Kendrick Lamar, or the story of a king (of rap) who never stops triumphing

Kendrick Lamar has been back since May 13, with an album as committed as it is intimate, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The opportunity to look back on the career of the self-proclaimed “king of rap” and who breathed new life into American rap.

He shared the Super Bowl stage alongside the big names of the 1990s: last February, Kendrick Lamar performed live the most emblematic hip-hop hits of the last 30 years with Eminem, Snoop Dog, Dr.Dre, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cents.

In just a decade, Kendrick Lamar has managed to make a name for himself in the middle of the US rap. And to get everyone to agree. His scathing and committed verve made the artist a real phenomenon. nicknamed the “King of the West Coast”the rapper has had a string of successes since 2010. From mixtapes to collaborations, via several labels, he blesses his followers with his now cult titles, such as HiiiPower (2011), Bitch, don’t kill my vibe (2012) or even Humble (2017). Snoop Dog or Eminem are full of praise for him.

After a four-year hiatus, he is back with a fifth album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. A blessing for his fans, in line with his previous creations; and a new success for one of the most prolific artists of his generation.

An artist who has always been immersed in rap

After being raised in the same Californian suburbs as the legendary group NWA, Kendrick Lamar attended the filming of the clip in 1995 California Love. He then meets one of his idols: Tupac Shakur. A decisive moment for the artist, who began, at the age of 16, to produce his first pieces.

In 2003, he released the mixtape Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year), which he publishes under the pseudonym K-Dot. Two years later, when he signed a recording contract with Top Dawg Entertainment, he released a second mixtape, Training Day.

We find in these first pieces the influences of gangsta rap, a genre and culture initiated by the group of Ice Cub, which Kendrick Lamar also discovers thanks to her family, originally from Chicago, after she had to leave the city of Illinois to flee a gang to which the father belonged . Fans of parties and rap, the artist’s parents transmitted to him their taste for hip hop. It is the beginning of an inexhaustible passion and the singer, between 2006 and 2009, multiplies the tours, the collaborations and the mixtapes. In the early 2010s, he swapped his stage name, K-Dot, for that of Kendrick Lamar.

A rapper dubbed by his peers

From that moment, everything is linked for this young rap prodigy, dubbed by critics thanks to his first album, Division 80 (2011). The general public, meanwhile, discovers it from 2012 thanks to the tube Swimming Poolswhich can be found on his second album, Good Kid, MAAD City (2012) – certified platinum disc.

But his texts and his rhymes also seduce the tenors of hip-hop. He was quickly spotted by Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre – the latter even signed him to his label, Aftermath Entertainment. This is also the case of Eminem, with whom he collaborates on his eighth album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)or even Kanye West, alongside whom he participates in the Yeezus Tour.

Through his politically and socially engaged prose, Kendrick Lamar commands respect from his peers. He does not hesitate to evoke adolescence, addiction, religion or even domestic and police violence, and pleads, in his songs, in favor of Black Lives Matter considerations – his title OK (2015) will also become the anthem of the movement.

This song was partially censored during the 58e Grammy Awards ceremony, in 2016, where he notably won the prize for best rap performance, that of best rap song, and that of best rap album for his third disc, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).

The following year, in 2017, he announced his fourth album, DAWN, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in the music category, a first for a hip-hop singer. Here is the piece Humblebut also many featurings – Rihanna, U2, etc. Proof of the eclecticism that Kendrick Lamar has always shown during his career, having collaborated on remixes with Imagine Dragons and Taylor Swift, respectively for the songs radioactive and Bad Blood.

Always in this approach, he signs in 2018 the soundtrack of the film Black Panther. An opportunity for the singer to diversify, to gain a wider audience, but above all to once again support his message in favor of the African-American community.

A 5e album in the worthy line of the precedents

We find these motivations in his fifth album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, released on May 13th. Prior to its broadcast, he had shared the title The Heart Part 5following a long series of singles, in which he uses a sample of Marvin Gaye, as well as the deepface to take on the appearance of several figures in African-American culture. If the piece is not part of the album, it imposes the political identity that the songwriter has always wanted to convey through his songs.

Nevertheless, Kendrick Lamar also tries new themes in this creation, where he demonstrates introspection. He thus speaks of his role as a father in Father Time. The opportunity for the 34-year-old rapper to evoke virile education and toxic masculinity. It also discusses sex – especially in Mother Sober – the pandemic, money and mental health (United in Grievance). So many intimate subjects that reflect a more mature, but also more tormented image of this keen observer of society.

The rhymes are still as catchy and worked, just like his previous albums and his still fascinating clips. With Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, the result of relentless and daring work, Kendrick Lamar signs a flamboyant return, in which texts and sounds – between tap dancing and piano – inspired by soul and hip-hop, mix intelligently. A virtuosity of which only this “king of rap” has the secret, and which has already won over many users – to the point of crashing the sites of Apple Music and Spotify when it was put online!

We would like to give thanks to the author of this short article for this awesome material

Kendrick Lamar, or the story of a king (of rap) who never stops triumphing