Five reasons to see Kendrick Lamar this weekend
US hip-hop’s hottest property Kendrick Lamar touches down for a series of shows in the U.K. this week. The Los Angeles rapper’s critically-acclaimed ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ album, which followed 2011’s excellent ‘Section.80’, was hailed by fans and critics as not just the best hip-hop album of last year, but one of the finest of the last decade.
1. A vivid portrait of teenage life in the Compton district of Los Angeles, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ found the rapper also known as K.Dot effortlessly flipping between hard-boiled street narratives reflecting on topics such as gang life and alcoholism one minute, and complex, abstract free-flowing brag-raps the next. On the slow-rolling ‘hood parable ‘Money Trees’, Kendrick confesses to “hustlin’ all day, this-a-way, that-a-way/Through canals and alleyways, Just to say/Money trees is the perfect place for shade…”, while on the awesome ‘Backstreet Freestyle’—a forthright statement of intent—he declares, “God damn, I feel amazing/Damn, I’m in the Matrix/My mind is living on cloud nine/And this nine is never on vacation…”
2. Critics also noted how the album, which has been compared to Outkast’s understated 1996 masterpiece ‘ATLiens’, didn’t play to modern rap conventions: there was little in the way of obvious chart-friendly numbers aimed at swelling those all-important sales figures, while the woozy, downtempo ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ shouldn’t really have worked as a club anthem, but somehow did. Elsewhere, the illuminating 3D of ‘The Art Of Peer Pressure’—the most widescreen hip-hop song in years—even resurrected the twist ending, a device sadly absent from storytelling raps in recent times.
3. Shortly after dropping ‘Section.80’ on the independent Top Dawg Entertainment imprint in 2011, Kendrick signed with Dr Dre’s Aftermath label. With the legendary beatmaker serving as executive producer on ‘good kid…’, the evidence suggests we’re already looking at rap’s newest megastar. Not only did Dre play a central role in NWA’s groundbreaking west coast gangsta classic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ in 1988, he later brought through Snoop Dogg in 1992 (back when the Long Beach beanpole still had lyrical skills and hadn’t yet collapsed into cartoonish self-parody) before masterminding both Eminem and 50 Cent’s rise to superstardom at the start of the Millennium. Dre’s work-rate may be sporadic—the release of his long-mooted ‘Detox’ album remains something of a running joke in rap—but he remains the closest thing this genre has to a King Midas.
4. NWA put their Compton stomping ground firmly on the rap map back in the late eighties, but as hip-hop’s centre of gravity moved back to New York in the nineties before shifting southwards below the Mason-Dixon line a few years later, LA rap began to lose its edge, and its rappers spent much of the past decade taking a critical kicking. Now, though, Kendrick Lamar seems to be re-establishing his home turf. Bringing MC Eiht, lead rapper in acclaimed nineties crew Compton’s Most Wanted, onboard for a cameo turn on ‘good kid…’ proved to be a masterstroke.
5. As his stock rises further, he continues to rack up the guest appearance slots, consistently outshining other rappers on their own records. His recent sterling slot on ‘1 Train’, by hotly-tipped Harlem emcee A$AP Rocky, saw him rub shoulders with Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T.—a virtual who’s who of rap in 2013—and end up pretty much dominating the entire record:
Kendrick Lamar plays the HMV Ritz in Manchester on Thursday 17th January; the HMV Institute in Birmingham on Friday 18th January; the O2 Academy in Bristol on Saturday 19th January and the Hammersmith Apollo in London on Sunday 20th January.Tagged in: Kendrick Lamar, music, rap
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