A Kendrick Lamar Cover Story From The Golden Days Of GKMC

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This new era of hip-hop has caused much debate and distress to music fans and critics, who have dealt with gimmicks, trends, cookie-cutter rappers, redundant southern beats and club bangers, creating a concern for the future of hip-hop. One artist this past year however, seemed to have shared this same concern, emerging from the underground to reinvent the genre; single-handedly generating the reinvention of this era’s west-coast hip-hop, the reinvention of the album and storytelling on a mainstream platform through his label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city last year.

The Compton spitter and Black Hippy, Kendrick Lamar, hit up Toronto this past summr for the Under The Influence of Music tour alongside headliners Wiz KHalifa and Mac Miller. He sat down with Urbanology Magazine in his hotel the day after his set. He looked tired yet genuinely happy, while sharing his philosophies on music. He spoke quietly and humbly, yet there was an intense passion and hunger in his eyes; a young artist with an old soul.

Respected by artist and adored by fans, Kendrick has refreshingly added to the culture of hip-hop with his mentality and new sound, creating a serious following, which began with his projects Section. 80 and Overly Dedicated. There were no gimmicks and/or drama associated with the Cali emcee and it has been a long time since an artist was fully respected for their artistry, originality and talent, as opposed to anything else.

The Top Dawg shared that his main objective as an artist is to add to the pioneering motive of hip-hop, which was initially about originality and expression and to give back to the culture by staying true to his creativity and lyrical content, which is a lot more than most money hungry artists can say in today’s industry.

“My overall mission as an emcee is really just to carry on tradition, man, and just keeping it organic and keeping it real. From my understanding, the early stages of hip-hop was to sound like yourself, have your own unique voice, have your own unique message and have your own unique style and stand original in hip-hop, so carrying on that. That’s why I tried not to follow the trends, I try to defend myself to be unique and carry on who I am, not somebody else,” he explained.

And K-dot successfully sparked this revolution with his debut label release, good kid, m.A.A.d city, which went gold and his been argued and placed on numerous lists, as hip-hop album of the year for 2012. The concept album, which he titled a ‘short film,’ is definitely a project to watch with eyes closed. The album tells Lamar’s Compton childhood story from front to back as he captivated the world through Sherane, his mother’s mini-van and the death of his close friend with refreshingly original tracks such as “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Money Trees” and “The Art Of Peer Pressure.” Not only were his lyrics the most quotable lines of the past year as “Ya Bish” and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” could be seen and heard everywhere, but the relevance of his stories impacted hip-hop and music fans all over the world.

“My stories and messages, [I want fans] to know that it came from a real place, a real person and looking back and listening to it, you know ‘he’s genuine, he’s just like me, he feels the same experiences that I went through or that I’m going through.’ So, just to take somebody that’s relatable, through music, through my stories,” he says.

His story is a universal truth and a classic hip-hop tale, that we are all products of our environment and affected by our surroundings – a safe of a kid from the hood, attempting to be much more than that. There is no glorification of the streets of life in Compton as Kendrick shares his lessons and morals in a genuine and original way, found in the undertones of his music. His genius is found in his cryptic approach to these truths on women, death, substance abuse and authenticity, found throughout the album.

Besides his sound, Kendrick is not creating anything ultimately new, but rather reinventing the original soul of hip-hop through his storytelling which is a task respected from fans young and old. And it seems that so far, this is how Kendrick has gained his following. Kendrick Lamar fans crowded into Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre on a hot and sunny evening last summer, to see the rap innovating artist perform.

Dre.Square, a young aspiring artist himself, states that Kendrick gives him the motivation to be the best and to tell his own stories, because he never knows who he could be influencing. “I think Kendrick spits raw. He spits real music,” he says. “I listen to him every single day and he inspires me as an artist.”

And this is similar to Kadeem Guevara, a fan who came out to the Under The Influence Of Music concert, which was an evening full of many big names. But Guevara bought his ticket and came to see Kendrick over any other artist on the bill. Even before the release of Kendrick’s debut label album, Kendrick’s fans knew that only big things were to come for the hip-hop visionary. “He’s the future of rap. He’s always on something different; he’s just always new and refreshing,” Guevara says.

Now after the success of an album like GKMC, there can be immense expectations of an artist to deliver a follow up project to the same caliber, but K-dot says that the music business in no way affects the music he makes, Interscope artist or not. Kendrick says he never feels pressure from the industry to be moulded into something he’s not as he will always stay real to who he is and where he’s from, no matter where his music journey takes him.

“I really don’t look at it as pressure, because I’m going to do what I want to do, regardless and you’re going to have to accept that, because at the end of the day, now that I’m in the industry, they gotta recognize that I’ve built this movement from the ground up with my team of making real music. When I saw ‘real’, it means making that connection, because everybody has their own opinion of what real is. My real is making that connection through the music that I’m speaking on, whether you relate it to a story, or me just feeling good on a track,” the emcee says.

And that’s just how he feels. From the underground to the mainstream, it is safe to say that fans, critics and music enthusiasts are anticipating Kendrick’s next move. We will enjoy the rebirth of storytelling and artistry brought to the hip-hop mainstream by Compton’s good kid, as he moves from the mad city, to the mad world.

Cover article for Urbanology Magazine 2012

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