Artist of the week: Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is an American hip-hop recording artist from Compton, California, who managed not only to reach critical and commercial success as to earn the respect and support of the artists that inspired him.
As a straight-A high-school student and fan of both Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar started his career as K.Dot when he was only 16, releasing the mixtape Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (2003), which gained him a contract with Top Dawg Entertainment. Three other mixtapes, a massive Internet following and a surprising number of collaborations with several prominent artists lead to the release in 2011 of his first independent album titled Section.80 exclusively through iTunes.
His major-label debut album ensued the following year to widespread acclaim: good kid, m.A.A.d city debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, contained three Top 40 hits and ended up selling over one million records in the US. Though the record received seven Grammy nominations in 2014, he would have to wait for 2015 to win Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for “i”, a track that many considered too optimistic and commercial for its own sake.
In 2015, he released To Pimp a Butterfly, arguably the most important work from a black musician in the new millennium. Not only did it showcase new challenging ways to rearticulate the rich Afro-American musical through a post-rap and free-jazz enthralling combo, as it became the most popular and effective of black protest art since the Civil Rights Movement.
Then, in the beginning of March, untitled unmastered. arrived out of the blue, a brief album that comprises outakes from To Pimp a Butterfly, including the three untitled tracks that he debuted live in late night TV performances and at the Grammy Awards. There is no filler here through: all tracks sound fully formed with the exception of the third movement of “untitled 7”, which is the studio impromptu improvisation that gave birth to “untitled 4”. It’s also not a mere extension of his magnum opus, since some songs explore grooves previously uncharted by Lamar and his band, namely the irresistible bossa nova of “untitled 6”. The Compton rapper is definitely at the top of his game and it’s a privilege to be graced with eight new songs from the most influent artist of his generation.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.