Should Have Been Bigger: Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar’s “Freedom”
In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.
With the Black Lives Matter movement (finally) taking root and Americans protesting the murder of George Floyd and systemic racism, one song comes to mind. Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s “Freedom,” the fourth single from Queen Bey’s AOTY-robbed Lemonade, demands change with a force and conviction that is quasi-religious. “Imma riot, Imma riot, through your borders,” Beyoncé belts in the second verse over Just Blaze, Jonny Coffer and her own electric production. “Call me bulletproof — Lord, forgive me, I’ve been runnin’, runnin’ blind in truth.”
Kendrick then steps in for a God-tier verse that rails against the status quo. “Open correctional gates in higher desert, pen our mind as we cast away oppression,” he spits. “Open the streets and watch our beliefs.” That takes us to the furious chorus, which is call to action. “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, freedom, cut me loose!” Bey howls over a sample of Kaleidoscope’s “Let Me Try.” “Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? ‘Cause I need freedom, too!” And who can forget her parting shot? “Imma keep running ’cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.”
“Freedom” undoubtedly ranks as one of the most powerful protest songs of all time, and deserves to be recognized and remembered as such. While the track only peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was lavished with critical praise and rewarded with a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance. (It should have won). Perhaps as the general public wakes from their slumber and starts addressing centuries-old cruelties and injustice, “Freedom” will get a whole new lease of life. Revisit the modern classic below.