Kendrick Lamar is inarguably one of today’s biggest rap stars. The genre-bending wordsmith has been one to watch for in the years following the release of his debut album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, evolving from promising emcee into an artist who consistently dominates “highly-anticipated” forums. In the days leading into what very well may be the arrival of his fourth studio LP, we take a look at ten of the jewels that K. Dot has dropped off — “like Martin on Blue Streak.”
10. “What the Deal”
Even as a teen, Kendrick's passion was undeniable. On his mixtape Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year, he rips through the likes of Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ” and Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” But “What the Deal” stands out the most. The track is borrowed from Lloyd Banks’ debut The Hunger for More, and suits the freestyling emcee quite well. Lamar is an absolute bully on the beat, ironically channeling 50 Cent’s younger days. Filled with bouts of hyper-violence (a matter of perspective) and creative wordplay, it’s clear that ol’ Kendrick was hungry! And if you listen closely, you’ll hear the man that he would later become.
9. “Young & Black”
Flipped by Sounwave for a beat that even DJ Premier couldn’t have perfected any more than he already did, this is a standard “beats, rhymes, and life” effort for Lamar. The product that closes out the Carter-inspired C4 finds K. Dot reveling in being — you guessed it— a young black man, with dreams, aspirations, and inspirations like most people. Throughout his verses, he is clearly dedicating himself to a craft that is finally paying off, yet he’s still bound to life’s moments of general contemplating.
8. “Cartoon & Cereal”
If you’ve ever… you know… sat in front of a television for too long then this one makes total sense. Trippy and elusive, Kendrick raps from a much younger perspective as he recounts the moments in his life where his state of mind is relegated to simply eating cereal and watching cartoons. While the concept sounds rather innocent, Lamar realizes just how reality-warping television is. Throughout the track Lamar likens himself to the "Loony Tunes" favorite Road Runner, recognizing the real world Wile E. Coyotes who are out to kill him. The dope wordplay elevates the record from a general run-of-the-mill, anti-everything approach to becoming a realm-bender. How does one decipher the difference between Zion and the Matrix? Ask Kendrick.
7. “Ronald Reagan Era”
An 80's baby, Lamar correlates his experiences with Ronald Regan’s infamous run as the 40th President of the United States. Haunting, emotional, chaotic, and beautiful, Lamar’s knack for storytelling is on full display, placing listeners on one hell of a ride. Ad-libs provided by both Ab-Soul and RZA add a real world essence to Kendrick’s frenetic flow, itself guided by an explosive beat. The record is fast-paced and extremely visual, helping it stand out on the classic that is Section.80. “Ronald Regan Era” feels like being the only sober passenger riding dirty in a hooptie with the windows rolled down.
6. “The Art of Peer Pressure”
A highlight of K. Dot's Compton tale on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City is "The Art of Peer Pressure," an intense retelling of a home invasion that results from him and his homies enjoying a night out on the town. Though he may have been enjoying himself, hindsight is a b---h, to say the least, as Kendrick is more than aware of the looming downfall that would result from him living recklessly for the sake of hanging out with his friends. Like many records in his catalog, Kendrick is in a position to teach his listeners what not to do, how to be your own person, and recognize the difficulty in saying "no."
One of K.Dot's best attributes is his natural ability to share the wealth. He's extremely vocal about understanding the importance of one's loving of self. That's the greatest takeaway from this record and it should be for you as well. Just listen.
4. "For Sale?"
Lucy (no relation to Lucille Ball) is in pursuit of Kendrick Lamar, and her power is tantalizing. Lamar is being heavily pursued by the Devil, who has taken a female form in order to seduce him. She promises him riches and well-being for himself and his family. While he listens to her, he fights the urge to cave in to her allure. She's everything and more, but his faith in God is still compromised as, per the song, she "knows the bible too."
3. "Mortal Man"
One of Kendrick's more introspective records, the rapper looks at life with a new pair of eyes. Post-Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick now walks in the shoes of a rap star, and the voice of a new generation, and in doing so he learns of the false support that men before him had to deal with. "When shit hits the fan, are you still a fan?" he asks, noting icons such as Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Michael Jackson, whose positive influence was corrupted by the masses. Kendrick views himself as next up in that lineage of celebrity, yet he is aware that he may very well face the same hate, criticism, and negativity that those men did in their lifetime. Lamar dedicates the song to Tupac Shakur and in his "conversation" with his idol, the precise meaning of To Pimp a Butterfly is revealed and once you've allowed your psyche to process the knowledge being shared on the record, there's no turning back.
On the final track of Section.80, Kendrick wears his heart on his sleeve and like a viking battle cry, urges everybody to put their fingers in the air and scream "HiiiPoWer." Backed by some masterful production from J. Cole, K. Dot breaks the world down in a few bars, spitting, "get up off that slave ship, build your own pyramids, write your own hieroglyphs." The track is the bridge between his work on Section and GKMC, a young man on a mission and willing to compromise for no one. And the most frustrating aspect of the song is...
We're still waiting for the collaborative album from Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
1. "good kid"
Often overlooked by the greatness that is "m.A.A.d. city," "good kid" is a very definitive take on the life of Kendrick Lamar. It summarizes everything about who he was and is. Despite the circumstances surrounding him, Kendrick will always live to tell the story. Divided into three verses, with additional vocals provided by Pharrell Williams, Kendrick speaks on three distinct situations, all of which find the emcee trying his hardest to stay afloat, from surviving the traps of the streets, being assumed as a gang member by police, to believing he's lost his way, period. Kendrick's heart has always been pure and the scars he has obtained over the years aren't just flesh wounds, they're mental as well.