Kendrick Lamar was born Kendrick Lamar Duckworth on June 17, 1987 in Compton, California. Kendrick’s mother named him after Eddie Kendricks. Although he grew up in Compton, his parents were from Chicago, Illinois. He was a straight A student while attending Centennial High School.
In 1995 Kendricks idols Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre filmed the video for “California Love”, which would have a great impact on Kendrick musically. When selecting his top 5 rappers Kendrick named Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Nas, and Eminem. Tupac influenced Kendrick the most of all rappers he admired. Not only did Tupac influence Kendrick musically, but also influenced his daily lifestyle. You can see this influence in the lyrical content Kendrick Lamar is known for. Kendrick also gave credit to Detroit-based rapper Eminem for his aggression on records. Other musical influences Kendrick named were DMX, Ice Cube, Kurupt, Snoop, Mobb Deep, and Prodigy.
In 2003, at the age of sixteen he released his first full length mixtape “Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of The Year) under the moniker K-Dot. In 2004 he signed with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), a local indie record label out of Carson, California. After signing with TDE Kendrick, still called K-Dot at the time opened up for The Game, a popular Compton rapper signed under G-Unit. Soon after he decided to use his birth name instead of K-Dot and released a self-titled EP in late 2009. In the same year Kendrick formed a supergroup of West Coast rappers (Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab Soul), called Black Hippy. After forming the group he went on the “Independent Grind” tour with label and group mate Jay Rock and rapper Tech N9ne. In September 2010 Kendrick released his album “Overly Dedicated”, which peaked at #72 on Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart. In December 2010 Complex Magazine spotlighted Kendrick in an edition of its Indie Intro series.
In April of 2011 Kendrick released his single “HiiiPower”, which was the first of many collaborations with rapper J. Cole. J. Cole and Kendrick have promised the release of a collab album. This will be the hottest and most anticipated collaboration album since Jay Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne.” On July 2, 2011 Kendrick released his first independent album “Section.80”, which sold 5,300 digital copies its first week without TV or radio coverage. In October 2011 Kendrick appeared in the BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher along side Tech N9ne, B.O.B, MGK, and Big K.R.I.T. On February 15, 2012 Kendrick’s single “Cartoons and Cereal” was ranked #2 on Complex’s Best 50 songs of 2012, despite the song failing to appear on Kendrick’s debut album.
In February 2012 Kendrick joined Canadian rapper Drake’s “Club Paradise” tour alongside rapper ASAP Rocky. He also signed under Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records and released his debut album “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (GKMC)” on October 22. The album was highly successful, debuting at #2 and selling 242,122 copies the first week of its release. After the release of GKMC FUSE TV named Kendrick’s single “Backseat Freestyle” #1 on the top 40 songs of 2012. As of July 2013 the album had sold 980,000 copies. Nine months after its release the album went platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Kendrick created waves in the rap game and sent chills down all rappers spines in August of 2013 when he released his verse on Big Sean’s single “Control.” In the verse Kendrick names his fellow rappers and in many cases friends and says he is on a mission to murder them all. “I got love for you all, but I’m trying to murder you niggas. Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you niggas. They don’t wanna hear not one more noun or verb from you niggas. What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high. Who tryna come and get it?” Many rappers took his words of warning as a diss and made diss records within a week in response. Personally my favorite response was Meek Mill’s “Oh Kill Em.” I took Kendricks words as competitive and not in any way disrespectful. I feel those that were called out are the leaders in the rap game and should take being called out as a compliment. Kendrick believes he has to raise the bar in order to be considered the best.
In October 2013 Lamar won 5 awards at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. In November 2013 he was named GQ’s Rapper of The Year and featured on the cover of Man of The Year Magazine. In 2013 MTV crowned Lamar #1 Hottest MC in the game on its annual list. In October of 2014 Kendrick was a part of Kanye West’s “Yeezus” tour and in October of the same year Kendrick was the only rapper to be featured on Eminem’s 8th studio album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” He received 7 Grammy nominations at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014.
Many felt The Recording Academy cheated Lamar of an award including Seattle-based rapper Macklemore who won Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s that year. Despite the controversy Kendrick’s most talked about Grammy moment was his collaboration with American rock band Imagine Dragons on the remix of their hit single “Radioactive.”
On July 31, 2014 Lamar announced he would premiere in his short film “m.A.A.d at the Sundance’s inaugural NEXT Fest in L.A. on August 9th. Despite the controversy the previous year at the Grammy’s Kendrick came back and won Best Rap Performance and Best Rap song for his single “i” at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. When asked to categorize his music Kendrick stated, “You really can’t categorize my music, it’s human music.” This statement can be validated when listening to his latest album “To Pimp a Butterfly”, which was released on March 16, 2015. With his latest album Kendrick has done a complete 360 of his “typical” sound. GKMC had an aggressive West Coast vibe, while this album has a funk, jazz, and old school feel. In GKMC Kendrick forces you to see the struggles in his life and in the average life of someone living in Compton. He accomplishes this with his lyrical fits of rage that have been laid over a beat and gives you no choice, but to bob your head to it. In To Pimp a Butterfly Kendrick brings back Funk, Jazz, and old school vibes to tranquilly and at times sobbingly distribute his message of love and self worth. Both Kendrick and J. Cole’s message in their latest album’s can be compared and equally appreciated. I was thoroughly impressed with Kendrick Lamar’s song “Complexion” featuring Rapsody. The song encourages listeners to embrace their skin color, eye color, and seeing the beauty in God’s creation above all. Kendrick is promoting the movement to love yourself regardless of your perception or society’s perception of your skin color. His message to enjoy life and fill it with love and peace is refreshing.
The last thing Kendrick wanted to share with Pac:
“The Caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it. It’s only job is to eat or consume everything around it in order to protect itself from this Maad City. While consuming its environment, the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive. One thing it notices is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly. The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar. But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to its own benefits. Already surrounded by this Maad City, the caterpillar goes to work on the canon, which institutionalizes him. He can longer see past his own thoughts, he is trapped. While trapped inside these walls the certain ideas take root. Such as going home and bringing back new concepts to this Maad City. The result wings behind to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant. Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the that caterpillar never considered, ending the internal struggle. I know the caterpillar and butterfly are different, but they are one and the same. What’s your perspective on that?” -Kendrick Lamar (Mortal Man; To Pimp a Butterfly)
- Section.80 (2011)
- Good Kid, m.A.Ad City (2012)
- To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
- TBA (2015) with J.Cole
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Watch the Kendrick Lamar Videos below: