Kendrick Lamar, already having won five Grammys and awaiting announcement on six more, showed why he was the true best artist of 2015 with a fiery, politically charged performance.
After a glowing intro from Don Cheadle, Lamar shuffled out as the head of a chain gang and spat a free-jazz version of "The Blacker the Berry" on a set made to look like a jail cell. When the chorus hit, blacklights illuminated tribal paintings on the prison uniforms and African dancers joined in. Then, flanked by swirling dancers, he made his way across the stage to a burning pyre for "Alright."
Then, alone, with a tight closeup on his black eye makeup, he spat a new, untitled track. As it came to a close, a backdrop came up of an outline of Africa with "Compton" in the center.
It was a challenging, unapologetically black performance. And even if it wasn't the biggest statement of the Grammys, it would have been the purest, rawest performance. It was grand and ambitious and fiercely alive.