Another Neighbor (Poem)

I remember you were afflicted

Misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power for only self-interest

Self-Interest that turned into a deep obsession

I found myself blissfully unaware in my matchstick mansion

I didn’t know I was about to combust

The evils of Lucy was all around me

So I ran from the answers

To chase the spark I hadn’t felt in so long

But that didn’t stop the turn of consequence

Going back and forth looking at the bridges I’ve burned

Or maybe who the author of this fire was

And while that home we had built was burning around me

I ignored all of them

Embracing a cycle of self-sabotage and greed

It made me want to run back into that burning home that I had built

Unable to see the fire was my own creation

Just because the next house you build doesn’t feel like that home

Doesn’t mean it can’t become your home

Hoping for warmth from the ashes doesn’t mean that warmth is denied to us

If I may welcome you, make yourself at home by the fire

But shit I don’t know

I’m no betting man

Maybe I’m just another neighbor.

-Dan Glennon (ZiggyStarscream – Twitter and Instagram)

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part IV

This is the fourth part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. (link to the first part here, second here, and third here)  My friend Dan Glennon (@ZiggyStarscream) on Twitter and Instagram has been working tirelessly for many weeks to write these entries for my readers. I hope you all enjoy, and I present to you Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part IV. If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Thanks for your continued support!

DAMN: The Opine Comedy – Saint Kendrick’s Faustian Odyssey: Part One

Kendrick’s third album, ‘DAMN.’ is the most layered of his albums to date. There are actually multiple stories that this album tells as it is flushed with subtle details to the narrative of Saint Kendrick. From social and political commentary to cultural trends, Kendrick uses each song to make a point on a particular subject while interweaving a subtle narrative of the two paths that Kendrick had available to him after his first break into entertainment business success; the path of righteousness, atonement for moments of weakness, and growth into the Saint of Compton or to follow the material and gluttonous life that Lucy offers and succumb to the wickedness inside of him. Kendrick speaks of the human experience as well as the internal struggle inside him. ‘We’ put him on a pedestal and shoved him into the role of Saint Kendrick in the first place and now he speaks of his internal struggle and the consequences of his actions just as his ‘disciples’ deal with every day.

The best way to describe the mood that the album kicks off with is on “BLOOD” which is a dreamlike state. Kendrick speaks very slowly as if he had just woken from or fell into a deep sleep. The song is rather short as it serves as an intro/outro track to the two narratives. The fact that he is killed by a blind woman is symbolic in two regards. First is that a woman was the one that kills him; Lucy. But the additional fact of her being blind could symbolize ‘Lady Justice’ which is her most notable trait given the widely used figure of speech in American vernacular, “Justice is Blind.” This plays into the other key component in ‘BLOOD’; the outro featuring Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera and others quoting his lyrics to “Alright” from his previous album in a framing that makes him seem like another figurehead to place blame on for the rot of the inner city where in reality Kendrick is trying to rise above and be more than that figurehead that they portray him as. Saint Kendrick is trying to deliver his people out of the darkness and to the sunnier side of the American dream.

After the sample from Fox News, the song abruptly ends and leads into “DNA.” The blistering verbal assault from Kendrick is an affirmation of who he is and where he comes from as he proudly steps into the spotlight from the cocoon that had institutionalized him. He quickly fleshes out the world that he had come from and proclaims that he is, in fact, going to take what the world has given to him and use it. Kendrick acknowledges throughout the song the negative aspects of himself and his humanity and how he will not change for his circumstances because he is in those circumstances because of who he is in his DNA.

While largely about his upbringing and the effects of his environment on who he is as a person, Kendrick does not ignore the religious ties in the song:

“I was born like this, since one like this
Immaculate conception
I transform like this, perform like this
Was Yeshua’s new weapon”

-DNA

This little stretch is crucial to the character of Saint Kendrick. He is stating that he was chosen since birth to lead this movement which is a reference to Luke 1, in where an angel appeared to Mary and foretold of that she was chosen by God to bring his son into the world and his name shall be Jesus (paraphrasing here of course). One curious thing to me personally about the bible is that after the story of Jesus as a 12-year-old boy in the temple at the end of Luke 2, there is a nothing on the life of Jesus until the age of 30 with his baptism in the river Jordan. I have always thought about that 18-year gap of time. The Christian belief is that Jesus was all God and all Man. For all of his divinity, he was still but a young boy when he first showed that he was the Son of God. How would any normal human at that young an age could you imagine handling what Jesus had to? And he hadn’t even hit puberty! I personally believe that this gap of time could be Jesus struggling personally to accept the role that he has been given as the savior of man. Jesus was the Son of God but he still had to mature into adulthood just like any other man.

Kendrick was seen as the Son of Compton and just like Jesus in the temple at the end of Luke 2 with Kendrick’s first flash of talent and as well as establishing his voice in Section 80 he did not have the luxury to have a gap of 18 years because that was not the world we lived in. Kendrick’s ascension to his role as the Savior of Compton was gradual and chronicled through the social struggle in Good Kid mAAd City: A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar as well as the internal struggle in To Pimp A Butterfly. The world was a witness to Kendrick’s growth from childhood to a man willing to bear the weight of being the one to lead Compton and the culture forward to salvation. Kendrick ends the song with a prophecy of sorts:

“Tell me when destruction gonna be my fate
Gonna be your fate, gonna be our faith
Peace to the world, let it rotate
Sex, money, murder—our DNA”

-DNA

He speaks that he is doomed to the fate of destruction much as Jesus knew he

was to sacrifice himself to forgive the sins of man but also warns of the possible destruction of those around him if they surrender to their old ways that have institutionalized them inside the mad city.

The next song on the album, YAH, essentially shows the level of complete exhaustion that Kendrick has been dealing with. He speaks of how he is pressured for his thoughts and his actions are scrutinized to a level no one else can fathom. At the end of the song, he leaves one line “I know he walk the earth” which is an interesting line because it could be a reference to God himself as Kendrick has an encounter with him in How Much A Dollar Cost? Or it could be a reference to Lucifer but not in a personal sense as the character Lucy appears to be. Afterwards, he laboriously talks about falling back into the material world that he is climbing out of.

Kendrick unleashes his anger at the world and specifically the state of hip-hop in ELEMENT. Reveling in his state as the best rapper in the world he criticizes how other rappers’ potential is nothing close to Kendrick’s as he verbally beats down the game until he ends with “On my last LP I tried to lift the black artist / But there’s a difference between black artists and whack artists.” Biblically this connects to Jesus walking into the temple to find it turned into a market and not a place of worship. Both Kendrick and Jesus looked at the state of their pedestals to speak and preach from only to find it corrupted and distorted from its original purpose. At this point in Kendrick’s narrative as well as the New Testament both Kendrick and Jesus have now fully accepted their roles as leaders of something greater than themselves.
FEEL is the next song on the album and it is very reflective and presents Kendrick as the ‘wholly man’ with his own words instead of the extrapolation of text as is the case with Jesus (or lack thereof if it is assumed this struggle for Jesus’ coming to terms took place in the unrecorded 18 years). Kendrick is angry and struggling to understand how to control his anger. While he has assumed the role of Saint Kendrick already but the weight of influence can be a bitter burden. Focusing a lot of his material world anger out on the world that Compton and the black community by proxy are hampered by. The “school to prison pipeline”, government influence in the flooding of urban areas with drugs and even insignificant arguments such as who’s the best rapper are the objects of Kendrick’s judgment. He states that he knows he is the best and everyone knows he is the best in the world so that is why he is in the position he is in; the Savior of Compton. So why do people worry themselves with pointless endless arguments thinking about who is the best but not actually listen to what the artist is saying? Kendrick’s music is not only a perfect representation of this idea but on FEEL, he essentially screams it from the lyrics. A parallel to Tupac is stated by Kendrick when he is thinking about how Tupac was trying to tell the world his message but the world only heard his delivery. The path that Kendrick has chosen to follow both professionally, culturally and personally is one that has Tupac as the guiding post but he was killed at the age of 27 and now all Kendrick has to go on is what his image of “Tupac” would think and feel in the world they both came from.

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part III

This is the third part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. (link to the first part here, second here)  My friend Dan Glennon (@ZiggyStarscream) on Twitter and Instagram has been working tirelessly for many weeks to write these entries for my readers. I hope you all enjoy, and I present to you Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part III. If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Thanks for your continued support!

To Pimp A Butterfly: The Culture and the Cross

Okay now, this is the part where things get interesting. Let’s set the stage. Kendrick Lamar is a now established artist who is getting praised as the next Tupac. His conscious rhymes and storytelling are unparalleled to everyone out there today. With all of that, Kendrick had the mantle placed on him as he was pushed to the podium. Mic check, mic check, this is the new face of black culture in America; Kendrick Lamar. Now think about it this way. A young man in his early 20’s gets a huge influx of money, notoriety, prosperity and of course more responsibility. Kendrick reminds us frequently that is his merely a human being. These same stressors that ‘we’ deal with on a daily basis, Kendrick deals with too. Shoved into the spotlight and asked to hold the world, he retreated. This is an album of the internal struggle inside the real Kendrick Lamar as he deals with being asked to be the champion. He was introduced to be hip-hop’s savior. ‘Savior’ is a lot to ask of one man.

To Pimp a Butterfly is an extremely dense album full of themes, style, and ideology. From the production aspect, Kendrick brings sounds from all across the African-American culture. With jazz, funk, soul, r&b and various eras of hip-hop all being brought together, sonically it sounds like an opus to the black culture. Using situations in the political and social atmosphere during the release of the album in 2015, Kendrick creates the wasteland of circumstance that he leads the listener through on a journey of self-reflection as he, himself, wrestles with the weight of responsibility that he has been forced to bear.

Reflecting the world around him of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and social marginalization, Kendrick chronicles the aftermath of his success from his first album. He stole the crown as the greatest rapper in the world and the focus of the world turned onto him. Kendrick was the good kid that came out of Compton who made it out. The album is structured around a poem that is progressively revealed as the album continues. We are brought through multiple different arcs of how Kendrick dealt with the changes in his life and how he was seen as someone to vault forward the culture as the next great voice.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence…”

The first stage takes place during the first three songs; ‘Wesley’s Theory’, ‘For Free? – Interlude’, and ‘King Kunta’. This is essentially the id response for Kendrick. His first thoughts are the glamorous benefits of his success. He could now get the cars and clothes he never could. VIP trips around the world with award shows. Kendrick could bring all the ones he met along the way. The good kid made it out of Compton and can lead the city with him to the promised land. Did I mention the money? Conversely weaved throughout those same songs is the institutional and social structures put in place through the pressure of those around him, bureaucratic influence or unspoken sociological rules that have been in American culture for generations that place black Americans in a position to fail.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same…”

With his newfound success, Kendrick could come back to Compton as the king of hip-hop but he has yet to experience the backlash of his actions. This is where the second arc of the story is introduced. Kendrick realizes that he not only has fame and fortune but he now has influence socially and most dangerously, power. He tells us the story of how he brought his friends from back home to an award show only to have one of them attempt to rob some of the high profile events. The friend explains himself by saying how else would he respond? Never had he been around that type of wealth while he sees people in his immediate world struggling because of factors that are largely beyond their control? The other story we are told is one of Kendrick and a girl and her baby daddy.. Beautifully told through metaphors, Kendrick tells us of his sexual relationship with this young woman. Towards the end of the song, Kendrick reveals that this woman has a child with the man who killed Kendrick’s friend during the song ‘Sing About Me’ on Good Kid mAAd City and Kendrick is the reason that that man is now serving life in prison.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your infuence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power full of resentment

Resentment that turned into a deep depression

I found myself screaming in the hotel room…”

Struggling with the weight of his responsibility and how easily he could abuse his newfound power, Kendrick contemplates how the world perceives him as opposed to how he is as a human being. Is he the voice that they think he is? Kendrick finds himself in moments of weakness where his actions produce real and tangible consequences.. Kendrick turns inward on his own consciousness to open up the past events that put him where he is today, mainly on the death of his friend during the story arc of Good Kid mAAd City. Despite this depression, Kendrick reminds himself of the world he comes from is one where the struggle was the environment. With a natural survival instinct and the tools to fight back, Kendrick really back.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power full of resentment

Resentment that turned into a deep depression

I found myself screaming in the hotel room

I didn’t want to self-destruct, the evils of Lucy was all around me

So I went running for answers…”

This is probably the most important portion of the poem as far as the underlying plot of Kendrick’s work as this piece is written to highlight. This is where we are introduced to the villain in Kendrick’s story; “Lucy.” She is personified as a wealthy, connected and beautiful woman who has taken an interest to Kendrick.

What’s wrong nigga?
I thought you was keeping it gangsta?
I thought this what you wanted?
They say if you scared go to church
But remember
He knows the bible too…

…My name is Lucy Kendrick
You introduced me Kendrick
Usually I don’t do this
But I see you and me Kendrick
Lucy Give you no worries
Lucy got million stories
About these rappers I came after when they was boring
Lucy gone fill your pockets
Lucy gone move your mama out of Compton
Inside the gi-gantic mansion like I promised
Lucy just want your trust and loyalty
Avoiding me?
It’s not so easy I’m at these functions accordingly
Kendrick, Lucy don’t slack a minute
Lucy work harder
Lucy gone call you even when Lucy know you love your Father
I’m Lucy
I loosely heard prayers on your first album truly
Lucy don’t mind cause at the end of the day you’ll pursue me
Lucy go get it, Lucy not timid, Lucy up front
Lucy got paper work on top of paper work
I want you to know that Lucy got you
All your life I watched you
And now you all grown up then sign this contract if that’s possible”

-’For Sale? – Interlude’

The bolded lines are the portion of the intro and Lucy’s monologue that reveals who she really is. Kendrick Lamar is not surprisingly a devout Christian as well as faith being a central piece of black culture. The first part is a reminder that ‘He’ knows the bible as well. This is referencing Satan or in this case, ‘Lucifer’. Clearly, Lucy was not talking about Kendrick’s biological father but God. The final part to unpack is the last line where Lucy asks Kendrick to sign a contract. The classic myth in American folklore is there is a crossroad down in the Mississippi River delta where you can go to meet with the devil who will grant you one wish in exchange for you signing away your soul. This legend has been around for well over a century (at least) and has been retold or paraphrased in countless ways. Borrowing the idea from this myth, Kendrick creates the character of ‘Lucy’ to be the embodiment of the devil himself.

“I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers
Until I came home…”

Kendrick watches his hometown struggle from his vaulted pedestal and knows that he can do something. He speaks during ‘Momma’ a verse that echoes the idea he spoke back on Section 80 but with the added idea that his distance has started to isolate him from the world that he called home:

“I know everything, I know myself
I know morality, spirituality, good and bad health
I know fatality might haunt you
I know everything, I know Compton
I know street shit, I know shit that’s conscious, I know everything
I know lawyers, advertisement and sponsors
I know wisdom, I know bad religion, I know good karma
I know everything, I know history
I know the universe works mentally
I know the perks of bullshit isn’t meant for me
I know everything, I know cars, clothes, hoes and money
I know loyalty, I know respect, I know those that’s Ornery
I know everything, the highs to lows to groupies and junkies
I know if I’m generous at heart, I don’t need recognition
The way I’m rewarded, well, that’s God’s decision
I know you know that lines from Compton School District
Just give it to the kids, don’t gossip about how it was distributed
I know how people work, I know the price of life
I know how much it’s worth, I know what I know and I know it well
Not to ever forget until I realized I didn’t know shit
The day I came home”

‘Momma’

While he helps his hometown as much as he can, Kendrick realizes that there is little he can do to change it for the better unless he takes a stand against the systems in place that poison the water in Compton and prevent it from blooming into what Kendrick believes it can be. He sees the people who want ‘realness’ from hip-hop but don’t look for it. He sees the political deadlock that he compares to nothing more than a gang war that plagues his hometown. Kendrick now sees everything and more importantly after seeing the pitfalls of those who came before him and the wasteland that his city has become as a result he sees the work of Lucy.

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in a hotel room
I didn’t want to self-destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivors guilt
Going back and forth
Trying to convince my self the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting
A continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one…”

Kendrick became increasingly angry as he saw more and more things eating away at his city from the inside. He became cynical and jaded. One night as he was leaving a gas station Kendrick was approached by a homeless man who asked for a single dollar. Kendrick went to his car and closed the door but he did not leave as for some reason these two men had their eyes locked and could not look away. The homeless man spoke to Kendrick with a pointed and prophetic choice of words.

“He said, “My son, temptation is one thing that I’ve defeated
Listen to me, I want a single bill from you
Nothin’ less, nothin’ more…

 

…Starin’ at me for the longest until he finally asked
Have you ever opened to Exodus 14?
A humble man is all that we ever need
Tell me how much a dollar cost?”

-’How Much A Dollar Cost?’

Now to understand this reference it is necessary to have the prior knowledge of the biblical story of Exodus where Moses leads the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt with a few verses in particular that are especially poignant. This story applies to Kendrick in this particular situation as he is being viewed by the world as someone who is meant to lead the entire culture forward. However, unlike Moses, this is not something he has chosen to do. Beyond the weight of the cross but he walks through the desert with Lucy following closely behind. Kendrick has embraced his selfishness and put his self-preservation into the forefront of his mind. Walking the soft and gradual path into Lucy’s arms, Kendrick is pulled back by something unexpected from this homeless man.

My selfishness is what got me here, who the f*ck I’m kiddin’?

So I’ma tell you like I told the last bum, crumbs and pennies

I need all of mines, and I recognize this type of panhandlin’ all the time

I got better judgement, I know when nigga’s hustlin’

Keep in mind, when I was strugglin’, I did compromise

Now I comprehend, I smell grandpa’s old medicine

Reekin’ from your skin, moonshine and gin

Nigga your babblin’, your words ain’t flatterin’, I’m imaginin’

Denzel be lookin’ at O’Neal

Cause now I’m in sad thrills, your gimmick is mediocre, the jig is up

I seen you from a mile away losin’ focus

And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy

You looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”

I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”

He looked at me and said, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free

You’re lookin’ at the Messiah, the son of Jehova, the higher power

The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit, the nerve
Of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost
The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss, I am God”


-’How Much A Dollar Cost?’

After this incident, Kendrick has a new outlook on his role in the world. He knows that he has power and a voice that can be heard. Taking a strong stand against colorism inside the black community, gang violence, public perception of black people, and police brutality. Kendrick makes an observation that while there are systems in place to hold back the black culture and neighborhoods however he also sees that the culture is not helping itself with the way it currently lives in American society.

“I been wrote off before, I got abandonment issues
I hold grudges like bad judges, don’t let me resent you
That’s not Nelson-like, want you to love me like Nelson
I went to Robben’s Island analysing, that’s where his cell is
So I could find clarity, like how much you cherish me
Is this relationship a fake or real as the heavens be?
See I got to question it all, family, friends, fans, cats, dogs
Trees, plants, grass, how the wind blow
Murphy’s Law, generation X, will I ever be your ex?
Floss off a baby step, mobbed by the mouth a bit
Pause, put me under stress
Crawled under rocks, ducking y’all, it’s respect
But then tomorrow, put my back against the wall
How many leaders you said you needed then left ’em for dead?
Is it Moses, is it Huey Newton or Detroit Red?
Is it Martin Luther, JFK, shooter you assassin
Is it Jackie, is it Jesse, oh I know, it’s Michael Jackson, oh

When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
That nigga gave us Billie Jean, you say he touched those kids?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?”
-’Mortal Man’

With little guidance as he stepped into this role, he turned back to his role model and his similar path. In what can only be described as a prayer, Kendrick completes the poem and reads it to Tupac Shakur. Kendrick asks Tupac several questions in some ways to lead the people from the desert. Finding some sense of comfort from this discussion, Kendrick reads one more poem that was written by a friend of his that inspired the album.

“I wanted to read one last thing to you. It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world. It says:

‘The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots, such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same.’

What’s your perspective on that?
Pac? Pac…? Pac!”
The interesting thing about this album, planned or not, is that Kendrick was 27 years old when it was released. Tupac was killed when he was 27 years old. In a state of silence afterward, as the album comes to an end Kendrick realizes that beyond this point, he is alone in walking this path but embraces all that comes with it. At this point, Kendrick is anointed and from here onward he walks as Saint Kendrick.

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part II

This is the second part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. (link to the first part here)  My friend Dan Glennon (@ZiggyStarscream) on Twitter and Instagram has been working tirelessly for many weeks to write these entries for my readers. I hope you all enjoy, and I present to you Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part II. If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Thanks for your continued support!

Each of Kendrick Lamar’s albums adds to his overarching narrative of his life and how he lives in it. There is progress in each album as Kendrick grows into his role as the voice of hip-hop but also as an icon of a culture. To truly understand how his works’ impact and originality, the storyline must be placed in less subtle and symbolic way to be fully understood. Kendrick does not make this storyline explicit or easy to understand. Through wit and wordplay is his mastery of the craft, as well as an understanding of the context of the world, is he able to develop his world.

Section 80 introduced Kendrick Lamar to the hip-hop world and helped to place him on the radar of popular culture long before being in the center of it. His foresight into his trajectory in his storytelling, intentional or not, is astounding. This album is where Kendrick introduces himself and a taste of the world around him. Keisha is the first character outside of himself that Kendrick introduces into his world. A young girl who moves on to prostitution at a very young age. As her story progresses she finds herself involved with a variety of clients, run-ins with police as well as one client that would take her life. Keisha was murdered and left to die on the street. Kendrick wrote this song to tell her story to his little sister. Kendrick does not come from a good place in the world but he acknowledges that he is capable of improving it. The theming of the narrative is formed in its infancy; the Good Kid in the mAAd city that becomes something greater than himself and his struggles with understanding his place in the world. As a human being, the same as you and I, he could have been a victim or a savior of the place he came from and the people he stands for. He understands that he is a rarity to break from his early living environment. Kendrick knows that for some reason be it religious, coincidence or just dumb luck that he has been given this opportunity to speak but also with the fame and fortune that goes along with it. He could have developed into another “what happened?” in the allure of the dark side of fame and the wickedness of the world. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions after all. Or could his follies merely be moments of weakness that he can learn from and continue upward with more experience than before.

Now the full story can actually be told.



The Good Kid in the mAAd city: Setting the Stage

 

The second album’s full title is ‘Good Kid mAAd city: A short film by Kendrick Lamar.’ There are many people who would be great at reading into the deep intricacies of every plotline and seeing all the cryptic messages unfold. Often times the voyeur of these symbols and messages will heap unwarranted, over-blown, under-supported or even just seeing much more than is there. A good example of an artist playing with this idea is the famous painting by René Magritte, The Treachery of Images. Magritte pained what appears to be a pipe with the caption painted below, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”, French for “This is not a pipe.” The paradox of the image to the words painted below create a strange combative nature between the image and the words as they still share the same space on the canvas. The open-air interpretation of a vague contradiction could start in one part of discussion and end in an entirely separate place. This painting is a perfect example of an artist hiding a message and allowing for human curiosity and imagination to pull meaning from it themselves. Presenting a narrative in a piece of art is often done in a subtle, nuanced way.

MagrittePipe
Good Kid is not one of those times.

Kendrick states from the beginning that at the beginning that this album is to be listened to as if it was a film. The bars were to be seen as the script and you listen for the scenes. The brilliance of that is for this transformative technique of the media demands that his wordplay is at a high enough level to make a vivid picture of what was going on in each scene. Tied together by skits in between to lead to the next scene, the audience’s mind is placed into a different realm if reception; that of a film as opposed to that of a piece of music. To understand what the album is talking about in each song, the context must be established. This requires the audience to be an active listener and most importantly, listen to the context of the album itself. Essentially, sit back and listen to the movie. As his first major debut album, Kendrick established a precedent for his future works being conceptual and requiring an active listening experience. With a huge commercial success with this idea in mind of active listening and an album as a whole, Kendrick’s future works coming from the same conceptual, holistic approach would be readily accepted and the audience would be prepared to take in as more than just a few tracks tied out over wax. This is the very foundation of the cinematic nature of Kendrick Lamar; we are brought in through a movie and each continuation is seen as such.

The narrative of the album is that of a day in the life of Kendrick’s character inside of Kendrick’s world. Through the slice of life story that Kendrick shares, he shapes a vivid image of what it was like to grow up in Compton and how it shaped Kendrick’s view of the world and how it blended into Kendrick’s world that he was building and opening to us. It is important to understand that the ‘Kendrick Lamar’ in the album’s storyline is not actually Kendrick Lamar. The story takes place as an amalgam of Kendrick’s experiences growing up in Compton. Compton’s lifestyle is long chronicled in hip-hop. By taking a collection of life events he experienced growing up in that environment, he developed a chain of events that stemmed from Kendrick’s decisions navigating through the world. He created a plot.

The actual plot of the album is one that is actually not a ground-breaking concept. Movies like Boyz in the Hood and Straight Outta Compton have given us a window into the lifestyle. By giving us a window the mind now has images to associate with a storyline of similar ilk. The idea of “a day in the life” wasn’t even new to hip-hop; Ice Cube did that already. What differentiates Good Kid? Kendrick presents himself as the total antithesis someone buying into gangster aesthetics and appeal. Kendrick never wanted to be like them but he grew up around it and his authenticity shows. The album takes a new spin on several old concepts which simultaneously gives credence to those who came before Kendrick while in turn, the established artists welcome him.

As for the content of this piece, there are only small segments of this album that actually are continued and weave the real story that Kendrick tells through his future pieces. First, the album starts off with young men praying for forgiveness and promising to follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps. The religious overtones are immediately established. The very first lines from his first major album release are his prayers to God, asking for forgiveness. Christianity and the story of Christ and these religious references are the glue that binds Kendrick’s narrative. While this album merely brushes the idea into the story of the good kid, the ideology is now established.

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part I

This is the first part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. My friend Dan Glennon (@ZiggyStarscream) on Twitter and Instagram has been working tirelessly for many weeks to write these entries for my readers. I hope you all enjoy, and I present to you Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part I. If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Thanks for your continued support!

It is truly amazing if you think about it. At the heart of every culture lies those who can speak and lead the culture, fostering new ideas into this zeitgeist of the culture. The culture starts a movement that affects greater society and those are lead by the strong-voiced and courageous. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan or Dave Chappelle each left something in the fabric of their area of culture, whether they wanted to carry the cross of leadership. Thoughts of the unknown as well as those of contraband of those like Plato or Descartes echo through history and help people make sense of the absurd string of coincidence that we call life. More modern examples of those who make us challenge our thoughts do exist in people like Elon Musk, Jon Stewart, and Malala Yousafzai. Each one of these people in all different aspects of life has made an indelible mark on humanity that will be felt forever. Some of them continue to do so. To find an artist to create a sound that lasts forever is a rare trait to find. Finding a writer who can make you think and expand and challenge your vocabulary, thoughts, and beliefs is not a gift that everyone has. It is a rare find that only a handful of great artists, thinkers, and leaders progress the arts and culture as much as these people have.

And then there’s Kendrick Lamar.

“See a lot of y’all don’t understand Kendrick Lamar
Because you wonder how I could talk about money, hoes, clothes
God and history all in the same sentence
You know what all the things have in common?
Only half of the truth, if you tell it
See I spent twenty-three years on the earth searching for answers
’til one day I realized I had to come up with my own
I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m not on the inside looking out
I’m in the dead fucking center, looking around
You ever seen a newborn baby kill a grown man?
That’s an analogy for the way the world make me react
My innocence been dead
So the next time I talk about money, hoes, clothes
God and history all in the same sentence
Just know I meant it, and you felt it ’cause you too are searching for answers
I’m not the next pop star, I’m not the next socially aware rapper
I am a human mothafuckin’ being, over dope ass instrumentation
Kendrick Lamar”

Kendrick at the end of his first album set a template out for exactly what he was going to show the world in his music. Whether the scale of it was known at the time to us or even Kendrick himself, but this foresight at the end of his debut album set the world that Kendrick would guide us through with his music. Kendrick is a human being with joys and sorrows, triumph, and struggles, just like all of us and he echoes this throughout his music. He never presents himself as something he is not. His use of multiple points of view in his narratives does, however, give it several more layers of depth. We know who Kendrick is and we know how Kendrick feels but throughout each song, interlude, album and beyond but he shows other sides and perspectives and characters. We know that the story is being told by Kendrick and it is Kendrick’s story but he also never lets us forget that there are other people in this world inhabited by him because he is just like one of us. It’s these recurring characters that develop a piece of music and art that crosses through each of his works. Kendrick develops a theatrical world that, through his music, exists in a way that is reflective of ours but still wholly his. This is the reason that listening to a Kendrick Lamar album has that sense of cohesion at the end; the cinematic nature of his songwriting and storytelling.

An Album Fit For a King

With movie soundtracks taking center stage recently with movies such as Bright and Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, the once quiet genre is finding itself a new home in 2018. The release of Black Panther The Album is an incredible feat curated by the man himself, Kendrick Lamar. Since the release of DAMN in 2017 and a slew of awards and nominations during this year’s Grammy’s, Kendrick Lamar has been seemingly unstoppable when it comes to making the highest quality of music. This month saw the release of Black Panther The Album on February 9th and the hype and praise have been growing stronger ever since.

With Kendrick Lamar at the helm of this project, his voice and style lead the way on each song and set up some insane hype songs fit for King T’Challa himself. With the album starting off with Kendrick speaking about culture and the king-lifestyle one can tell the theme of this album is exactly what Black Panther represents: culture. Black Panther is the symbol of culture in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe and has given fans a figure to believe in and represent their culture on the big screen. With a cast of almost all African-American’s, the symbolism and culture that the movie is going for is already set to satisfy, however, the album must also do the same to be worthy of the film it accompanies.

Black Panther The Album sets out to represent culture, life, and royalty in 14 songs and a length of 49 minutes, but does it meet these requirements? I’d say that the album does that exactly and that it raised the bar more than usual due to Kendrick Lamar’s creative talent and unending urge to outdo himself on each album he releases. The 14 songs that are on this album each deserve their spot as they each represent a different side of music.

This album serves as a vehicle to move the audience from hype to hope as each song shows a new side of being the Black Panther. Songs like “X” and “Paramedic” serve as bangers for the album while songs like “Bloody Waters” and “Seasons” serve to invoke the true emotion and feeling that comes with being the king of a nation. Each song is relatable and suggests that everyone has the opportunity to be the king of their own life and can lead things their way.

Overall, if you’re a fan or not of Marvel and the Black Panther film, I highly recommend this album. This album gives the people what they want: culture and quality music from the mind, heart, and soul of Kendrick Lamar himself.

I’d also like to thank fellow writer Zada for her suggestion of this article and feel free to check her site out here: Molasses.

17 Songs of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One song allowed per artist. Only songs I can see myself playing in the future. Only songs from January 1st – December 31st.

17. Lonely – NAV

NAV isn’t the best rapper, nor should he be. NAV is all about his ego, but that’s what makes NAV one my favorites this year. His unconventional and sometimes hilarious talk about drugs, money, and women make NAV a unique yet familiar artist. NAV still somehow manages to create “Lonely”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs of this year. This slow yet hype song invokes sadness and a sense of loneliness more than any other NAV song. “Lonely” is the ultimate song to rage to or to cry, it sets NAV apart from other identical artists and gives him a reason to continue with his outlandish songs.

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16. One More Light – Linkin Park

This song earns its place on my list because of its purpose and relativity. With the passing of one of my idols, Chester Bennington; I find myself coming back to this song more than any other Linkin Park song. This song is just a reminder that life is only temporary and every action makes waves. “One More Light” transcends conventional Linkin Park music and instead ends up becoming what can only be described as a conversation from artist to fan. Chester Bennington’s sincerity to be there for others and caring about their lives and issues are just another reason why this song deserves its place and why Chester Bennington’s passing has been very tough for me to get through.

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15. Frank Ocean – Mir Fontane

I found this song to be intriguing within the first 30 seconds, the rest of the song just rides that wave. I found this song by mistake while attempting to listen to Frank Ocean, so after 30 seconds I realized I had found a hidden gem. Mir Fontane can surely sing, and his rapping is rather solid which backs up his name dropping of Drake, J. Cole, and notably Frank Ocean. While Mir is good he’s not as good as Frank Ocean, however, his disappointment of people favoring them over him is legitimate. I enjoyed Mir Fontane’s album Camden and I cannot wait for what he has to offer moving forward.

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14. Too Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith

Sam Smith has returned, and in a tremendous way too. Sam Smith bolsters his sad tale of failed relationships with grand execution. This song is one of the most heartbreaking songs of this year, complete with a choir to invoke emotion from even the hardest of listeners. Sam Smith knows what he’s good at and yet on “Too Good At Goodbyes” he multiples those strengths. With a solid album following the release of this single, it’s simple to see why music needs someone like Sam Smith to shake it up every few years.

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13. Flood Watch – Juicy J

Juicy J surprised me with this beautiful song back in August, and to this day it continues to amaze me. From start to finish this song is enthralling with its melodious piano which ironically creates one of the slowest hype songs ever made. As usual Juicy J knows how to make an exquisite chorus which is only further exemplified when Offset drops his verse. Leave it to Juicy J to make hits each year, and leave it to me to appreciate said hits.

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12. Outlet – Desiigner

I absolutely love Desiigner, and I love “Outlet” because of that. I first heard “Outlet” when it was teased last year and I proceeded to listen to that tease on repeat for hours on hours on end. Desiigner created one of the most exciting and loud songs of this year and because of that, he deserves my praise. Pre-existing bias aside, “Outlet” is just a song to enjoy and dance to, at the end of the day. Desiigner has found his niche in the fast and loud sound here’s hoping he continues it into next year and with the release of his debut album coming in 2018.

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11. Rockstar – Post Malone

All controversy aside, “Rockstar” is one of the greatest songs to come out in 2017. Post Malone unquestionably knows how to make hit songs, and “Rockstar” is just another testament to that statement. Post Malone’s particular vocal range and talent, mixed with one of the greatest beats the year has seen and topped off with a feature from 21 Savage it’s safe to say this song was going to explode no matter what. The rhythm and execution of this hit makes you want to get up and dance and feel reckless just like any rockstar would.

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10. Fallen – Jaden Smith

So much can be said about this song, whether it’s the simple music video or just simply the vibe; “Fallen” has it all. This slow song is one the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever been fortunate enough to listen to. Jaden Smith knows music and he knows rhythm, “Fallen” directly taps into his knowledge to deliver the smoothest song of 2017. Being such a divergent song in comparison to the rest of SYRE, “Fallen” is just another reason why I believe this year belongs to the new generation of talent.

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9. As the World Caves In – Matt Maltese

Matt Maltese is one of the most underrated musicians to appear in the past five years. “As the World Caves In” tells a detailed account of the end of the world due to war. This song is all too real in today’s political climate which the Matt Maltese taps into to create a brand new emotion for the listener to experience. Having a song implement emotions such as stress and anxiety is quite the feat for any artist, even for someone like Matt Maltese. Matt Maltese is on a path to success with each release being something I look forward to, it’s easy to see why he deserves a spot on this list and my eternal admiration.

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8. Chanel – Frank Ocean

After a prestigious comeback in 2016 with the release of Endless and Blonde, Frank Ocean immediately went back to work on singles and features that have been sprinkled around over the year. This all started in March when he released “Chanel” seemingly out of nowhere. “Chanel” is Frank Ocean at his best; complete with illustrious vocals and a slow beat which Frank Ocean has always benefited from. “Chanel” is the Frank Ocean we love and expect to see in 2018.

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7. Ric Flair Drip – Offset

Coming off the immensely hyped surprise release Without Warning project, Offset and 21 Savage are at their best when they come together to make this album, however, one song stands above the rest. “Ric Flair Drip” is singlehandedly the best song Offset has ever put out or even been a part of. The production by Metro Boomin is superlative in comparison to the rest of the album. In less than three minutes, Offset delivers some of the best verses, chorus, and ad-libs of his career thus proving that not only is he the best Migo, but that he also can make a song worthy of my top 17 list.

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6. GUMMY – Brockhampton

Brockhampton came out swinging this year with multiple consecutive album releases this year, however, “GUMMY” from the Saturation 2 is my definitive favorite song by the collective. This song has everything you’d expect from Brockhampton but yet sounds like something you’ve never heard before. With off the wall production combined with powerful verses this song is the ultimate Brockhampton track.

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5. LUST – Kendrick Lamar

Picking just one song from DAMN is almost impossible. Each song is set apart in a multitude of ways and makes this decision almost inconceivable. I decided “LUST” is the one song I can truly pick from DAMN after a huge tie with almost every other song on the album. Kendrick Lamar outdoes himself on DAMN and had I not implemented a rule for one song per album, this whole list very well could’ve been DAMN. While “GOD” was my favorite song going back into the album, “LUST” required many listens to justify my choice. With exceptional production and a rather new style from Kendrick Lamar, “LUST” just makes sense. The beginning of this song is almost nothing like the end, only the chorus remains the same. The simplicity of the beginning verses and sound transforms into a smooth and steady verse from Kendrick at the end including political references done in such a tasteful way it can almost be a timeless lyric in which it can be applied to almost any political event moving forward. “LUST” had just a little something extra to get on this list, and to see a relatively new Kendrick sound and style emerge it was worth it to put my faith into this song.

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4. Blacktop – Being As An Ocean

Although Being As An Ocean’s newest album Waiting for Morning to Come wasn’t able to make my top ten list of this year, they were still able to create one of my favorite songs of 2017. The layered vocals, message, and execution of “Blacktop” is impeccable. Each time the chorus enters, it gives me chills and yet somehow energy. Being a fan of Being As An Ocean has had it’s fair share of hits and misses, however, this album was particularly a nice addition to my daily playlist and “Blacktop” has buried its way into my heart.

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3. XO TOUR Llif3 – Lil Uzi Vert

The anthem of the year is without exception, “XO TOUR Llif3”. Lil Uzi Vert’s unique yet meaningful song has not only been regarded as a banger but also as a song with a deeper meaning of sadness and depression. “All my friends are dead, push me to the edge” has been a mainstay in the vernacular of 2017 and will remain there in the foreseeable future. This song is nothing short of a masterpiece and deserves all of the attention and fame it has received this year. It will be interesting to see what Lil Uzi Vert can bring to the table in 2018 and how he can continue to test the boundaries of rap and punk.

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2. Crew (Remix) – Goldlink

So much can be said about the original cut of “Crew” and how polished this track sounds, however, I believe Gucci Mane adds just a little more personality and prosperity to the already excellent song. With that being said, “Crew” is my hype song, my sad song, and my thought-provoking song. With Goldlink enlisting the captivating voice of Brent Faiyaz along with the enhancing addition of Shy Glizzy(Jefe) the song earns its recognition within the first 15 seconds. “Crew” also earns my praise for having the best chorus of 2017 due to the unbelievable talent of Brent Faiyaz. This song about Goldlink’s home and community growing up and is conveyed in an excellent way on this song. “Crew” is a sign that Goldlink knows exactly what he’s doing and how he plans on doing it.

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1.  Jet – Citizen

Very rarely is there a song I can listen to multiple times every day, the exception being Citizen’s opening track off their album As You Please. “Jet” is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I’ve only been listening to Citizen since early 2016, however, their discography is timeless and deserves my praise for that feat. We often see emo bands similar to Citizen simply fall out of favor and eventually become known for very few songs. I firmly believe that Citizen is not destined to become one of those bands. I believe Citizen is ultimately going to leave quite the legacy, and “Jet” is just one stepping stone towards their success.

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Best Albums of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One album allowed per artist. Only albums I can see myself playing in the future and/or have an effect on myself or music as a whole. Only albums from January 1st – December 31st.

Honorary Mention: Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 – Lil Peep

Of all of the albums released this year, one stuck out to me more than some others; that being Lil Peep’s debut and final non-posthumous album release from Lil Peep. With Lil Peep’s recent passing I figured putting him on this list as my honorary mention would be the most justifiable. Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 is Lil Peep at his best and was just a sample of what could’ve come from the 21-year-old. His work with emo rap helped revive the emo genre and shed some new light on the outdated and forgotten style. Lil Peep’s personality of a loving boy who’s been mistreated and hurt by people he thought loved him resonated a lot with me along with his fairly huge fanbase he accumulated in such a short amount of time. This album has a song and style for almost everyone; songs like “Benz Truck” and “The Brightside” show two completely different perspectives of Lil Peep and add a commendable contrast in style. Although I was a big fan of Lil Peep and his untimely passing affected myself along with his fan base, however, I am glad he released Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt.1 so his debut album could live on indefinitely, thus solidifying his legacy.

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10. IWASVERYBAD – IDK

IDK put out an explosive album this year with IWASVERYBAD, and I must commend him for his work. From start to finish this album explores IDK’s flow and talent as he rips through each song. IDK’s voice and execution is the most distinct factor that sets this album apart from much of today’s current rap music. This album is solid and is filled with many names such as MF DOOM, Swizz Beatz, and Chief Keef. Songs like “Pizza Shop” and “17 Wit a 38” offer a refreshing style that is sure to go a long way if continued. If IDK keeps up this work and continues to surprise his fans, I believe he will become a big name within the next few years. I highly recommend this album and this artist especially his older work under the moniker of Jay IDK.

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9. At What Cost – Goldlink

This year seems to be full of surprises from debut albums and At What Cost is a testament to that statement. DMV rapper Goldlink shines through on his debut album as his groove and flow follow him. This album is silky and smooth as Goldlink manages to effortlessly slide through each song with his incomparable style, giving each song a new layer of depth in the process. Songs like “Herside Story”, “We Will Never Die”, and “Crew” are the climax of Goldlink’s style and sound as they contribute the most singularity to this project. Additionally, being filled with features from artists such as Jazmine Sullivan, Shy Glizzy, and Wale solidifies the fact this album was created to be as polished as possible. Given that this is just his debut album, I think the 2015 XXL Freshman has a shot at success ahead of him as he continues to stroll on each song on At What Cost.

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8. Pure Comedy – Father John Misty

Pure Comedy is without a doubt a masterpiece. Father John Misty invokes thought and emotion unlike any other current artist today. His gloomy yet seemingly positive outlook on life is beautiful as each lyric tell a story within themselves. Father John Misty’s unique indie-folk sound works wonders with his narrative and soothing yet powerful voice and lyrics about life, death, and everything in between. This album is an experience, to say the least; and songs like “Pure Comedy”, “Ballad of the Dying Man”, and “Birdie” need to be heard. I find it hard to talk about this album from a critical and informative standpoint because of how necessary it is to listen to. I absolutely recommend Pure Comedy to anyone reading this and especially anyone who loves the folk sound.

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7. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

For Tyler, the Creator this album is balanced, to say the least. Tyler, the Creator comes alive with an authentic humanistic approach and appropriate beats to match. Tyler finds the perfect balance of loud and quiet on this album that he has been seeking since Wolf back in 2013. Tyler’s contrasting sounds finally come to be harmonious in Flower Boy for the first time. This album by Tyler is truthful and deep, as he explores missed opportunities, especially love. The journey from Goblin to Flower Boy has been quite extraordinary as Tyler has had time to delve into different genres and sounds each becoming more cohesive with time. This album is easily Tyler’s greatest release to date and boasts a plethora of features which only further endorse Tyler’s balanced sound. If Tyler, the Creator continues to perfect his balance of sound, the future seems bright for the Odd Future founder.

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6. Process – Sampha

Sampha somehow did it again and released another great project. Not since his 2013 EP Dual has Sampha released a project, but Process was worth the 4-year wait. With “Timmy’s Prayer” being one of my favorite releases of 2016 I couldn’t wait to see what Sampha had in store. Process is the culmination of Sampha’s feelings and time over the 4-year gap, and it couldn’t be any better. This album hits hard and can make the toughest shed a tear as Sampha is brutally honest about himself and life in the most symphonic way possible. The piano was seemingly made to compliment Sampha’s unique voice and projection as the two combine to make truly flawless pieces. It’s safe to say that I would wait any amount of time to hear Sampha release another project that could rival Process.

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5. Without Warning – 21 Savage & Offset

2017 was the year of collaborations with at least four albums paired some of the best current names in the industry. Of the profuse amount of releases, the one that stands out the most is 21 Savage and Offset’s Without WarningWithout Warning is the most volatile of the collaboration’s released in 2017 and for good reason. 21 Savage has had an amazing year with his debut album and numerous of features that topped the charts, meanwhile, Offset had a prolific year with the Migos debut album as well as his own personal life and relationship with Cardi B. This pairing, however, isn’t an obvious choice as the duo haven’t put out as much work with each other, but nonetheless they make it sound as if they’ve been working together for years. With production being handled by Metro Boomin and sprinkled with some features by Quavo and Travis Scott, this album is the recipe for success. While songs like “Rap Saved Me” and “Ghostface Killers” display the duo’s synergy, yet songs like “Ric Flair Drip” and “Run Up the Racks” show their individual talent on raging beats by Metro Boomin. Without Warning is the blueprint for collaboration albums, and I for one cannot wait to see if this duo plans to release another project.

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4. As You Please – Citizen

With Citizen ranking high on my list of favorite songs of 2017, the placement of this album on this list was obvious. Citizen is one of my favorite emo bands and after their previous work and “Jet” they should be yours too. As You Please is a welcoming followup to their 2015 album Everybody Is Going To Heaven which I enjoyed more than their previous album, YOUTH. Somehow Citizen continues to outdo themselves and produce some of the best emo music since it’s revival. As You Please is a reaffirmation of Citizen’s influence and talent in the genre whilst still leaving the door open for even further experimentation and exploration. I enjoyed every song on this album especially “Jet” and recommend it to anyone who likes emo or is at least interested in what I believe to be the best band of the emo revitalization era.

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3. Saturation 2 – Brockhampton

I was unfortunately late on the Brockhampton hype train, so when I did finally listen to the Saturation 2 I was astonished. This collective of 14 guys continue to break the boundaries of “boy bands” and have ushered in the new rules and regulations on how a collective should function. With each member contributing their talent it’s not shocking how well Brockhampton can function seamlessly and coherently. I chose the Saturation 2 out of the trilogy due to the differing production and lyrics. The production of the Saturation 2 is exceptionally impressive. With some of the beats sounding like they came straight from the Middle East; the creative choices make this Saturation the superior of the three. Regardless, Brockhampton has already solidified their name as one of the best boy bands of all time.

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2. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album simply reinforces the reasons why he is one of the best rappers of all time. A stark contrast to To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN is loud, angry, and accessible. This album boasts nothing but hits, each one proving time and time again why it deserves to be on the album. Kendrick Lamar once again defies the norms and continues to raise the bar for himself and others.

“Kendrick further goes in-depth of his psyche, social systems and the effect of fame on his life but also the world around him with his fourth album release, DAMN. Creatively the production of the album shines due to it’s “double album” style of being able to be listened to forwards for the “weakness” side of the story and reverse for the “wickedness” side of the story, As a seamless continuation of the Good Kid, M.A.A.D City narrative of the life of Kendrick, the tone of the album is frustrated and angry at the state of the world but also reflective in how our own lives can affect the world around us. This is a statement album and should remove any doubt of who the greatest rapper on the planet is right now.” -ZiggyStarscream

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1. SYRE – Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith really surprised me with this one. When I heard SYRE was coming out and heard the trailer, I knew I would like this album, however, I didn’t know at the time that I would love it more than anything else this year. The fact that I put SYRE higher than Saturation 2 and DAMN should be enough to convince anyone to listen to this. The album soars beyond any expectations that were set for Jaden Smith and continues to amaze me each time I listen. Songs like “BLUE”, “Icon”, “Fallen”, and “George Jeff” are Jaden Smith at his best, he isn’t the greatest musician, lyricist, or rapper but he is the greatest relatable figure for myself and the youth as a collective. If you take nothing away from this list, at least give SYRE a listen, it has my official seal of approval and my praise to the highest extent. Jaden Smith won 2017 with SYRE now we can only wait to see what else he has to surprise us with in the future.

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DAMN

With the recent release of the collector’s edition of DAMN which plays in reverse, it’s time to further shed some light on Kendrick Lamar and give insight into DAMN with a little help from my friend and fellow music buff ZiggyStarscream.

DAMN. – The Fourth Installment in the Film Narrative of Kendrick Lamar:

There are not many artists who have created a sense of mythos in the age of social media. With accessibility at an all-time high, the sense of mystery behind the art has started to fade. Music specifically had felt the impact of the internet far before the social media comet reshaped human interaction forever. The singles were the parts to sell a record. Like tinning for gold in a river hoping for a single damn sparkle of gold What happens if we change. We make the album to MAKE AN ALBUM. Think about the last time an album really mattered. A whole album that really grabbed hold of a people’s heart and never let go. Not the one song or a transition or two. Kendrick Lamar, with each release, reminds us that those albums can really exist.

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Is Kendrick Lamar worthy of the hype?

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.

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