Kendrick Lamar is firing back at his critics ... telling us they're using his BET Awards performance to stir up fake controversy -- instead of focusing on the real message of his new hit song, "Alright."
Kendrick squarely responded to pundits, like Geraldo Rivera ... when he came on TMZ Live on Thursday. He opened the BETs by rapping on top of a vandalized police car -- and Geraldo accused him, and all hip-hop, of hurting black youths more than helping.
Check it out ... 'cause Kendrick didn't pull any punches. His point -- the cop car was just a side dish, the real meat of his performance was giving people hope.
For what it's worth ... the "Alright" music video is pretty badass.