Artist of the week: Kendrick Lamar

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 song that many considered too optimistic and commercial for its own sake.

To Pimp a Butterfly, his new and recently released album, might be considered a departure from his previous record: though his masterful skill of the language and phrasing remains intact, it is a much more ambitious affair with a widescreen musical reach that one may define as a howling post-rap/free-jazz masterpiece that will remain as one of the most memorable achievements of black protest art.

João Pedro da Costa

João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.