Kendrick Lamar, from Compton, California, is one of today’s hot young rap stars. At the young age of 24, he has already compiled an astounding number of mixtapes and features. Since releasing his debut independent album “The Kendrick Lamar EP” in 2009, he has been working extremely hard in the studio developing his flow and style. Coming off his critically acclaimed album “O(verly) D(edicated)” which dropped in 2010, Lamar once again shook up the rap world his most recent installment, “Section 80”. His third independent album delivers on all cylinders for his awaiting fans and newcomers alike. “Section 80” truly captures Lamar at a special point in his young career.
As a whole the album is very complete, touching upon numerous subjects such as education, women and Lamar’s beliefs on today’s society. The album is very smooth and transitions from song to song with ease. Individually, each song shines on its own as much as it helps brings the album together. Any listener can tell that Lamar has spent quite some time pondering about the subjects he writes about. He is very aware of the social world around him and paints a picture of how he views things.
He begins his album with a bit of a message in the song “Fuck Your Ethnicity”. It begins with the sound of fire burning accompanied by a deep voice. It feels as though we are almost at a big outdoor rally. Basically he is just saying, we are all one and we must fight together. As it says in the song, the fire is meant to resemble the passion inside of Lamar and everyone from his neighborhood to around the world. It is an uplifting beat to begin the album and Lamar delivers a fully packed, power punched flow. He rips through bar by bar with ease, crafting his story. He begins his verse with lyrics like, “Fire burnin inside my eyes…You be callin hip-hop, I be callin it hyptnotized…Trap my body, but not my mind.” He then goes into a verbal assault, but is able to slow it down when he has to, to give the song a nice change of pace.
The vibe immediately changes on his next song ”Hol’ Up”. It has a very 70’s vibe which goes well with his lyrics. He begins with the lyrics “I wrote this while 30,000 feet up in the air” and it immediately feels like we are in a PSA that you would have heard on a plane flight during that time period. It has a nice slow, rising tempo and Lamar shows us a different flow on this album. He keeps it just as smooth and easily adapts to a much slower tempo than the previous song. He continues this trend throughout the album as he switches up topics as often as he switches up his flow and instrumentals.
The album continues with the song “ADHD”, which once again changes up the pace and vibe of the album. In this song he talks about everything going on in world but then it immediately switches, as the title of the song suggests, to him meeting a girl at a party. The song is sort of ironic as it describes how there are many issues going on in the world, but here we are getting messed up at party. It is unclear as to which side Lamar falls on, perhaps both at times, all we know is that he is in “Section 80”. We can begin to see here that Lamar is way more than just a one sided rapper. There are clearly a lot of motives that push Lamar to make and design music. The instrumental has a nice arrangement of synths and bass drops which go well with the quick snare.
Kendrick then goes into two songs dedicated to the woman, “No Make-Up” and “Tammy’s Song”. These songs talk about how women are beautiful without the make up. In “No Make-Up” he tells the women of the world that they are beautiful without the various techniques they use to “cover” themselves up. The make up might not be actual make up in the general sense, but any device women may use to make themselves appear to be something more. He says “You can do style with out style” meaning you don’t need the fancy things in life to portray who you are. You can just basically be yourself, there is no need for the surrounding “noise”. In “Tammy’s Song” he talks about girls being faithful and dedicated to one man. It explains how vulnerable they can become once they find out their man isn’t as faithful as they once thought. This is the conundrum that many women find themselves in. They try to stay faithful to one person, but how are they supposed to trust that their boyfriend or husband is faithful as well and what do they do once they find out he isn’t.
Kendrick Lamar – Tammy’s Song (Music Video)
Directed by: Jerome D
The album continues to talk about different social unrests in today’s world such as trying to survive, different types evils and how corrupt society once was and still is. In “Ronald Reagan Era” he tells us a bout the life of a kid from Compton or perhaps a kid from anywhere. Perhaps it his him. He explains how life is extremely tough on kids when they don’t have anything to fight back with. He questions should we fight fairly when we are fighting against an unfair enemy. It is a tough pill to swallow, but it leaves kids with few choices. The album is full of many questions such as this. “Poe Man’s Dream” talks about perhaps those same kids from “Ronald Reagan Era” trying to live a good life. Afterall, as his lyrics in the song say, all we want in life is to “smoke good and eat good.” In this song we can see how much pain Lamar’s family and himself have gone through. It’s a song that really dives deep into his soul. The song “Hiipower” is another variant of this mode of thinking. In this song he talks about how he has to rise above no matter what is going on.
The album also brings us some nice features from Schoolboy Q, Ab Soul, Colin Munroe and Ashtro Bot just to name a few. It seems as Lamar carefully picked each artist for each song to bring out it’s deepest meaning. Each feature compliments the song perfectly. We also get a variety of instrumentals on this album, ranging from traditional rap to even some jazz. It really is an album one must listen to in its entirety. One song wouldn’t be enough to fully understand the message Lamar is trying to put forward.
In fact, delivering a message is not what he is trying to accomplish. He is trying to make people aware through how he views the world. That is the message, if any message could be derived from the album. As he says, “I am not the next social rapper”. He does not encourage you to follow him. He encourages you to listen and question the world for yourself. He is not preaching, rather he is merely expressing his opinions. Either you can take it or you can’t, which is almost symbolic to the world we are in.
Kendrick Lamar – Hiiipower (Music Video)
Directed by: Fredo Tovar and Scott Fleishman
In an album which could have easily swung in the direction of propaganda, Lamar keeps it to a point where you can vibe and feel with him as opposed to him just telling us something, expecting us to believe it. It is almost like a school lesson, except over music. A big part of that comes from how he delivers his songs and lyrics. It is not in your face, yet his words and ideas stand strong. He delivers them softly, but with an impact. This is an aspect that some rappers can struggle with, but Lamar seems to have found a nice comfort zone in which to talk about his morals and view points. It will be interesting to see what direction his music career goes in as he gets ready to drop his major label debut, which is set to come out in 2012. In the meantime, check out this record, as he is definitely someone to keep an eye and ear on.