Half-way through 2020 and the year has forever become marred by tragic death around the world. Even worse, in the United States the recent murder of George Floyd has reminded us of the injustices African Americans endure on a daily basis in the United States. These continued injustices have sparked nationwide protests against police brutality toward African Americans, demanding change and accountability.
As a white musician writing and performing music that is influenced by black culture, I’d like to dedicate seven straight days of posts honoring some of the black musicians who have inspired me the most.
For day seven I'm writing about a man who's name has become synonymous with superior lyricism and flow: Kendrick Lamar. Some rappers have great use of metaphors but are awkward on delivery, other rappers lack lyrical content but can rhyme and spit with a flow so smooth it doesn't matter. Kendrick Lamar is neither because he can do both with no sacrifices made to any part of his craft. For proof you don't even have to listen to a Kendrick Lamar song. Check out the Black Hippy remix for "THat Part," Kendrick's verse (1:50) is FILTHY. Listen and you will understand why every lyricist, poet, or wordsmith who has heard his words and delivery has felt inspired to be better.
I started casually listening to Kendrick Lamar when I was a senior in high school. His major label debut Good Kid m.A.A.d City had just dropped and I was hooked on the singles Swimming Pools and Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe. For some that was the best Kendrick album, for me the next two would be my favorite. In 2015 Kendrick dropped what is widely considered to be one of the best hip hip albums of all time: "To Pimp a Butterfly." I loved the jazzifed production throughout the LP and the deep metaphors like the song "These Walls." I listened to TPAB a seemingly endless amount of times with my band on tour that summer and continue to listen today. Kendrick had reached superstardom.
The success of his 2015 album propelled Kendrick to the stratosphere with increased demand for features and original music. After performing unreleased untitled songs at the Grammys in 2016 NBA GOAT contender (and superstar himself) LeBron James tweeted at Lamar's label TDE demanding more music. Ask and you shall receive...
What an awesome exchange. Thank God for LeBron James because in my opinion Untitled Unmastered can easily stand among the rest of his discography. I'd play that album on repeat while I played hours and hours of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 that spring and summer. It was a blast, and the DEMOS are just another testament to Lamar's musical prowess. You can bet Lamar kept up his hot steak with DAMN in 2017. It was another great album that was very well received by critics and the public. The lead single Humble. has over 1.2 BILLION streams on Spotify alone and the great Fantano gave the album a decent to strong 7, despite saying it was his least favorite Kendrick album to date.
Can't wait for his next release!
To donate to help the protests against police brutality check out this great Rolling Stones article!