A television show opens with a sex scene. From a dimly lit room, you hear the protagonist before you see him. He lets out a string of expletives because the condom broke and the girl isn’t on birth control. The couple goes to the store to buy a Plan B pill. The whole situation is awkward, believable, and hilarious in a yikes-glad-that-ain’t-me kind of way. But the situation in itself isn’t completely original or unheard of.
Yet the scene stuck out to me the first time I watched it. As I continued watching, I realized why the opening scene felt so important. Dev Shah, played by Aziz Ansari, is a sexual being. The first time he’s shown on screen, the series’ Indian-American protagonist is naked. And that in itself is what makes the show, “Master of None,” revolutionary.
I was driving back home from L.A. when Kendrick Lamar’s HUMBLE. came on the radio. After rapping along for a few minutes, as anyone with unrealized dreams of being a rap star does, I changed the radio station. Kendrick Lamar was playing. Again. This time it was the radio edit of m.A.A.d city. I changed the station. And—yes, you guessed it—Kendrick again, this time backed by Rihanna on LOYALTY.
Within the span of 10 minutes, I’d listened to three different Kendrick Lamar songs on the radio. Though it felt excessive in the moment, it’s not incredibly surprising. Throughout his career, Kendrick Lamar has had 28 songs break onto the Billboard Hot 100, including all 14 tracks from his most recent album DAMN. His music has frequented radio waves, college parties, workout playlists, and everything in between. But the Compton-bred rapper’s popularity begs a simple question: What is it about his music that makes it so popular amongst a broad, and largely non-black, American public?