Kendrick Lamar's widely anticipated performance stole the show at Monday night's Grammy Awards and made a powerful statement for African-Americans and Compton natives.
The music artist — who took home five Grammys himself — used the awards show as a platform to give what USC Clinical Professor of Communication Christopher Holmes Smith called an "unvarnished depiction of Afro-centrism."
Smith, who specializes in popular culture, and race and ethnicity, said award shows may be "hold-overs from a by-gone era of entertainment," but the ceremonies continue to gain power as a tool to encourage conversation around complex issues because of their ability to reach the masses.
Lamar performed pieces of his songs, "The Blacker the Berry," and "Alright," both of which appear on his award-winning album, "To Pimp a Butterfly." He ended by debuting a new song that references the death of Trayvon Martin and the state of society in terms of racially-charged violence.
Martin was a 17-year-old Black high school student in Florida when he was shot and killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of second-degree murder.
As Lamar approached the microphone, he and his backup dancers were dressed as beaten up prisoners in shackles surrounded by men in jail cells.
The performance opened with his song, "The Blacker The Berry," with lyrics that include the lines "your plan is to terminate my culture" and "drop our bodies but you can't lock our mind."
He then broke free of the jail shackles and his performance moved into an African setting and his song "Alright," which featured fire burning in the background and dancers performing traditional African movements. In "Alright," the lyrics "We gon' be alright," are repeated multiple times, sending a message to the Black community that no weapon will prosper in the presence of perseverance.
Lamar followed "Alright" with the new song, which says Martin's death set society back 400 years.
The performance concluded with Lamar standing on the stage in silence with the lights off, but with the attention focused on a continental display of Africa with Compton written in the middle.
"Kendrick's performance was a stunning unapologetic display of blackness and of the African core of the Black American experience," said Smith.
Soon after the performance, Twitter exploded with tweets acknowledging Lamar's performance and posting various interpretations. Many reactions indicated hope for the Black community after seeing a public figure like Lamar acknowledge the controversial issues in the media. The White House even tweeted to Lamar with the hashtag "#MyBrothersKeeper."
Kendrick was talking about Trayvon Martin when he said “February 26th I lost my life too 2012 set us back 400 years”. My heart. — Bbyg (@BlvckConscious) February 16, 2016
Lamar also won five Grammys Monday, including Best Rap Album for "To Pimp A Butterfly."
In his acceptance speech, the rapper gave a nod to the hometown to which he remains closely connected.
"Top Dawg," Lamar said thanking his record label, "we'll never forget that–taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton and putting them right here on this stage to be the best that they can be. We'll never forget that."
In an answer back, on Tuesday the marquee of Centennial High School displayed a congratulatory message to its former student.
"It's poetic justice to see a good kid avoid hood politics and reach hi power," the message read. "Five Grammys make us feel we gonna be alright, too."
Watch Lamar's performance on Pitchfork.
Reach Staff Reporter Anissa Claiborne here.