by Zach Schonfeld, Newsweek
During the 1980s, U2 became entranced by America. Especially Bono. Though born and raised in Ireland, the singer obsessively mined the United States for lyrical inspiration. His gaze fell frequently on lingering injustice: civil rights struggles, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder, greedy televangelists. On Rattle and Hum, the band's messy 1988 sorta-soundtrack, the obsession expanded to include gospel ("Angel of Harlem") and blues ("When Love Comes to Town") and high-profile guest appearances from an older, more settled generation of classic rockers: Bob Dylan, B.B. King, even Jimi Hendrix's ghost (in the form of a "Star Spangled Banner" excerpt).
During the 2010s, Kendrick Lamar chronicled the bruised and broken promises of life in White America on rap albums drenched in jazzy paranoia. On 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, he set his ruthless critiques to sprawling, sputtering funk-inspired beats. On tracks like "Alright," Lamar nodded to the Black Lives Matter movement and the swell in public attention to police shootings of black men. Butterfly inspired everyone from David Bowie to Kanye West to Barack Obama, who publicly expressed admiration for "How Much a Dollar Cost."
Now it's 2017 and lyrics about racial injustice are still disturbingly relevant and U2 is among that settled generation of classic rockers making high-profile guest appearances. Here's proof: Kendrick Lamar--who was not yet born when The Joshua Tree first came out--has gone ahead and featured U2 on his anticipated and enigmatic new album, DAMN.