There’s no word of a lie that I’m an avid Kendrick Lamar fan. If you know me well enough, this is a fact of life that you already know when it comes to my music life. I grew up listening to a lot of artists that I enjoyed and were entertained by, but there were few that I could actually relate to. My adoration of Lupe Fiasco came to be when I saw a dude who was built like me – skinny with glasses, and he just happened to skateboard. Then when it came to the raps themselves, he was otherworldly because he was complex with his rhymes but still told the story of his inner city Chicago struggles. It was nice to hear someone come out and be themselves while being skilled in the same breath. It’s one of the reasons why I feel in love with Kanye West’s music as well. Growing up being considered a nerd, but still having the presence of mind to withhold some street smarts, there was that balance that I felt was missing from Hip Hop, because it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be outside of the macho norm that was dominated in Hip Hop, I mean unless you were Ja Rule or LL Cool J who could express their softer sides, although Ja still had his hardcore raps to back him more so than LL, especially 10 years ago when Ja Rule had Pain Is Love all over the place. He couldn’t be stopped.
One of the first Rap albums I ever fell in love with was The Blueprint. I was 12 when it dropped, and to this day I still can’t believe my mom bought it for me. I knew a few Jay-Z songs, but I listened to Missy Elliott, OutKast & Ludacris heavily. My music palette was stretched out beyond the norms, but because of where I lived, I was surrounded by Gangster rap and Reggae as well, so I wasn’t really out of the loop. Perhaps I was too young to really comprehend what Jay was talking about in his rhymes, but the way he pulled them off was captivating, and it drew me into becoming more of a fan. But there was still a little bit of that disconnect because there wasn’t something that I could hang my hat on to say “I relate to this,” and the reason why a lot of people enjoy the artists that they listen to, it’s because in some form or fashion, they can see themselves through their raps, and that’s where in 2011, 10 years after I’d first heard Blueprint, I discovered Kendrick Lamar, and the same year he dropped the album that I wouldn’t know that I’d revolve my life around to this day.
I have no idea why I didn’t review this album. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have a blog or I hadn’t written an album review yet, but this is a piece of art that surely could have used my words, but 5 years later, it being the classic that it is, I can now throw down some bars in a way where I can reflect on the strength it still holds to this day. When I saw him live at Sound Academy in a room with around 300 or so people (maybe less than that), he was little known, and was still touring off of loose tracks and O.verly D.edicated. He was a great performer, but it was the lyrics and the stories that he told that gravitated towards me and locked me into wanting more of his music.
The first song I fell in love with was Cut You Off. The relatable subject material dealing with the annoyances of living in an environment where just about everyone had a toxic air around them was pivotal. Average Joe spoke about him being in a battle between trying to be the ‘good one’ in a city where it was filled with negativity & violence. Not in the most direct way, but in the closest way possible, I felt that. I could go down the list of songs that just hit me over and over (and over and over and over – thank you Marshawn), and the same reaction was “this nigga is speaking for me.” Section.80 released and having heard A.D.H.D & Hol Up at the show, I knew I was in for something special, but I didn’t think it would have taken a hold of me for as long as it did.
The way people in New York looked at Illmatic the first time they heard it, is how I felt about Section.80. It just felt like all of the right things were working together, both production and lyricism, and also the fact that the messages were speaking for a generation that I could relate to as a young 20-something. I was 21 when it dropped, and as I sit here just turned 27, the stories are still impactful and the sound still resonates. Kush & Corinthians was the one that struck me the most and even inspired me to write a music video and then expand that into my first screenplay. Kendrick didn’t lie when he said that he’s in the dead fuckin’ centre, looking around. The ability to identify with himself while still being observant of his surrounding community, I can relate to that, because I still try to have a connection to those even if I don’t live where most are currently struggling.
We all know a Keisha or a Tammy, and that’s what made their stories gripping. Ronald Regan Era for the ones infected by direct effects of the Crack epidemic, and Poe Man’s Dream is a great letter dedicated to those in the bin who are the most desperate in need for words of encouragement. He reaches out to those who are the most forgotten.
I penetrate the hearts of good kids and criminals.
Worrisome individuals who live life critical
So won’t you bear witness while I bear feet
So you can walk in my shoes and get to know me
This album is impactful in a way where it can wrap up the overall thoughts and experiences of being a black youth who was born in a time where there were still elements of old school upbringing combined with the rapid change of modern-day technology and advancement in society (in certain areas – others still need work). This has been the soundtrack to my life since it entered, and it’s a piece of art that should be cherished, despite him dropping arguably two more classics since then. He’s more than just a rapper. In his own right, he’s a poet and a Hip Hop Scholar. Because of the passing of so many legendary artists in 2016 alone, the current ones who are here need to be appreciated for their contributions, and even at a young portion of his career, Kendrick certainly has earned the appreciation that has been given to him thus far, and for me it started here. Here’s to another 5 years, 10 years, and a lifetime of celebrating Section.80. And also, happy damn Birthday to myself!
That’s My Word & It STiXX