No Compromises

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Media Outlet: The New Yorker

So Kendrick Lamar will lead, but who will follow? It’s increasingly unusual for an artist to make something that seeks to charge and infuriate and baffle an audience in such an unrelenting way. We are much more accustomed to nonfussy art that demands to be liked or shared, bold-faced ideas that are ultimately safe and substance-free, political punditry that feels like overheated playacting. It’s rare, especially as we debate issues of authenticity and appropriation, for a popular artist to draw such a firm (and firmly political) line in the sand—to make art that imagines an “unmitigated blackness,” art that rejects the possibility of a single, liberal “we.”

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Hua Hsu is a New America fellow, working on a study of immigrant culture and American ideas around diversity. He is an associate professor at Vassar College, a contributor to the New Yorker, and an executive board member of the Asian American Writers Workshop.