An "Alright" Reflection
Falling short, but grabbing your friends — and having faith in something to be “alright” — is a universal human experience. Everyone wants to be alright.
In 2016, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly won the Grammy for Best Hip Hop Album, and people are still talking about. Although the entire album is largely regarded a masterpiece, it is particularly the track, Alright, that continues to inspire The Listening community.
“I’m f****d up. Homie, you f****d up, but if God got us then we ‘gon be alright!” Lamar opens just before the hook.
At the Listening, we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. We aspire to include everyone in our “Alright” narratives by engaging with their fears, insecurities, needs, and dreams.
So, where did we start on February 21?
Seasoned performers, new-comers, and hip hop fans from across Lynchburg attended at our first Open Mic event of the year for The Listening, Inc.. They shared their perspective of “Alright,” their personal “alright,” and how they got there.
For our first open mic session of the year, we are ready to hear from you! Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s song of the same title, the stage is ready and the mic is open to for what you have to say. Bring your song, your poetry, bring yo squad!
We are in a new year, and last year was a doozy for many of us. Let this be our energy all year - no matter what’s going on outside, no matter what tries to tear us down, we wanna declare loud and proud: WE GONE BE ALRIGHT!
(From the “Alright” Open Mic Announcement)
Below are a few of the stories from the night’s performers.
Rapper and motivational speaker, Jiggy M recounted his positive experience as what be refers to as being, the “hostess of the mostess.”
Referring to his role as MC, Jiggy M stated, “You guide the ship through the whole entire event. It’s not about you. I’m not always the dunker”. He explained the process of being a catalyst for sharing, motivating people to speak their truth, “How can I get this [the theme] out of people.”
He kicked off the event by sharing a piece about the struggles of adulthood.
“These customers love to disrespect. I’ll beat your *ss if I didn’t need this check. I just smile and let my teeth shine bright. You think that I’m alright. You think that I’m alright.” - Jiggy M
For Jiggy M, “Alright” is a better future and “a spirit of progression.” He is not upset by life's hardships. “I gotta be alright if wanna get to where I need to be” he closed.
Lacroy “Atlas” Nixon
For others “Alright” starts now. College senior, Lacroy Nixon, is a spoken word poet and incoming President of Bridging the Gap Urban Ministries. He described the open mic event as inclusive. “Everyone felt welcomed.” he said. According to Lacroy, attendees sang along to the Kendrick Lamar track, repeating “We gon’ be alright.” every time it played.
For Lacroy, “Alright” is “being able to sing in the rain.” “You scrape your knee and laugh about it with you friends” he added.
Lacroy described a call to action — a call for fearlessness. In his poem, “Boldness” Lacroy instills a message of justice. The poem describes speaking out against injustices. “Be bold enough to box with bulls in a china shop,” he spoke. He brings a message to inspire those who are scared to act now, and worry less.
Lacroy also emphasized friendship, faith, and community. He describes sojourning with his friends through college. “We struggle together,” he stated, adding “We’re all broke, and we’re all ‘bout out of [meal] swipes, but we’re all eating ramen together, laughing at the little things in life. We don’t even have enough seasoning packets for all the ramen, but we’re having the time of our lives.”
He shared a second piece entitled “I’m Vibin’.” He described it is a “...summer afternoon, driving down the coast of Long Beach California, drop top, hair flying in the wind.”
Everyone has their own unique vision of “Alright.” It is a brighter future. It is the sweetness of living in the moment. How can artists help remind themselves and their communities that an “alright” even exists? Communities everywhere need passion, honesty, and empathy. Communities need artists to take pride in themselves and others. Poet Michaya Toni answers the call to engage others in these ways.
“My life is a testimony and I desire to share it with the world” she stated.
Michaya was the evening’s first signature artist. “I knew I had to bring that fire. Fire that sets a trail ablaze, fearlessly piercing its light into dark places, ” she explained. Michaya studied Kendrick Lamar’s piece for weeks, fitting “...so perfectly with Black History Month.”
She drew parallels from his work to her own. Her mission was to capture of the essence of the all-familiar “We gon’ be alright” hook.
She began with “All my life I has to fight, sista!” nearly entirely quoting Kendrick Lamar’s opening lyric. “[They] carried us in chains and hung in trees but they forgot the forbidden fruit inside them seeds,” she later continues.
For Michaya, she makes sure no one is excluded from getting their “alright.”
“We got bidness to do. Let us speak life, walk in love, and be sharers of our light,” she closed.
Auntorio “Tori” Rucker
Michaya Toni was not the only poet to make a unique, yet strong, tribute to Kendrick Lamar. Poet Auntorio “Tori” Rucker, using the stage name “Kang Ruckus”, candidly addresses “...what has happened to us blacks that would result in us not being alright.”
Tori shared the undeniable realities of the black experience in America.
Closing his piece by quoting directly from Kendrick Lamar’s song, Tori represented the importance of art in communities with unique experiences or hardships, the importance of sharing, and our mutual emphasis on listening.
Alright: Getting There
The desire to be “Alright” may be universal. However, the journey to be alright is not. For some it is ugly, complicated, tragic, or hard to explain.
Oh, we gon’ be alright.
But the journey could be a lot less bumpy, if we chose to listen instead of ignore. These four artists are not the only ones with stories, guaranteed. They will continue to create and inspire, and we will continue to listen.
Whether your “alright” is now, or tomorrow. Wherever or whoever you are, you will not be excluded. You will be alright. We will be here to listen.