Just when I thought hip hop was on the brink of death, one artist comes around and gives me hope that this genre is not completely going down a commercial drain.
My friends and I were talking about the dismal state of hip hop one day when they mentioned this cat named Kendrick Lamar and told me to check out his album because he is, as they claimed “tha truth.”
My friends are usually on point when it comes to hot records, and when they started quoting his lyrics as if they were verses from the Bible, I just knew I had to take a listen.
To the common, untrained eye, Kendrick Lamar is your typical gangsta rapper from Compton, LA who is trying to follow in the footsteps of West Coast rap royalty such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and NWA.
Yes, he may be Dr. Dre’s protégé and Compton genuinely runs through his blood, but his complex, vivid lyricism and masterful ability of storytelling puts him in a league by himself.
He takes the hardcore, violent nature of his childhood and schools everyone on how he made it through life without being involved in gangs and how his dreams of stardom kept him alive.
On good Kid, m.A.A.d city, his debut album for Interscope Records, Lamar plays on his ideal status as a morally upright kid from the hood by utilizing religious references such as on the first track, “Sherane, a.k.a. Master Splinters Daughter” in which the introduction is a prayer and then he goes off into a playful, but moody adventure of wooing a girl during his high school years.
His escapades continue on the mysterious “The Art of Peer Pressure” where the temptations of gangster life start to get to him as he raps “Really I’m a sober soul but I’m with the homies right now.”
And on “Swimming Pools, (Drank)” he puts an ironic spin on the dangerous influences of alcohol and instead of glorifying the idea of being in a state of intoxication, he warns young people not to overindulge in liquor just to look cool or drain their sorrows.
Now, this isn’t the type of rapper you encounter on an everyday basis. Kendrick is certainly not your average mainstream rapper. Although his goal is to make it big as a rapper, which is evident in “Black Boy Fly” where he envies the lifestyle of famous Compton natives like rapper The Game, he doesn’t let fame and fortune threaten his creativity.
I’m so glad that my friends led me to this young, emerging artist. Kendrick takes me back to the time when I first heard Kanye West’s classic The College Dropout album. I instantly was hooked on Yeezy’s hooks and his unique approach to telling a story through hip hop. That’s what I see in Kendrick and I look forward to hearing more from the young, L.A. artist.
I’ve heard people compare Kendrick to a young Tupac Shakur, the brilliant MC who took rap to another level. If anyone can get even a slight comparison to the late, great Tupac, then my guess is they are on the right path.