October 22, 2012, marks one of the most important days of my life. On this day, an album was released that made me rethink everything that I knew about hip-hop. This, of course, marks the release date for Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.
Up until that day I had no idea who Kendrick Lamar was or what he sounded like. This album was my introduction to his mind and style. At the time I picked up Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the only Kendrick song I was familiar with was “Swimming Pools”, which I knew exclusively from the radio play it received. One of my main attractions to the album was the appearance of Dr. Dre. When I saw that Dr. Dre was featured on the tracks “Compton” and “The Recipe”, I decided to give this record a listen and immediately fell in love with this project. The story presented on this project is real and the emotions are representative of a young and cautious Kendrick Lamar.
This album made me a huge fan of Kendrick Lamar and even made me interested in more rappers from Compton such as The Game and YG. Less than a year after Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was released, Kendrick Lamar decided to flip the rap game on its head once more.
On August 14, 2013, Big Sean released “Control” as a single for his sophomore album Hall of Fame. The song featured Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica, but the song was primarily stolen when Kendrick Lamar decided to call out many of the current successful rappers. Lamar listed 11 rappers from J.Cole to Tyler the Creator and stated that he will not be outclassed. Kendrick Lamar’s statement drove the internet insane and prompted many to respond to this legendary call out. This song is undoubtedly one of the most important modern hip hop songs to ever come out and sparked such a great deal of controversy that it would be hard to think otherwise.
2015 was a year of deviancy for Kendrick Lamar. With the release of To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar hit the world with a politically charged album which examined themes of racism and mental health all set to the tune of jazz. The project came to us in a time where inequality and division in our country were at an all-time high and helped to bring these issues to light. This album is remarkable for its discussion about inequality and racial tension in his neighborhood but also the neighborhoods of the country. Every song on this album tells a story with a purpose. They’re all unique in their own right and deserve to be on the record, no song feels out of place. To Pimp a Butterfly is considered one of the most important records to ever be released. Kendrick’s sophomore album is considered to be so monumental, that on January 31st of 2017, it became one of the first four rap albums to be archived at the Harvard Library alongside three other hip-hop classics: Nas’ Illmatic, A Tribe Called Quest’s, The Low-End Theory, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
However, 2017 would yield the return of the gritty, loud and wild sound of Kendrick that fans love on his latest project, DAMN. DAMN. was released on April 14th of 2017 following the sudden release of Lamar’s hit single “HUMBLE.” “HUMBLE” was just the tip of the iceberg, showing that Kendrick Lamar had drifted from the jazz influence seen on his previous album, and back to his more grimy roots. DAMN is full of exciting, diverse bangers and stadium anthems with powerful messages, making it a force to be reckoned with. The album was so incredibly well received and popular that it went platinum in only three weeks. Once again, Kendrick has turned the industry on its head and created a new standard for every rapper in the game to challenge.
It is quite easily seen that the 29-year-old rapper from Compton is one of the most prominent figures in music history. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth will live on to be considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. The constant and prolific evolution of his style is unlike any other which results in legendary albums and more importantly, the messages that he must spread to his listeners. Kendrick Lamar forcefully took the crown and challenged the world in 2013 and so far, not one single rapper comes close to dethroning this icon.