In a world filled with doubters, some people remain focused, allowing their heads to stay above water. Life can attack you with obstacles and demons will attempt to sabotage your dreams. One must remain mindful of bad energy that reside in the atmosphere and continue striving with tunnel vision. In the Music Industry, dreams are shattered by rejection which leaves many aspiring artist malnourished with a depleted ego. Individuals who visualize light at the end of the tunnel often find themselves one step closer to Utopia. Each genre of music has talented dreamers in every town, city, state, and region. We know it’s basically impossible to make it “Big” because there are so many factors and layers in “Show Business”. You almost have a better chance of hitting the lottery.
As far as Hip Hop, I’m sure there is a kid right now recording rhymes in his bedroom preparing to share his material with friends and family. This kid will more than likely never sign a Record Deal. This kid will more than likely never have a song on the radio or perform his/her music on a stage. This is normal in the life of dreamer. Of course this “Lottery Ticket of Emotions” should never defeat your ambition. I’m sure people reading this blog have been forced to endure countless trials and tribulations in their respected careers. You can’t expect a life without struggle. Frederick Douglas stated “If there is no struggle, there is no progress”. I’ve followed Rap Music for more than 30 years and some of the greatest MC’s/Artist who ever graced our culture faced brick walls. In the case of Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, his journey started in Compton, one of the most interesting and complex cities in America.
“Would you say my intelligence now is great relief?
And it's safe to say that our next generation maybe can sleep
With dreams of being a lawyer or doctor
Instead of boy with a chopper that hold the cul de sac hostage” - m.A.A.d city
The great thing about Hip Hop is Rappers allow fans to travel with them through their lyrics. When I was in Junior High, NWA took me to Compton and even talked to me about Police Brutality, before witnessing the Rodney King Beating several years later. Run DMC showed me New York City and by the time I was a senior in High School, Outkast had taken me to Atlanta even though I wouldn’t physically make the trip for a few years. You see, Hip Hop has a way of expanding our experiences. Dr. Dre made sure Compton was a household name by the late 80’s. By the time I ran across this kid on YouTube from Compton affectionately called K-Dot, I was already aware of the talent in “Hub City”.
“This plot is bigger than me, it's generational hatred
It's genocism, it's grimy, little justification
I'm African-American, I'm African
I'm black as the heart of a fuckin' Aryan
I'm black as the name of Tyrone and Dareous” – The Blacker the Berry
As I stated earlier, you will have to fight to achieve most goals. You will have to fight if you plan to turn a dream into a reality. Kendrick Lamar came from humble beginnings with his parents originally being from Chicago. Growing up on Section 8 with a father affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, a local street gang; was challenging to say the least. Even with these obstacles, it is documented that K-Dot was an outstanding student, often making all A’s in High School. Whenever I see young people who achieve at high levels regardless of home environment, I’m led to believe they have an inner strength that would prove beneficial later in life. As I reflect back on K-Dot’s YouTube videos, I was pleasantly surprised at his skill set. I mean, he looked about 16 or 17 years old. This was around 2006-2007. I immediately thought about one of my favorite West Coast MC’s Kurupt on my first few listens. I could tell he had studied all of the great West Coast MC’s that came before him. I could tell K-Dot was serious about being the best he could be. Whenever you put so much effort into your words and craft, someone is going to notice you. Needless to say, the word got out around Compton.
“I’m trying to follow DREAMS, you want me to follow TRENDS” – Kendrick Lamar track “K-Dot”, rhyming over an Erykah Badu instrumental
From 2006-2010, K-Dot would start releasing Mixtapes. It’s sad that a lot of casual fans who love Kendrick Lamar aren’t familiar with the K-Dot years. Trust me when I tell you he was very good back then. I mean, very good at rapping. At any rate, Lamar caught the attention of a new Indie Record Company called Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and signed a record contract. Riding high off his mixtape success, Lamar and other aspiring Rappers (including Jay Rock and Ya Boy) became the opening act for The GAME, who was now the biggest Rapper out of Compton. The Game was the protégé of Dr. Dre. As you can see, things started to come full circle. By 2010 K-Dot was going by his government name Kendrick Lamar and released The Kendrick Lamar EP (2009) and Overly Dedicated (2010). Lamar worked with The Game, MURS, Dre and Snoop for the unreleased Detox Album, and his new crew The Black Hippies. The Black Hippy consists of Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock. During summer 2011 Lamar released his debut album Section 80 which introduced him to Hip Hop fans on the East Coast as well as his loyal fans on the West Coast. Section 80 was critically acclaimed. During this time period Lamar spent time in the studio with J. Cole (produced Section 80 single HiiiPoWer), Terrace Martin, and Andre 3000. Lamar was living the dream.
“I'm not sure why I'm infatuated with death.
My imagination is surely an aggravation of threats
that can come about 'cause the tongue is mighty powerful.
And I can name a list of your favorites that probably vouch.
Maybe 'cause I'm a dreamer and sleep is the cousin of death.”
Kendrick Lamar is a consistent artist who released new music several years in a row during the time period of 2005-2012. From 2012 – 2017 Kendrick Lamar is responsible for a host of critically and commercially successful albums including Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012), To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN (2017). Oh, he also assisted in the production of The Black Panther Soundtrack and the lead artist. This was an amazing accomplishment as well. During this 5 year span Lamar has received countless awards, sold out tours, worked with the biggest artist not only in Hip Hop but music in general, got engaged to long time girlfriend and became the most popular artist of this generation along with Drake and J. Cole. Lamar is possibly the best live performer of this new era post Kanye West. Lamar lyrical approach and diverse subject matter has put him in a class with legendary MC’s such as Tupac, NAS, and Scarface. Lamar is also not afraid of battling, which is a staple in our culture. He dropped a verse on Big Sean’s “Control” where he called himself the King of New York, calling out several prominent artists. The Hip Hop World stood still and several MC’s attacked Lamar over the track. Lamar responded on a BET Cypher with a vicious verse. I believe all MC’s who consider themselves great must battle. I mean, the groundwork was laid by Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, and KRS One. There is no need to stop tradition. Battling aside, I honestly believe Kendrick’s biggest asset as a rapper is his consciousness and internal struggles. This gives him somewhat of the DMX factor.
“As I open this book and then burn up some of this reefer
My plan is to figure out the world and escape all my demons
I'm dying inside, I wonder if Zion inside the heavens
A condom, a Rollie, pain, a fat blunt and a Mac-11
That's all I see in my life and they tell me to make it right
But I'm right on the edge of Everest and I might jump tonight
Have you ever had known a saint that was taking sinner's advice?
Well it's probably you, am I right?
If I'm wrong, you a f*cking lie
When I lie on back and look at the ceiling
it's so appealing to pray
I wonder if I'm just a villain, dealing my morals away
Some people look at my face then tell me don't worry 'bout it
I give 'em back they deposit, no money, just total silence
I'm running, they say I'm wilding a young'n with lack of guidance
That's hundreds of us with problems:
more money, more drugs and violence
Look at the soul of an out-of-control artist
That's dealing with life the hardest,
that's on my life, but regardless I'mma
Ride to it, ride to it, cause you never know
When a bullet might hit and you die to it, die to it
Die to it, die to it, live your life, live it right
Be different, do different things
Don't do it like he did, cause he ain't what you is
But we can win, wait, let's get straight to the point
Kendrick Lamar - Kush & Corinthians Lyrics | MetroLyrics
As we come full circle, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth dreams became a phenomenal reality. A kid from Compton, California who once rapped in freestyle sessions with friends achieved international fame and in 2018, was awarded Pulitzer Prize for Music for his most recent album DAMN. This accomplishment is the first in the History of Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Kendrick Lamar has a chance to enter the Top 10 Greatest MC’s list in the future if he continues to progress at this rate. Lamar is a dynamic MC on every level. I challenge any true Hip Hop Head to revisit his early mixtapes and each of his albums for perspective. I also recommend you listen to the song FEEL off DAMN. Listen to this track closely and come back and talk to me. Earlier I stated most aspiring artist will never have a career. This is an unfortunate reality. With that being said, you have to enter the battles of life as if you have a chance to win. You never know an outcome if you don’t put forth the effort. I’m sure there are people who told Kendrick Lamar back in High School that he would never be a famous rapper. He had the choice to listen to people who tried to predict his future, or continue with tunnel vision. At the end of his tunnel was not a train. The light that shined was blessings for perseverance and a Utopia that he’s shared with us through potent lyricism.
Source: Metrolyrics, Wiki, YoubTube, Kendrick Lamar Official Website - Profile Pic from The Source Magazine
Kendrick Lamar - Vanity Slaves