The day of Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance, the soon-to-be-seven-time winner saw his completed show for the first time at dress rehearsal. He took in what the rest of the world would see in just a few hours: Four shackled men dressed as inmates (the “Chain Gang,” as Lamar’s team called them) -- blue on blue, white sneakers and cornrows.
The intro to Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry” blared urgently from the speakers as UV lights switched on to reveal African Surma and Mursi tribe-inspired designs, thickly painted on top of their uniforms. As the saxophone and drum beats transitioned “The Blacker The Berry” into “Alright,” four women -- wearing straw skirts, matching anklets, ornately beaded Maasai-inspired neckpieces and red African Himba tribal markings “to represent the color of the earth and blood” -- stomped and spun in unison in front of a bonfire. The lights shut down. A white outline of Africa appeared on screen, “Compton” written in black lettering in the middle of the continent. Dianne Garcia, Lamar’s friend and stylist for over three years, had realized Lamar's stylistic vision for one of the most politically charged Grammy performances ever.
Billboard spoke exclusively to Garcia, an L.A native and stylist for over eight years, about the symbolism permeating each look, the challenges of working with glow-in-the-dark paint (“it was quite disastrous”) and how Lamar “deserves all the good that comes from this performance.”