Kendrick Lamar is many things—talented MC, leader of the West Coast hip-hop renaissance, eternally outspoken—but noted dancehall connoisseur, not so much. So we were a bit surprised to learn that his latest track, “The Blacker The Berry,” features a hook from Kingston’s own Assassin (a.k.a. Agent Sasco) over a typically dark and sparse Top Dawg beat, from Terrace Martin and Boi1da. It works incredibly well though, Assassin’s gravelly voice adding extra edge to an already-intense song.
Though his appearance on “The Blacker The Berry” might seem to come from leftfield, TDE’s actually no stranger to raggamuffin vibes—Schoolboy Q’s 2013 tune “Banger” features a reggae sample and a “buddy bye” refrain. Further back in Compton rap history, in the Death Row era everyone from Snoop to Dre to Cube was dropping dancehall-tinged tracks.
And Sasco is already known to astute hip-hop heads via his uncredited appearance on 2013’s Yeezus—a cameo that nonetheless brought him into the international limelight. He’s been on his fair share of hip-hop tracks since then, from a “Turn Down For What” remix to a Wu-Tang joint. Here, his vocals add more than just aesthetic freshness—while the lyrics of “The Blacker The Berry” effectively indict all of America for its culture of entrenched racism, Assassin’s verses help turn the song’s scope global.
Listen to his LargeUp Sessions appearance from last year, and run “The Blacker The Berry” below.