Entering the scene age 16 back in 2004, Kendrick Lamar has now released 4 studio albums and has become an influential artist in the hip-hop arena. His rap style has evolved constantly as does his personality across each single. He can come across aggressive if the lyrics require and almost approachable in his collaborations with artists like Taylor Swift and Maroon 5.
To Pimp A Butterfly
My own introduction to Lamar's work came through a combination of hearing Alright for the first time and his appearance on Dr. Dre's album Compton, the soundtrack for the album Straight Out Of Compton.
At first, I found his delivery to be odd, especially on Compton, but his delivery and ability to easily switch his style based on the topic of the song is something to be admired. To Pimp A Butterfly quickly became a favourite in my music library. Alright winning 2 Grammys having been nominated for 4.
At the 58th Grammy's in 2016, Lamar gained 11 nominations for To Pimp A Butterfly, winning 5. The 11 nominations not only put him in the history books as the most nominated rapper but they also put him just one behind the record holder Michael Jackson (12 for Thriller). Lamar's response on The Tonight Show:
I wouldn't wanna go past that though
I can't fathom being as great as Michael without putting out the work
11 is perfect
It's not hard to understand why Lamar would feel this way, knowing that Michael Jackson had put in 18 years of work before gaining so many nominations. To Pimp A Butterfly was his thrid album in four years.
It's with tracks like i, Lamar attempts to educate his audience discussing the roots of racial slurs. Whereas songs that feature on DAMN like Loyalty and D.N.A. show of his flow and play to his strengths as a lyricist whilst also making it in the mainstream.
Vox even features Kendrick Lamar in their "The best rhymers of all time video":
Collaborating outside of Hip Hop
Thanks in part to his ability experiment, but also his desire to be remembered, Lamar has fouind it easy to cross genres. Here's a small sample of the non-hip-hop artists Kendrick Lamar has worked with:
- The Lonely Island
- Alicia Keys
- Robin Thicke
Can Kendrick Lamar be considered the greatest of all time? His influence has yet to be felt for the next generation of artists yet to come through but the ease at which he's able to move through genres and evolves not only his sound but his entire character depending on the song and artists he's working with.
HipHopDX make the case well, identifying artists who have been both self-proclaimed and crowned as the greatest of their time like Jay-Z, Kanye West and LL Cool J. Does he sit in the same bracket as those artists? Yes.
Listen to Kendrick Lamar on Spotify
If you're not already familiar with the music of Kendrick Lamar, have a listen to this playlist with selected tracks from Kendrick Lamar's first 4 albums.