Kendrick Lamar is one of those few artists who has received critical and commercial acclaim very early on in his career. Growing up in Compton, an area known for gang violence, Lamar broke into the hip-hop scene with strong mixtapes under the moniker of K-Dot. Changing his name back to Kendrick Lamar, the young rapper swiftly rose in the ranks, thanks to the first album he made called Section.80. This album is unique compared to other hip-hop albums, especially on the West Coast scene. Compton is a city where a lot of West Coast rappers originate from. They usual rap about how tough or vicious they are. But Lamar’s mindset is different compared to other rappers because his lyrics are very thought-provoking.
By the sound of his lyrics, one would think Lamar is far older than he appears. His flows are very laid back; equivalent to Dr. Dre in a sense. But there is a lot to think about in his music. Lamar‘s first song, “F*** Your Ethnicity,” goes into racism and talks about how pointless it is. “What the f*** is you fighting for? / Ain’t nobody gon’ win that war / my details be retail man, / I got so much in store.” I don’t want to quote the entire song, but later in the track, Lamar talks about his fans waiting in lines for his show. He ridicules people who want to start a fight in his shows, showing how everyone in the crowd is diverse and came to see him.
His production on Section.80 is excellent. Even if his hooks are weak, they’re still enjoyable. A good example would be “The Spiteful Chant”. Lamar essentially took samples from WoodKid’s song, “‘Iron.” At first, I was very let down, knowing that he did this. But then Lamar added some of his own samples, which definitely improved the sound. Getting back to the hook, he basically chants that there are too many boys and not enough girls, which is a cliché in hip-hop. But he manages to make it catchy and enjoyable rather than a tune that sounds repetitive and annoying.
Kendrick Lamar shows his world view in this album, and it comes off masterfully on this LP. I would even go far as to say this album plays out like he is narrating a novel of his life. He goes into relationships, prostitutes, and justice. The song, “A.D.H.D.,” addresses the drug and medication for people born during the Reagan era, while other songs such as “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” goes into women’s issues. That’s incredible in a way because not many rappers really cover women’s issues. He still says derogatory things against women such as bitch or ho, but they come off more in context of the story than him actually sounding sexist.
You can tell that Lamar made this album mainly for the Generation Y. People that were born in the 1980s who have, in some form, dealt with the same problems Lamar did. It’s quite profound when you think about it. A rapper with a completely different background from me in race and class, yet he can relate to me on a personal experience. It’s remarkable. To pull off something like that is an incredible accomplishment.
It was pretty difficult to find flaws in this album, but if there was a major one it would probably be Lamar’s voice. At times, in this album, his voice comes off a little underwhelming. This is especially apparent when compared to other rappers such as Ice Cube or Killer Mike, who have aggressive and enthusiastic vocals in their songs. I’m not saying that Lamar’s voice doesn’t have any enthusiasm. If anything, his sophomore album, Good Kid Maad City, shows a more creative personality in his voice. But in Section.80, his vocals fall flat at times, and he sounds like he’s not interested in some songs. The reason behind this could be because he’s more introverted compared to other rappers, especially for the fact that this was his debut album. Between his vocals, a few flawed hooks, and a couple unoriginal lines, Lamar still pulled off an outstanding debut album.
Lamar absolutely shines on this LP. It was an incredible starting point for him that led him to become one of the greatest voices in hip-hop today. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying that he is talented. A few years back when he was starting out in the music industry, he stated that his main goal was to prove himself. Well, that’s a huge understatement because he succeeded in doing that with Section.80.