In a time of growing racial tensions in the United States, experimental hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar has emerged as the voice of the oppressed. Born in Compton, Lamar has become recognized as the King of the West Coast due to his unconventional beats, politically-charged lyrics, cinematic production, and furious rapping techniques. As demonstrated by his soul-baring discography, Lamar is an essential artist that produces music that is ambitious, immersive, and vital.
This year, witness Kendrick Lamar live in concert as he promotes his latest album Damn at venues such as Montreal’s Bell Centre and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with openers YG and D.R.A.M.
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Greatness has always been directly correlated with relevance. The music of legends like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Nas, and even Eminem are innovative pieces of pristine brilliance that remain impervious to the fickleness of time. After all, it is no coincidence that these great rappers have all produced music that is still pertinent today.
And if greatness truly is related to relevance, then Kendrick Lamar is the latest inductee to this Pantheon of Legendary Rappers.
In 2015, Lamar released his timeless classic To Pimp a Butterfly. Perhaps the most socially aware work in recent memory, the Grammy-winning album became a politically conscious triumph that cemented Lamar as the greatest rapper of our era. The album draws on jazz, funk, soul, and spoken word influences as it breaks new ground and earns the status of masterpiece. Heavily influenced by Lamar’s travels Africa, To Pimp a Butterfly is a crucial perspective on a society becoming increasingly perceptive of the institutional cruelty towards African-American people. On the album, Lamar encapsulates the history of African-American music to discuss themes such as culture, inequality, racial empowerment, gun violence, and police brutality. As a result, the record is infused with unruly rage, introspective contemplation and, above all, hope.
To Pimp a Butterfly received unanimous critical acclaim, and was recognized as the best album of 2015 by countless publications. In addition, the album was commercially prosperous, as demonstrated by its chart-topping debut and longevity. Most importantly, To Pimp a Butterfly transformed Lamar into one of the most influential figures in music. In short, the impact of the album was nothing short of monumental.
Against all odds, Lamar has replicated the success of the groundbreaking record with his new album Damn. Released on April 14, Damn is a testament to the full extent of Lamar’s versatility and proficiency. The album retains everything the pressing relevance of To Pimp a Butterfly while also exhibiting a new layer of insight and innovation. Similarly, Damn substantially contributes to the evolution of rap while still paying tribute to old-school techniques. Like its predecessor, Damn was lauded by critics and topped the charts.
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