Kendrick Lamar Duckworth (born June 17, 1987), simply known 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, along with fellow California-based rappers and label-mates Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.
He first gained major attention after the release of his fourth mixtape, Overly Dedicated, in 2010. The next year, he released his first independent album to critical acclaim, Section.80 (2011), 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.
His major label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012 to universal acclaim. The album spawned the Top 40 hits “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “Poetic Justice”. The album was later certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In early 2013, MTV crowned Lamar the No. 1 Hottest MC in the Game, on their well known 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”, 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 mixtape, Youngest Head Nigga In Charge, under the moniker K-Dot. The mixtape garnered enough local attention for Lamar to get a record deal with Carson-based independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment. He then released a twenty-six track mixtape two years later titled Training Day (2005). From 2006 through 2007, Lamar, alongside other young West Coast rappers such as Jay Rock and Ya Boy, had opened for fellow West Coast rapper Game. Lamar, under his pseudonym 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 Top Dawg label-mate Jay Rock’s 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. This resulted in him releasing a self-titled EP, Kendrick Lamar, 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
In 2010, he toured with Tech N9ne and Jay Rock on The Independent Grind tour. On September 4, 2010 Lamar unveiled the cover art for 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, 2010, Lamar released Overly Dedicated to digital retailers under Top Dawg Entertainment, and later on September 23, released it for free online. 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 Detox album and him considering signing to Dre’s 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 Magazine’s annual Freshman Class, and was featured on the cover alongside fellow up and coming rappers CyHi the Prynce, Meek Mill, Mac Miller, Yelawolf, Lil B, Big K.R.I.T. and Diggy Simmons, 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 it’s lead single the following day. As promised, on April 12, 2011 Lamar released “HiiiPoWeR”, the album’s first promotional 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)”, acut 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 along with 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 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 rappers B.o.B, Tech N9ne, MGK and Big K.R.I.T., in a hip hop cypher at the BET Awards. In October, Lamar also 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 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 titled “Cartoon & Cereal” featuring 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 failed to appear on Lamar’s debut. It was announced in February 2012, for their Spring Style issue, FADER enlisted both Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown to cover the front pages.
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 Black Hippy were to be distributed via Top Dawg and Interscope, respectively. In 2012, Lamar toured alongside Drake on his Club Paradise Tour, opening along with fellow rappers ASAP Rocky and 2 Chainz. In March 2012, he appeared on the track “Fight the Feeling”, from Mac Miller’s Macadelic mixtape. In March 2012, Lamar also appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly, where he spoke on Compton and Dr. Dre. 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 was produced by Scoop DeVille and features his mentor Dr. Dre, who also mixed the record.
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 talk “B Boyz,” 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 promo 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.” The two recently teamed up for a track called “The Jig Is Up”, celebrating the success of Kendrick’s studio debut. Shortly after J. Cole announced that he would be releasing his sophomore album Born Sinner, on January 28th.
On August 15, 2012, Lady Gaga announced via Twitter that she and Lamar had recorded a song tentatively titled, “PARTYNAUSEOUS”. The song, later re-titled “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” ultimately did not feature Lady Gaga due to creative differences. On August 17, 2012, Lamar liberated “Westside, Right on Time”, a new song 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 Stalley on BET’s Music Matters Tour.
amar’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 794,000 copies as of March 2013 and has been certified Gold by the 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 The Lonely Island on 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 Drake. On February 26, Lamar performed “Poetic Justice” on the Late Show with David Letterman.
He has stated that 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas and Eminem are his top five favorite rappers. Tupac Shakur who is probably his biggest influence, influences 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].