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Auntie Diaries meaning explored as Kendrick Lamar drops trans ‘ode’

Bruno Cooke May 13, 2022
auntie diaries meaning
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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Auntie Diaries is the sixth track from disc two of Kendrick Lamar’s fifth studio album, Mr Morale & The Big Steppers – what is the meaning of the song’s name and lyrics? Specifically, what does Kendrick’s cousin Mary-Ann mean when she tells him there “ain’t no room for contradiction”?

Why fans are calling Kendrick Lamar’s Auntie Diaries ‘barrier-breaking’

Kendrick Lamar’s latest release, Auntie Diaries, tells two stories. First, the rapper recounts his relationship with his “auntie” – a trans man – who was the “first person (he saw) write a rap”.

“That’s when my life changed,” he continues. His friends didn’t get it. They “stare at her in the face / They couldn’t comprehend”. But he “took pride in it”.

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“My auntie was a man now, we cool with it / The history had trickled down and made us ig’nant.”

Lamar goes on to relate how his “favourite cousin” said “he’s returning the favour / And following my auntie with the same behaviour”. In other words, his cousin is also transitioning – or has also transitioned.

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Demetrius is Mary-Ann now: What’s the meaning behind Lamar’s Auntie Diaries?

In discussing his cousin’s transition – the lyrics suggest they were born male (and named Demetrius) but identify as a woman (and now call themselves Mary-Ann) – Lamar comes to terms with his own deficiencies as a supportive family member.

He talks about the use of homophobic slurs in school – “Middle school kids with no filter… I didn’t know any better”. But his mindset appears to have changed as a result of his sensitivity towards his cousin’s gender identity and sexuality. 

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As one Genius contributor notes, Kendrick appearing to “fight to overcome his conditioning” might serve as an “allegory for hip-hop culture”, which suffers from homophobia.

But perhaps the most significant revelation is Kendrick Lamar’s cousin Mary-Ann challenged him on an apparent “contradiction” in his attitude. 

What happened that made Kendrick Lamar’s cousin Mary-Ann challenge him on a ‘contradiction’

During his 2018 Hangout Music Festival performance, Lamar brought a white fan onstage to rap with him. 

The fan did so. Together, they started to rap m.A.A.d City. The track’s lyrics contain 21 instances of the N-word. When the white fan used the word multiple times, Kendrick challenged her, saying, “You gotta bleep one single word.”

Watch the video below. Credit to the Genius contributor who located it:

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So what is the real meaning of Kendrick Lamar’s cousin’s challenge in Auntie Diaries? Mary-Ann encourages the rapper to “switch position” – “we can say (the F-word) together / But only if you let a white girl say (the N-word)”.

By and large, Kendrick’s fans have reacted positively to the track. One hailed it as an “ode” to his trans family member(s) – see above. Meanwhile, Pink News reports others have called it “barrier-breaking”.

However, Kendrick has also come in for criticism for his use of a derogatory term during Auntie Diaries. Read some of the comments and arguments here

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.