From a track off his new album, Auntie Diaries, Kendrick Lamar is talking about his experience growing up with a transgender uncle and cousin in his family. Some online critics have taken issue with the language Lamar employs in the song, but overall it is being seen as a powerful and meditative reflection on transphobia in his family and Lamar’s personal journey to being fully accepting of these people in his life.

Lamar’s first verses discuss him growing up with an aunt that later transitioned to male. He consistently begins his verses by framing them with, “My Auntie is a man now.” These verses got into how Lamar looked up to his uncle and discussed his experiences with how homophobia was normalized in school bullying in a way that he had to work to unlearn.

He also noted that members of his family became more aggressive towards his uncle after he transitioned. Lamar even mentions that his trans-uncle was one of the first people he saw writing rap lyrics in part of a verse in which he said, “The first person I seen write a rap / That’s when my life had changed.”

Some have criticized the rapper for this line, “Back when it was comedic relief to say f–––ot, f–––ot, f–––ot, we ain’t know better / Elementary kids with no filter however.” But Lamar is obviously not condoning the use of the word, and reflecting on a time when he used it that he is now reflecting was wrong and inappropriate.

Lamar then goes on to discuss his cousin’s transition, now framing the verses with “Demetrius is Mary-Ann now.” Some also have pointed out to using the name “Demetrius” as an example of deadnaming a transperson, which is when you employ their pre-transition name against their wishes. However, Lamar is likely using this frame as a self-condemnation for ways that he failed his cousin.

This is supported by how Lamar raps about the distance in their relationship. “We didn’t talk for a while, he seemed more distant / Wasn’t comfortable around me, everything is offensive / But I recall we both had a sick sense of humor / Made raw, but time changes all,” Lamar rapped.

The song comes to a climax with a compelling set piece set in a church, where Lamar rails against a Preacher who apparently outed his cousin Mary-Ann. It’s a good, victorious moment, but Lamar isn’t just framed as a savior of the moment and ends with a musing about his use of the “F-bombs,” both in his childhood and throughout this very song.

The song ends with Lamar drawing a comparison between his use of the f-word with a time he yelled at a white fan for coming onstage at his concert and singing the n-word in one of his songs. “To truly understand love, switch position / ‘F–––ot, F–––ot, F–––ot,’ we can say it together / But only if you let a white girl say, ‘n–––a.'”

Lamar’s track is earnest and unflinching, and even if there are elements of the songwriting that are a little uncomfortable, his message is ultimately very strong

Read more about: