IIt’s been just over a decade since Compton-born Kendrick Lamar first caught the music world’s attention, and he’s held it firmly in his hand ever since. Now widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time, he has garnered an impressive array of accolades ranging from 14 Grammys to becoming the first artist outside of classical or jazz to win the Pulitzer Prize. of music, for 2017. Slim.
On May 13, Lamar will return with his long-awaited sequel, Mr Morale and the Big Steps. In anticipation, we take the opportunity to look back at how each of his four studio albums to date have shaped his staggering artistic legacy.
4. Article.80 (2011)
Lamar’s debut studio album captured the sound of a young man with the potential to burn finding his voice. The rapper, who was only 24 when the record was released, was already a flawless singer whose percussive flow delivered his deceptively simple and expressive rhymes directly to the listener’s ear. “I know rappers who use big words / To make their comparisons curve,” Lamar explained on “Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice).” “My simplest bullshit has got to be more essential.”
In addition to proving Lamar’s talent as a performer and lyricist, Article.80 showed his budding talent for telling stories that work on multiple levels simultaneously. The album weaves together the stories of characters Tammy and Keisha, two young women abused by men who eventually find solace and solace in each other, while also finding room for pointed political commentary.
“You know why we crack babies? / Because we were born in the 80s / That ADHD is crazy,” Lamar raps on the standout track “ADHD,” one of many songs — including “Ronald Reagan Era” — he uses to paint a picture. of the impact President Reagan’s policy of allowing crack cocaine to flood the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles had on children, like Lamar, growing up there. Powerful and visceral, Article.80 marked Kendrick Lamar as a must-see artist.
3. Slim (2017)
For his fourth album, Slim, Lamar has brought in a few high-profile guests: Rihanna, who smashes her way through the radio-friendly single “Loyalty,” and perhaps most surprisingly, venerable Irish rockers U2, who perform unconventionally on “XXX”. Nonetheless, the spotlight never really leaves Lamar, who delivers an expansive record that combines a timeless old-school rap sound with frequent nods to the future.
At this point in his career, Lamar could confidently say he was the greatest living rapper, a fact he alludes to on the standout autobiographical closing track “Duckworth”: “It was always me against the world / Until ‘to what I find is me against me.” The album produced his biggest hit, the huge “Humble,” and made history by winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
The Pulitzer Committee used many of its own big words to describe the album, calling it “a collection of virtuoso songs unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers touching vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life. “.
2. Good kid, MAAD City (2012)
The record that made the whole world sit up and take notice. 2012 Good kid, MAAD City marked Lamar’s major label debut and had the characteristics to match, with guest appearances like Jay-Z, Drake and Dr Dre as well as Dre, Pharrell and Hit-Boy on production duties.
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It spawned the hit singles “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and the irresistible “B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe” and earned four Grammy nominations, including for Album of the Year. . But really it was all incidental to the power of the disc’s central story. Billed as a “Kendrick Lamar short” on the album cover, the deeply autobiographical record tells the story of Lamar’s adolescence on the gang-controlled streets of Compton with profound clarity.
Lamar’s storytelling is so finely crafted that it’s no surprise a Georgia university has added the work to its curriculum alongside other coming-of-age tales such as Joyce’s. Portrait of the artist as a young man. “I think Kendrick Lamar is the James Joyce of hip-hop,” said Professor Adam Diehl. “In the complexity of his storytelling, in his knowledge of the canon, and in his continued focus on the city of his upbringing – Compton.”
1. Pimp a butterfly (2015)
Lamar’s politically charged masterpiece. While still an incredibly great rap album, musically, Lamar expanded his sonic palette to encompass a wide range of African-American music, from jazz and funk to soul – including an introductory appearance of Parliament and Funkadelic visionary George Clinton.
Lyrically, the record was partly inspired by Lamar’s tour of South Africa, during which he visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island, as well as the reinvigorated black rights movement. in the USA. The album speaks to the African-American experience with nuance and deep, existential analysis, but it’s as personal as it is political. In an essay published in the medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry, Cambridge professors Akeem Sule and Becky Inkster described Lamar as the “street poet of mental health”, noting that the dossier dives deep into the topics of addiction, anxiety, depression and resilience.
In December 2019, The Independent named Pimp a butterfly as the best album of the previous decade. “The centerpiece ‘Alright’ is now a civil rights anthem, but Pimp a butterfly plays less like a statement than a bad dream,” wrote reviewer Jazz Monroe. “Confrontational introspection, vexed empathy and political irreverence meet a dark humor that wakes you up with a sense that without this music we would be lost.”
Mr Morale and the Big Steps releases May 13, 2022