arms of someone who brought you there, it emphasizes the passion brought on by relationships, and how this can oftentimes be misinterpreted to be something to run from.