Guess what? Hip-hop is not dead. Who woulda thunk it right?
I must be the only person that didn’t realize it. Nas might have said that hip-hop is dead, but I don’t think so. Like many diehard hip-hop fans, I’ve been feeling sort of down about the quality of hip-hop recently, especially what is being played on radio. But to put it into perspective, last summer we had the much anticipated Big Boi release. How I Got Over is one of my favorite Roots release. And Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek are still doing what they do best. This year we had a solid Raekwon release. Then there’s new up-and-coming artists such as J.Cole and Jay Electronica that haven’t released any studio albums yet.
This brings up Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80. Kendrick Lamar is a 24 year old rapper living in Compton. His style blends the meaningful lyrics reminiscent to 2pac (including chanting “thug life” and shoutouts to the late rapper) with lyrical dexterity without overly complex vocabulary similar to Jay-z. His mission is to get his voice clear for everyone to hear, not to be to too caught up into complex wordplays. Kendrick Lamar plays on themes based on what he sees without preaching.
In “No Make-Up”, Kendrick tells a story of a girl putting make-up during the morning while Kendrick is in the same room watching her. Kendrick describes the girl’s artificial beauty built on make-up but wants to see her true face without the mask. The ending of the song is made to shock the viewer as to why she wears so much make-up. Other noteworthy songs include “Kush & Corinthians” where Kendrick questions the meaning of existence. He tries to get to the point but ends up constantly getting side-tracked. “ADHD” has been a recent underground favorite, describing a party filled with videogames and drugs but also the feeling of isolation and depression.
Section.80 is a hit or miss for me. Maybe I need to listen to the album more, but I’m one of those people that prefer “conscience rap” music. Whenever rappers mentions bitches and hoes or demean women or talk about their dick too much, I start to feel uneasy about the artist. With that said Kendrick Lamar clearly is a talented rapper. The album feels out of focus at times, but Kendrick Lamar is still young and has time to mature.
The political and socially aware “Hiiipower” gives shoutouts to Martin Luther King Jr. and Marcus Garvey, but I question the depth of the song. Something seems to hold him back. Maybe it’s the fear of sounding preachy like how Dead Prez can be or too controversial like Immortal Technique. Whatever the case may be, if anybody is looking for new hip-hop artists, Kendrick Lamar is a good recommendation. You might not agree with everything he says, but there are some good songs and interesting storytelling.