Lamar performing at the Pitchfork Music Festival in July 2012
|Birth name||Kendrick Lamar Duckworth|
|Also known as||K.Dot|
June 17, 1987 |
Compton, California, U.S.
|Labels||Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope Records|
|Associated acts||Black Hippy, Dr. Dre, The Game, Jay Rock, J. Cole|
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth (born June 17, 1987), known simply as Kendrick Lamar, is an American hip hop recording artist from Compton, California. Initially signed to independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment, in 2012, Lamar and the label signed a joint venture deal with Aftermath and Interscope Records. Lamar is also a member of West Coast hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside label-mates and fellow California-based rappers Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.
Lamar first began to gain major attention in 2010, after the release of his fourth mixtape Overly Dedicated. The next year, he released Section.80, his first independent album to critical acclaim; released exclusively through iTunes and instantly ranked as one of the top digital hip hop releases of the year. Early in his career, before releasing his major label debut, Lamar amassed a large internet following, and had already worked with Dr. Dre, Game, Drake, Young Jeezy, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, E-40, Warren G and Lil Wayne, among other popular artists. Lamar also received a total of seven Grammy nominations for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards (2014), including Best New Artist, Album of the Year, and Best Rap Song.
His major label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012 to widespread acclaim. The album spawned the Top 40 hits "Swimming Pools (Drank)", "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe", and "Poetic Justice". The album, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In early 2013, MTV crowned Lamar the No. 1 Hottest MC in the Game, on their annual list.
Life and career
1987–2009: Early life and musical beginnings
Kendrick Lamar was born in Compton, California, to parents from Chicago, Illinois. In 1995, at the age of eight, Lamar witnessed his idols Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre, film the music video for their hit single "California Love", which would later prove to be a very significant moment in Lamar's life. As a teenager, Lamar attended Centennial High School in Compton, where he was a straight A student.
In 2003, at the age of sixteen, Lamar released his first full-length project, a mixtape titled Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year), under the pseudonym K-Dot. The mixtape garnered enough local attention for Lamar to secure a recording contract with Carson-based indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). He then released a twenty-six track mixtape two years later titled Training Day (2005). Throughout 2006 and 2007, Lamar, alongside other up-and-coming West Coast rappers such as his TDE label-mate Jay Rock and Ya Boy, toured and opened for veteran West Coast rapper Game. Lamar, under his moniker K-Dot, was also featured on Game's songs "The Cypha" and "Cali Niggaz".
In 2008, Lamar made a brief cameo appearance in the music video for his Top Dawg label-mate Jay Rock's commercial debut single, "All My Life (In the Ghetto)". More recognition came Lamar's way after a video of a Charles Hamilton show surfaced, where Hamilton went in the crowd to battle fellow rappers in attendance. Lamar did not hesitate and began rapping a verse over Miilkbone's "Keep It Real", that would later appear on a track titled "West Coast Wu-Tang". After receiving a co-sign from American hip hop superstar Lil Wayne, Lamar released his third mixtape in 2009 titled C4, heavily themed around Wayne's Tha Carter III LP. Soon after, Lamar decided to drop K-Dot as his stage name and go by his birth name. He subsequently released a self-titled extended play (EP) in late 2009. In 2009, Lamar also formed Black Hippy, a supergroup with label-mates and fellow California-based rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q.
2010–2011: Overly Dedicated
Throughout 2010, Lamar toured with Tech N9ne and Jay Rock on The Independent Grind tour. On September 4, 2010, Lamar unveiled the cover art for his fourth mixtape Overly Dedicated, designed by RedefineCreativity. On September 14, 2010 he released the visuals for "P&P 1.5", a song taken from Overly Dedicated, featuring his Black Hippy cohort Ab-Soul. On September 14, Lamar also released Overly Dedicated, to digital retailers under Top Dawg Entertainment, and later on September 23, released it for free online. The project fared well enough to enter the United States Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, where it peaked at number 72.
The highly acclaimed mixtape includes a song titled "Ignorance Is Bliss", in which Lamar glorifies gangsta rap and street crime, but ends each verse with "ignorance is bliss", giving the message "we know not what we do;" it was this song specifically that made legendary hip hop producer Dr. Dre, want to work with Lamar, after watching the song's music video on YouTube. This led to Lamar working with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on Dre's often-delayed Detox album and speculation of Lamar signing to Dr. Dre's record label, Aftermath Entertainment. In December 2010, Complex spotlighted Lamar in an edition of their “Indie Intro” series.
In January 2011, Lamar stated his next project was 90% finished. In early 2011, Lamar was included in XXL's annual Top 10 Freshman Class, and was featured on the cover alongside fellow up-and-coming rappers CyHi the Prynce, Meek Mill, Mac Miller, Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T., among others. On April 11, 2011 Lamar announced the title of his next full-length project to be Section.80, and revealed he would release its lead single the following day. As promised, on April 12, 2011 Lamar released "HiiiPoWeR", the album's first single, of which the concept was to further explain the HiiiPoWeR movement. The song was produced by fellow American rapper J. Cole, with whom Lamar began closely working with at the time; the song marked their first of many collaborations to come.
On the topic of whether his next project would be an album or a mixtape, Lamar answered: "I treat every project like it's an album anyway. It's not gonna be nothing leftover. I never do nothing like that. These are my leftover songs y'all can have 'em, nah. I'm gonna put my best out. My best effort. I'm tryna look for an album in 2012." In June 2011, Lamar released "Ronald Reagan Era (His Evils)", a cut from Section.80, featuring Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA. On July 2, 2011, Lamar released Section.80, his first independent album, to critical acclaim. The album features guest appearances from GLC, Colin Munroe, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, while the production was handled by Top Dawg in-house production team Digi+Phonics as well as Wyldfyer, Terrace Martin and J. Cole. Section.80 went on to sell 5,300 digital copies in its first abbreviated week, without any television or radio coverage and received mostly positive reviews.
In August 2011, while onstage with fellow West Coast rappers Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Game at a West Los Angeles concert, the three of them crowned Lamar the "New King of the West Coast". On August 24, 2011, Lamar released the music video for the popular Section.80 track, "A.D.H.D". The video was directed by Vashtie Kola who had this to say of the video: "Inspired by “A.D.H.D”s dark beat and melancholy lyrics which explore a generation in conflict, we find Kendrick Lamar in a video that illustrates the songs universal and age-old theme of apathetic youth. Shot in New York City during the sweltering July Summer heat, “A.D.H.D” is the third video to be released from Kendrick Lamar’s album Section.80." In October 2011, Lamar appeared alongside fellow American rappers B.o.B, Tech N9ne, MGK and Big K.R.I.T., in a cypher, in which they all took turns rapping, at the BET Hip Hop Awards. In October, Lamar partnered with Windows Phone, and crafted an original song titled "Cloud 10", with producer Nosaj Thing, to promote their new product. In the second half of 2011, Lamar appeared on several high-profile albums including Game's The R.E.D. Album, Tech N9ne's All 6's and 7's, 9th Wonder's The Wonder Years and Canadian recording artist Drake's Grammy Award-winning Take Care, where Lamar had a solo track.
2012–present: good kid, m.A.A.d city
On February 15, 2012, a song by Lamar titled "Cartoon & Cereal", featuring fellow American rapper Gunplay of Triple C's, was leaked online. Lamar later revealed that the track was for his debut studio album and had plans to shoot a video for it. Although the song would later be ranked #2 in Complex's Best 50 Songs of 2012 list, it would ultimately fail to appear on Lamar's debut. In February 2012, it was announced FADER enlisted both Kendrick Lamar and Detroit rapper Danny Brown, to cover the front pages for their Spring Style issue. In February, Lamar also embarked on Drake's Club Paradise Tour, opening along with fellow American rappers ASAP Rocky and 2 Chainz.
In March 2012, MTV announced that Top Dawg Entertainment closed a joint venture deal with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment, marking the end of Lamar's career as an independent artist. Under the new deal, Lamar’s projects, including his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city, were set to be jointly released via Top Dawg, Aftermath and Interscope, while releases from the rest of his Black Hippy members were to be distributed via Top Dawg and Interscope, respectively. In March, Lamar appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly, where he spoke on Dr. Dre and his hometown of Compton, California. Lamar premiered his commercial debut single "The Recipe", on Big Boy's Neighborhood at Power 106, on April 2, 2012. The song, which serves as the first single from his debut studio album, was released for digital download the following day. The song features vocal from his mentor Dr. Dre, who also mixed the record and was produced by West Coast producer Scoop DeVille.
On May 14, 2012, J. Cole again spoke on his collaborative effort with Lamar. In an interview with Bootleg Kev, Cole stated: "I just started working with Kendrick the other day. We got it in, finally, again. We got maybe four or five [songs] together." On May 21, Lamar made his 106 & Park debut, alongside Ace Hood, joining Birdman and Mack Maine on stage to perform "B Boyz," talk about his style and sound, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, as well as his word on his upcoming collaborative LP with J. Cole. On May 21, Lamar also released "War Is My Love," an original song written and recorded for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier video game, which he appeared in a mini promotional clip for, earlier that month. On May 24, Cole posted pictures of him and Lamar working in the studio, via his DreamVillain blog. On November 13, 2012, in a recent interview with the LA Leakers, Lamar revealed that the two are still working on the project, and that there will be no given release date for the joint album: "We gone drop that out the sky though. I ain’t gonna give no dates, no nothing. I’m just gonna let it fall."
On July 31, 2012, Top Dawg, Aftermath and Interscope serviced "Swimming Pools (Drank)", as the lead single from Lamar's debut album. The song's music video, directed by Jerome D, premiered August 3, 2012 on 106 & Park. The song peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, in its thirteenth week of charting after gradually climbing up the chart. On August 15, 2012, Lady Gaga announced via Twitter, that she and Lamar had recorded a song titled "PARTYNAUSEOUS", for his debut album. The song, later re-titled "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe", ultimately did not feature Lady Gaga due to timing and creative differences. On August 17, 2012, Lamar released a song titled "Westside, Right on Time", featuring Southern rapper Young Jeezy. The song was released as a part of the "Top Dawg Entertainment Fam Appreciation Week", that the label was hosting. During 2012, Lamar also toured with the rest of Black Hippy and MMG rapper Stalley on BET's Music Matters Tour.
Lamar's major label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012. The album was met with critical acclaim and debuted at number two, selling 242,122 copies in its first week. In December 2012, FUSE TV named Lamar's single, "Backseat Freestyle," one of the top 40 songs of 2012. The album has sold 980,000 copies as of July 2013 and has been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). HipHop DX named Lamar "Emcee of the Year" for their 2012 Year End Awards. On January 26, 2013, Lamar performed the album's lead singles "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and "Poetic Justice", on Saturday Night Live. He also appeared alongside host Adam Levine and comedy band The Lonely Island, in an SNL Digital Short, which spawned the single "YOLO". On February 22, 2013, Lamar released the video for "Poetic Justice", the Janet Jackson-sampling collaboration with Canadian rapper Drake. On February 26, Lamar performed "Poetic Justice" on the Late Show with David Letterman. Just nine months after its release, good kid, m.A.A.d city was certified Platinum by the RIAA, with Lamar receiving his first Platinum plaque for an album.
In August 2013, Lamar's verse on the Big Sean track "Control", made waves across the hip-hop world, with Lamar vowing to lyrically "murder" every other up-and-coming rapper, namely J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, ASAP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler, The Creator, and Mac Miller and called himself the "King of New York", which caused controversy. Many rappers took offense to the lines without even being mentioned by name. American rappers including Lupe Fiasco, Papoose, Joell Ortiz, Cassidy, Riff Raff, Joe Budden, JR Writer, King L, The Mad Rapper, Mickey Factz, Mysonne, Bizarre, Fred The Godson, and B.o.B all released a response or diss track within a week.
On September 6, 2013, American recording artist and record producer Kanye West, announced he would be headlining his first solo tour in five years, in support of his sixth album Yeezus, with Kendrick Lamar accompanying him along the way. The Yeezus Tour would later begin in October. In October, it was revealed Lamar would be the only rapper to be featured on Eminem's eighth studio album The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Also in October, at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards, Lamar won five awards, including Album of the Year and Lyricist of the Year, the latter of which he also won the year before. At the award show, Lamar performed "Money Trees", and was also featured in a cypher alongside his Top Dawg label-mates Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad and Ab-Soul. During an October 2013 interview with XXL, Lamar revealed that following The Yeezus Tour, he would begin to start working on his next album.
In November 2013, he was named GQ's "Rapper of the Year," and was featured on the cover of the magazine's "Men of the Year" issue. During the interview, he stated that he would begin recording his second major label album in January 2014. Following the issue's release TDE's CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, pulled Kendrick Lamar from performing at GQ's party that accompanies the issue, calling out writer Steve Marsh's profile, "Kendrick Lamar: Rapper of the Year," for its "racial overtones." GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson responded saying: "Kendrick Lamar is one of the most talented new musicians to arrive on the scene in years," the EIC said in a statement that was posted to the magazine's website this weekend. "That's the reason we chose to celebrate him, wrote an incredibly positive article declaring him the next King of Rap, and gave him our highest honor: putting him on the cover of our Men of the Year issue. I'm not sure how you can spin that into a bad thing, and I encourage anyone interested to read the story and see for themselves." Lamar received a total of seven Grammy nominations for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards (2014), including Best New Artist, Album of the Year, and Best Rap Song.
He has stated that 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas and Eminem are his top five favorite rappers. Tupac Shakur, arguably his biggest influence, has influenced not only his music, but his day-to-day lifestyle as well. In terms of subject matter and technical ability, Kendrick Lamar has often been compared to Tupac, Eminem, Nas, and Jay-Z. Lamar also gave Lil Wayne (during his Hot Boyz days) credit for influencing his style. He has said that he also grew up listening to Rakim, Dr. Dre and Tha Dogg Pound. He also cites rapper DMX as an influence: "[DMX] really [got me started] on music," explained Lamar in an interview with Philadelphia's Power 99. "That first album [It's Dark and Hell Is Hot] is classic, [so he had an influence on me]."
Awards and accolades
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- Daniel Isenberg (September 16, 2012). "Photo Recap: Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Stalley Rock BET's Music Matters Tour in D.C.". Complex. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
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