Kendrick Lamar’s Jaw-Dropping Performance Set Tone For Politically Charged VMAs

Kendrick Lamar’s Jaw-Dropping Performance Set Tone For Politically Charged VMAs

If MTV is setting the tone for a politically charged VMAs, opening the ceremony with Kendrick Lamar rapping about police brutality was a smart move.

Sunday’s ceremony kicked off with a medley of tunes from the Compton, Calif. rapper’s no. 1 album DAMN., including “DNA” and “Humble.” Lamar’s lyrics frequently touch on issues of police violence against communities of color, which has made his fourth album into a protest anthem under Trump’s America.

The minimalist production on display was interrupted by a man on fire, a manifestation of the anger seething underneath Lamar’s lyrics. “Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA/I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA,” he raps on “DNA.”

The iconic music channel has made headlines in recent years for attempting to lean into a more socially conscious mindset with its yearly awards shows.

MTV president Chris McCarthy extended an invite to transgender troops affected by President Donald Trump’s recent signed ban on trans military service. At least six are expected to attend tonight’s ceremony. The service members walking the red carpet tonight include Brynn Tannehill, Jennifer Peace, Sterling James Crutcher, and Akira Wyatt, as well as married couple Logan and Laila Ireland.

Earlier this year, the MTV Movie Awards announced that its acting categories would be gender neutral. The first trophy went to Emma Watson for her performance in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast.