Sometimes modern day music seems all too plastered in bells and whistles that it somewhat misses the beauty of what music really is. It can be hard to know what is truly “the artists” work and what is actually the work and wizardry of producers, songwriters and labels behind the scenes, moulding the artist into what the people want to hear.
Kendrick Lamar on the other hand, oozes with originality and integrity. After shaping his sound climbing the shaky ladder of the underground hip hop blog world, he has blossomed into one of hip hops best storytellers of the modern day. Its been refreshing to hear a rapper reflecting on the flaws and demons inside his head, rather than sugar-coating his life with how many women he has, or cars in his garage. Wether it be the discrimination of black people in north America or the harsh realities of growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood, Kendrick brings a poetic intimacy to reflecting on his life, that somehow we can all relate to.
Quite rightfully, over time the world has grown to appreciate Kendrick’s talent. His first two releases ‘Overly Dedicated’ and ‘Section .80’ were well known underground hip hop mix tapes and received very high critical acclaim, but never really had the same real mainstream success that his most recent releases have had. It wasn’t until his first full length studio album ‘Good Kid m.A.A.d City’ with the backing of a big mainstream label, that Kendrick blew up into one of the biggest (if not the biggest) rappers of the 21st century.
The album beautifully follows young K.Dot‘s (Kendrick Lemar’s former rap and childhood nickname) life experiences growing up in Compton. It takes the listener through a rollercoaster of emotions, from fooling around with girls, being shouted at by his mother to a very dark and sinister recollection of burglary and drive-by shootings. By the end of the album the listener feels so close to the story that you can relate to the experience no matter who you are or where you’re from, and for me that is what makes Kendrick Lemar such a credible artist.
His follow up album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ received the same response, grabbing the number 1 spot on the album charts in The US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. TPAB had the same authentic hip hop feel throughout yet expanding upon the sound by including a full jazz band throughout. Kendrick tackles a lot of issues throughout the album, and much like GKMC they vary in complexity whilst still remaining significant and current.
From the opening track ‘Wesley’s Theory’, where Kendrick reminisces about being a young rapper ‘When I get signed Imma gunna act the fool’, to tracks like ‘u’ that throw open the door into his most personal thoughts,
and shows a truly fragile side to a man that has achieved everything the young ‘Wesley’ type kid wanted ‘I fuckin’ hate you, I hope you embrace it, I swear’. The album continues to follow Kendrick’s emotions and feelings as he slowly comes to accept himself in at the end of the album ‘i’ singing to the world ‘I love myself’. It truly is an incredible album and well worth a listen.
At the Grammy‘s this year Kendrick gave a performance that will go down as one of the best ever, and really rounded off the success he has had in recent years by winning 5 Grammy’s for his To Pimp A Butterfly works. He had such an incredible night at the Grammy’s it quickly prompted NBA star LeBron James to tweet the Top Dawg Entertainment‘s CEO Antony Tiffith:
“After that @kendricklamar Grammy performance, you have to release those untitled tracks asap!!!”
Tiffith replied that he needed a couple of days to think about it and 9 days later
the world was treated to ‘untitled unmastered’, a collection of 8 tracks of various stages of completion, that didn’t make the cut on TPAB. The tracks follow a very similar theme to its predecessor and tackle the same themes too, resenting his wealth and ego, and voicing his standpoints on faith, police brutality and black America. The album should not really be seen as an ‘album’ but more so a B-sides to TPAB. It wonderfully shows a glimpse into the recording process of TPAB, and if nothing more the quality of the cuts from the album and just how seriously Kendrick pursues his art. You can check out all of Kendrick Lemar’s released works below.
Kendrick Lemar Albums