(My Complete Review is OUT NOW)
The 34 year old hip-hop legend Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has been a mastermind ever since he touched the mic. Section.80 is inspiring, as it shows how much the author has progressed over time. Don’t get me wrong, the album has some incredible moments, and it manages to stay consistent, but there’s times where I can hear how dated some of the tracks are(No Make-Up in particular). Tracks like F**k Your Ethnicity, Hol’ Up, A.D.H.D., and Rigamortus are prime examples of the author in his element. Those tracks still hold up today as some of his best work. Overall, the album is great, but the path he takes beyond it is truly remarkable.
15 months after the release of Section.80, Kendrick Lamar shocked the world with good kid, m.A.A.d city. The author’s second studio LP has grown to become one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop records to date. Section.80 was great, but GKMC is the record that showed the world what this young rapper from Compton could pull off. Despite the fact that this record has been out for almost a decade, tracks like B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Poetic Justice, and Swimming Pools are still popular worldwide. The tracks that aren’t as popular in the mainstream are just as good if not better. Backseat Freestyle is hard-hitting, energetic, and the flows that the author uses are beyond impressive. Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst deserves its own essay. Lamar raps for 12 minutes straight without hesitation, and every word is meaningful. Not many rappers could pull off such a thing, but Lamar seemed to rap with no pressure. Despite the beat switch, his comfort level on the track is noticeable. SAMIDOT is a landmark for hip-hop, and it remains to be one of his most impressive tracks to date. To restate the progression between his first two albums, good kid, m.A.A.d city showed the world Kendrick Lamar’s true potential, and people were hungry to see what’s in store for album three.
To claim that Kendrick Lamar shocked the world once again is an understatement. Three years after the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar released what is considered by many to be the greatest hip-hop album of all time, To Pimp A Butterfly. The topics of racism, depression, struggles in society, and so much more make this record a tough listen at times. The album was perfectly crafted in order for the author to speak on these topics in many different ways. Some of the most fun tracks have dreadful meanings behind them. i, King Kunta, and These Walls are all great examples of that. The prime example of a fun song with a tough backstory is Alright. With Pharrell on chorus, Lamar goes bar for bar as he makes an anthem that was very relevant during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. That song is proof that no matter how happy, uplifting and fun a track might sound, any song can be powerful in any size, shape or form. Tracks like Wesley’s Theory, Momma, How Much A Dollar Cost, and The Blacker The Berry are still held to insanely high praise today, as they are some of Lamar’s strongest pieces. Mortal Man is the perfect way to close, as the author uses old clips from late rapper Tupac Shakur to make it seem like an interview. I could spend all day writing about this album, but to keep it brief, this record is a true classic, and it’s a landmark for not just hip-hop, but music as a whole.
A year after the release of To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar released Untitled Unmastered, which is basically To Pimp A Butterfly Side B. Despite the fact that these tracks didn’t make it onto the record they were intended for, they’re quite good to say the least. This compilation consists of eight untitled tracks, with guests such as SZA, Jay Rock, and Thundercat. Tracks 5 and 6 are my personal favorites, but this project is consistent enough for every track to be a valid favorite. There’s not much to say about it, but it’s fantastic for what it is, and I appreciate the fact that it exists.
13 months after the release of Untitled Unmastered, Kendrick Lamar dropped his most accessible record, DAMN. Accessible doesn’t always mean mediocre, and remember, it’s Kendrick Lamar, so mediocre isn’t a usual term that people use to describe him. Tracks like DNA, Humble, and Loyalty are prime examples of accessible tracks, but they are all fantastic in their own way. Despite the fact that they all became colossal tracks over time, they are still enjoyable, and they don’t sound too overplayed. However, every song on this record isn’t as accessible as the tracks mentioned before. In fact, some of the tracks that I didn’t mention are some of the author’s best pieces to date. XXX and DUCKWORTH are both absolutely fantastic songs, and they definitely stand out in his catalog despite the record being a bit of a let down compared to his past 2 studio albums. The fact that DAMN was a let down in his discography proves that the author has reached unbelievable heights despite having only four albums released to date.
After five years of endless predictions, rumors, and speculation, Kendrick Lamar has finally returned.
It’s been over a week since “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” was released, and I’m still struggling to put this record into words. Most people tried to go into this record with an open mind, but a lot of the criticism I’ve heard about this record is that it’s the floor of the author’s albums. After The Heart Part 5 made it seem like we were getting TPAB 2, many were left underwhelmed on first listen. From the mainstream approaches, to the unsuccessful attempts to appeal to the new age of music, there’s many things you can complain about… but that’s not the point. If you look closely, Kendrick Lamar has been healing as a person although many struggles along the way held him down from moving forward. This record sounds like the author made it for himself and no one else. That’s not from a general standpoint; what I mean to express is the fact that Kendrick Lamar made an honest piece that wasn’t made to check the boxes of a perfect album, and I applaud him for that.
The album begins with United in Grief, and from my perspective, this is a perfect intro for a record like this. Lines such as “I’ve been goin through something” and “I grieve different” are the obvious notices for me, as it seems straightforward right from the gate that things aren’t how they used to be. He raps quickly, his flow is strong as usual, and I don’t see anything wrong with this track. This got me excited for what’s to come, until I heard…
N95. I listened closely for a Baby Keem hidden feature, but no, it was Kendrick Lamar doing his thing. I’ve seen major praise for this track, but I feel that Baby Keem has made multiple tracks like this that are stronger. The bias for Kendrick was definitely brought into play here. I don’t think this song is bad at all, and I think it will grow on me as time goes on, but it’s not even close to the best song on the record.
Hearing Kodak Black’s voice on Worldwide Steppers had me laughing. Personally, I think Kodak has some great songs. Obviously, his discography isn’t strong, but I was excited to hear how Kendrick would use him on this record. The straightforward repetitive sound he raps over allows him to take over without getting carried by production. His flows sound just as good as they used to be, and the beat switch two minutes in is gorgeous. I wish it lasted for longer than for lines, but that’s how it is.
I’ve ignored every single opinion I’ve heard about the track Die Hard. Blxst has been one of if not my favorite upcoming R&B artist, and I was stunned to hear him on the chorus of this track. Without a doubt, this track is very accessible, but that doesn’t take away from the beautiful performances from the guests, and Kendrick’s meaningful verses. His second verse is my favorite moment on the record as a whole. Lines such as “Subtle mistakes felt like life or death” and “The lost ones keeping me up at night” are heartbreaking, honest, and most importantly, very relatable for many listeners including myself. I could go on about this song all day, but to keep it short, this is one of if not my favorite song on the record.
A high point on the record introduces another high right after, as Father Time speaks for itself in a graceful track. I was getting flashbacks from his previous record “DAMN” as the sample goes backward for part of the track. Sampha fits perfectly with this track, as he provides a soothing chorus while Kendrick sounds hungry. The line “Daddy issues, hid my emotions, never expressed myself. Man should never show feelings, being sensitive never helped” had me doing the face squint. For one, it was an absolute bar, but it also speaks to the feeling that he has to hide his emotions because he doesn’t want to seem like a weak father figure. The Kanye and Drake reference was also very unexpected, but it wasn’t really a diss, so there’s not much to elaborate about it. Amazing track as a whole.
Kodak seems to read off of Kendrick’s lyric sheet on Rich Interlude. Moving on. Rich Spirit might be the weakest track on the album. It’s a filler track, it’s a failed attempt at being a catchy and replayable song, and I bet there’s dozens of tracks in the vault that could’ve replaced this. It’s not a mess, it’s just underwhelming.
The beginning of We Cry Together sounded like the Big Mouth intro with Lingua Ignota singing over it. Seconds later, the production sounds like old Eminem. If you haven’t heard this track, that probably makes no sense. Kendrick Lamar and Taylour Paige go on to have a 5 minute argument that doesn’t seem like a song. The fact that I feel like I’m intruding something I shouldn’t be hearing is pure genius. I’ve heard many people say that they can relate to this, but there’s many different ways of describing that. That could either come from a personal experience with a relationship, or even parents' fights that you’ve been present for. Either way, the track is brutal, and I say that in the best way possible.
When I saw the features on Purple Hearts, I was shocked to see Summer Walker instead of SZA. But the most surprising thing about the whole record was the fact that Summer Walker outperformed Kendrick. Kendrick saying “Yeah, baby” multiple times had me cringing. That is by far the worst moment on the record. Despite that awful moment, Ghostface Killah absolutely murders his verse. I’m mixed on this song, but overall, it’s pretty good.
The first side of the record, The Big Steppers, is somewhat inconsistent, but it’s great. There’s highs and lows, and it evens out. I definitely return to more songs on the first side, so maybe it’s the more replayable side, but it’s still too early to make that claim. I’ll move on to the second side: Mr. Morale.
The second side of the album, Mr. Morale, begins with Count Me Out. I’m confused about what he was going for with this song. The track goes from being melo and meaningful, to a singing trap song, and it doesn’t sound great. Lamar’s flow on the end of the track is painfully cringe-worthy. Although it’s meaningful, the sound just bothers me. This isn’t the worst track on the record, but it’s not a great start to the second side at all.
The Crown had so much potential, but it failed to stay interesting. The simple piano instrumental was great, but Lamar put absolutely no energy into his verses. I like how he repeats “I can’t please everybody” because it’s yet another way he can talk about his feelings and personal thoughts in a straightforward approach, but I wish the track sounded more interesting. I’m not saying that it should be accessible, but I feel like so many tracks are just downright unfinished. This is yet another failed opportunity.
Silent Hill is like Mr. Morale’s Off The Grid. To elaborate, Fivio Foreign, who is usually nothing but mediocre, had an insane performance on a track with the legendary rapper Kanye West. Kodak Black is usually very mediocre, but he had an insane performance on this track, and he finds a way to carry the legendary and acclaimed Kendrick Lamar. To speak on Kendrick himself, this track feels like he’s trying to appeal to the mainstream by mumbling a bit, and holding back his full potential of going bar for bar.
Baby Keem absolutely bodies Savior Interlude, as his performance is stronger than anything Kendrick has done on this side of the record yet. Savior shows Kendrick back in his element… somewhat. It still doesn’t sound like Kendrick is at his full potential, but his chemistry with Baby Keem continues as expected. This is the first fully great track on this side of the album. Moving on.
Auntie Diaries speaks for itself. This might be Kendrick’s most personal track to date. This track obviously has some questionable words used, and it’s not for me to comment on, because the slur used isn't directed at me personally. There’s better ways of providing context without saying the slur, but Kendrick did what he did, and that’s on him. I hope anyone who was hurt by this track learns about the meaning behind why he said it, but of course it doesn’t change the fact that he said it.
Hearing Pharrell's production directly after a questionable track was a weird change of pace. Kendrick sounds hungrier than ever. Tanna Leone was a great addition to this track, as his chemistry with Kendrick works very well. This is the type of sound that I wanted to hear more on this record. Parts of this track sound like Stranger Things, especially when it comes to the heavy breathing.
Mother I Sober is so much longer than it needs to be. Kendrick’s verses are incredibly hard-hitting, but the fact that the entire track has an unenergetic sound is mentally draining. The Beth Gibbons addition is also pretty strange. She sounded fine, but the song didn’t really improve from the feature. This is another wasted opportunity for a song with such meaningful lyrics.
The album ends with Mirror. I’m so happy that the album ended on a bang after a mentally draining track that ran up to almost seven minutes. This track brings the album full circle as Kendrick says “I choose me I’m sorry” as a way to say that he needs to work on self-healing despite the long absence from the public. The orchestral sound was also a great choice for the ending of the record. I was hoping for a more beautiful ending, but the track ended with the same instrumental as the entire track had, and that’s okay.
I could talk about this record forever, and I’m aware that I had a lot of criticism towards it, but I’m so happy for Kendrick. He didn’t make this record to sell copies. It was more of a way to tell the people how he’s been feeling over the past few years, and that takes a lot of courage and honesty. The unfortunate part was the fact that The Heart Part 5 was better than everything on this record by far, but I guess that’s just how things are. Kendrick Lamar is back, he’s going on tour, and he didn’t need to make To Pimp A Butterfly 2.0 to prove that he’s one of the greatest to ever do it.