On this day in Hip Hop history, Compton based rapper Kendrick Lamar was born in Los Angeles, California.
Since the start of the decade, Kendrick has been credited with being one of, if not the, best rappers of this generation. Kendrick’s jazz and funk-inspired take on Hip Hop come with a level of integrity reminiscent of the old school. His sociopolitical and racial themes ring true with an era in rap when the message was more than materialistic and stands out among today’s most popular hits. It can be said that the level of responsibility he feels as an artist to speak out against injustice in this country is what fuels his success and longevity in an industry riddled with tasteless one-hit-wonders. Regardless of what it may be, what is for sure is that Kendrick Lamar has made it known that he is here to stay until he is unanimously crowned the king of rap.
Kendrick Lamar stepped on the scene in 2004 with his debut mixtape Youngest Head N*gga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year) released by Konkrete Jungle Musik. Under the alias K-Dot, Lamar secured a deal with newly built indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment or TDE, out of Carson, California.
Lamar released a few mixtapes as K-Dot before assuming his current moniker Kendrick Lamar in 2010 with the of his critically acclaimed mixtape Overly Dedicated. This online free album peaked at #72 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. The success of this project, specifically the track “Ignorance is Bliss,” caught the attention of West Coast legend Dr. Dre who subsequently signed Lamar to his Aftermath label through Interscope Records.
On July 2nd, 2011, Lamar released his first official studio album Section.80 which peaked at #113 on the Billboard 200 chart and #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart that highlighting new and developing artists. The album’s sole single “HiiiPoWeR” produced by J. Cole spawned an entire movement highlighting love, honor, and respect as the “three things people should have and live by.” The commercial and critical success of this project led to Lamar being crowned the new King of the West Coast by legends Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and The Game.
Lamar’s sophomore LP g.o.o.d kid m.A.A.d city was his first official major label release and spawned some of his most timeless hits including “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, and “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake. The album debut at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 242,000 copies in its first week. The album was featured on countless “Best Hip Hop albums” list and earned Kendrick a plethora of award nominations, winning Album of the Year at the BET Awards.
In 2015 Kendrick released his third studio To Pimp A Butterfly on March 15, a week earlier than scheduled. The album debuted at the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for Album of the Year, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, and Song of the Year winning four. The social commentary of this album rose many eyebrows touching on so many controversial subjects and coming out at a tumultuous time in U.S. history. Regardless of the controversy, Lamar was asked to perform at the 58th Grammy Awards. This year he released his compilation album untitled unmastered containing record cuts that didn’t make the album.
Aside from music, Kendrick Lamar has a huge influence on the streets. His anti-gang message has helped to slow down a lot of the violence normally seen in his hometown of Compton, California, famous for its gang-affiliated history. He has worked closely with the current mayor of the city in an effort to clean up the streets and make Compton a more positive place for the youth to grow and have an opportunity to be successful. Thankfully, there’s no sign of Kendrick Lamar slowing down and we can all expect more work to come from him over the next few years.
From everyone here at The Source, Happy Birthday K-Dot. May you see many more years of success and revolutionary music.