Is Kendrick Lamar the greatest rapper alive?
A lyrical look at how Kendrick Lamar championed hip-hop
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MUSIC Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s reputation precedes him, but how much do you really know about the artist and his work? It’s certainly hard to believe he only turns 32 on June 17, since he’s already created the immense legacy that usually takes people’s entire lives—or their too-sudden deaths—to achieve.
There are few artists as respected as K-Dot, being both a rapper’s rapper as well as nearly every pop fan’s choice of hip-hop. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth (you can guess why he dropped the last name) maintains the marvel of rap’s lyrical integrity while still providing the bangers that everyone’s body craves.
Even Miley Cyrus liked Kendrick Lamar during that infamous period in 2017 where she decided to renounce her participation in hip-hop. The former twerk-loving singer had said she wasn’t interested in rap anymore because of its sex-driven, materialistic messages, but she told Billboard: “I also love the new Kendrick song [Humble]. ‘Show me somethin natural like a** with some stretch marks’. I love that.” She complained that the genre was focused too much on cars, expensive things, and objectifying sexual acts.
Many accused Cyrus of being culturally insensitive in her commentary, though she did hit something important, which is that Lamar always stands out. Even he criticizes a lot of the stereotypical traps that hip-hop falls into in his own raps. He simultaneously challenges, improves, and upholds the genre.
Born to a father who was embroiled in gangs and a mother who named him after American singer-songwriter Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations, Lamar’s upbringing was a mix of Compton streets and musical expression. He dropped his first full-length project when he was just 16, a mixtape titled ‘Youngest Head N***a in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year)’ under the pseudonym K-Dot, and was soon signed to Top Dawg Entertainment.
With each year, mixtape, album, soundtrack, and feature, Lamar refines his already razor-sharp talent, and his impact on the world of music, politics, and culture is tangible. His deep moral complexity and sharp political wit deserve a closer look, particularly after making history as the first hip-hop artist to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Check out this gallery to see just what makes him such a big deal.
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