In this paper, I examine a performance that the bluegrass musician Chris Thile gave of “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, a song with strong themes of policy brutality that is associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. While Thile approached the song with respectful intentions, the performance nevertheless received strongly negative reactions. In this paper, I examine the performance and its reception. I ask whether Thile should be accused of cultural appropriation, and whether or how any white person could perform such a song without facing a similar accusation. Finally, I explore this debate’s ramifications for music educators who wish to engage hip-hop, where issues of race and identity are immediate practical concerns. I examine how we might reconcile the performance traditions of school music with the norms and values of hip-hop culture, specifically, the requirement that performers “keep it real,” only speaking to their own truths and identities.
"Chris Thile, Kendrick Lamar, and the problem of the white rap cover,"
Visions of Research in Music Education: Vol. 35, Article 14.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lib.uconn.edu/vrme/vol35/iss1/14