The Throwback: Kendrick Lamar
The Throwback : Kendrick Lamar
This week’s Throwback isn’t one year. In fact it encompasses the last five years of rap music. We’re here to talk about YOU KNOW WHO of the the new generation of rappers. If your first thought is Iggy Azalea please see the door and don’t let it hit you on the way out.
Kendrick Duckworth Lamar is a lot of things. An incredible rapper, a dynamic lyricist, a former gangbanger and a walking contradiction. On his latest single “The Blacker The Berry”, he claims he’s a hypocrite in the fact that he wept over Trayvon Martin’s death but he once killed a kid blacker than him. He’s an angel on angel dust, a reformed, cerebral MC. Situated between Ab-Soul’s wordiness, Q’s swagger and stage presence and Jay Rock’s hood ethic and emotion; Lamar came out in a time full of rappers who were soft as linen. His crew and him staked a claim in the rap game that is uniquely singular in it’s approach, it’s acceptance and the music.
Despite his Lil Wayne inspired “C4”; which was released when Lamar still rapped under the name K.dot, Lamar’s first major piece of work was Overly Dedicated. With woozy laid back tracks like “Cutting You Off (To Grow Closer)” and the magnetic “Ignorance is Bliss” which is the cut that caught Dr. Dre’s ear in the first place. ScHoolboy Q even shows up on the track “Michael Jordan”. Utilising the mythical status of MJ’s dominance, Lamara went on to have MJ and Scottie Pippens on his “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe remix” cover that he collaborated with the Jiggaman himself, Jay Z. The 90’s references are strong in this lad.
If Overly Dedicated was an early showcase and Good Kid M.A.A.D. City was a trip down the memory lane and a blueprint; Section 80 was the statement of intent. It’s told to us multiple ways. Through hazy rooms and casual drug use (“A.D.H.D.), campfire interludes and speeches and of course, with high density bars. Tracks like “Ronald Reagan Era”, “Rigamortos” or “Hol’ Up” are all varying levels of fire; but “Hiipower”, produced by J.Cole, has Lamar spazzing over a hard as nails beat and shitting all over the music industry and shouting out Kurt Cobain and Lauryn Hill. Kendrick stands in the spotlight exorcising demons of the government, the media and the music industry that has crushed many an artist.
Sometimes albums reach classic status before the dust even settles. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the two Run The Jewels albums, Watch The Throne and Good Kid MAAD City all rose above the competition over the last few years to become more than simply a rap album. Lamar’s vivid imagery, use of skits to explain back story and his throwbacks to 90’s rap (peep the G-Funk outro on MAAD city and the MC Eiht feature) and 00’s gangsta rap.
On “The Art of Peer Pressure” when Lamar mentions Young Jeezy; he uses the music his homies and himself loved, to frame a picture of the moment and in a way, a generation. As he says, the music is “speaking a language only we know, you think it’s an accent”. Lamar went on to have Jeezy feature on a throwaway track released after the album dropped bringing it full circle.
Not everything that Kendrick Lamar raps about will make sense or resonate with everyone. But there’s amazing words here, a fascinating story and a talent that rap hasn’t seen for a very long time. There’s a reason he’s heralded as the next big thing. Rap isn’t low on talent. There’s stacks of awesome rappers with great projects even recently. The reason you should listen to Lamar’s discography and his new album is that there is an absolute guarantee that it’s food for the mind, soul and the ears. It’s a well-rounded meal that completely satisfies in most ways rappers could never reach.