When you hear the name "Black Hippy", envisioning flower power wrapped in a cloak of ebony could be the thought process. When you hear the collective Black Hippy, billowing clouds of smoke and dark, visceral flows would be closer to the truth. Comprised of four unique, individually dope emcees, Schoolboy Q, Ab Soul, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock, it seems that the time is right AND ripe for the emergence of a younger set that focuses more on skills and less on this invisible force named swagger. The de facto leader (at least lyrically) from this lyrical quartet is undoubtedly Kendrick Lamar (last name Duckworth), who instead of using a contrived moniker, utilizes his birth name, giving creedance to the notion that he is an artist focused on substance.
Born and raised in Compton (nod to the West Coast pioneer DJ Quik), Kendrick Lamar Duckworth absorbed his environment like a hip hop sponge, taking in the good, bad, positive, negative. Images of Compton are often of the slanted media type: murder, mayhem, drugs, single mothers raising children, gang activity. Lamar didn't necessarily subscribe to this imagery, even though he has indirectly been influenced by his environs. Who wouldn't be? Good student. Both parents in the household. However, there is a dichotomy within Kendrick Lamar. Witnessing uncles playing with guns. Having a father that was part of the infamous Chicago gang Gangster Disciples. This dichotomy, this duality, is what has been evident internally for the extremely talented lyricist. What all of these elements did, from his birth in 1987 (when I was a seventeen year-old lad immersed in the burgeoning artform of hip hop) to the present, was created a very honest, introspective, reflective artist, part of that lineage from Nas to Lupe (and a few in between).
Top Dawg Entertainment was fortunate enough to identify and cultivate the talents of a young Kendrick, signing him at age sixteen to a deal. Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, a Nickerson Gardens resident, founded TDE on basic hip hop principles: Charisma, Substance, Lyrics, Uniqueness, Work Ethic. This five-point gameplan can now be found in the TDE studio, a constant reminder of the REAL keepin' it real mantra. Over the course of a few years, Kendrick Lamar was able to create such an undeniable buzz, starting with Youngest Head Nigga In Charge (when he went by the nomenclature K. Dot). That mixtape title alone solidified the thought process for the talent, leading to his signing with Top Dawg. Training Day followed a couple years later, a mixtape compilation of twenty-six joints birthed from the mental of Kendrick Lamar. C4, influenced by Weezy's Tha Carter III, dropped to critical acclaim on the underground circuit. The path was being laid for Lamar to infiltrate the underground ears with complex, multisyllabic rhymes. (O)verly (D)edicated was the the joint to forge a love affair with hip hop purists and lyrical aficionados, especially with the dope cut "Ignorance Is Bliss", where Kendrick Lamar discussed so-called gangsta rap, but punctuated each verse with that credo (ignorance is bliss). This painted the picture of the deeply conflicted, and illuminated the pen game of Mr. Duckworth. This probably was the catalyst for Kendrick meeting with Andre Young, known to the music world as Dr. Dre. The album with the most buzz, yet most likely to never come out, Detox, was on the radar, and this undoubtedly opened doors to arenas, figuratively and literally, that may have never been offered previously. More good, better yet, great things, were in store.
Being included in the vaunted XXL Magazine 2011 Freshman Issue did nothing but propel Kendrick Lamar into the conversation as one of the great young emcees of the day. Section .80, a very, VERY dope mixtape, or rather album that, in my humble opinion, was one of the strongest releases PERIOD in 2011, traveled the information superhighway, making frequent stops on its online voyage. The standout on Section .80 was a powerful manifesto from Kendrick Lamar, "HiiiPoWer".
"HiiiPoWer" showcased elements of a revolutionary 'Pac, poetic Nas, and fluid Souls Of Mischief, neatly wrapped in raps beyond the earthly years of Kendrick Lamar. Listening to the song is one thing, but watching the video, directed by Fredo Tovar and Scott Fleishman for Aplusfilmz, brought the vividness of the words to life. There was a more in-depth meaning with the song and video than putting out a dope joint. Kendrick attributed the song to a dream, where Lesane Parish Crooks visited him. According to man accounts, this Lesane Parish Crooks was the name placed on the birth certificate of Tupac Amaru Shakur, one of the biggest influences for Lamar. Deep indeed. One of my favorite songs and videos at the moment, to say the least. Section .80 also included other dope joints, including "A.D.H.D.", "Rigamortis", and "Kush & Corinthians", among others.
Kendrick Lamar could have utilized Section .80 as a proper album introduction, hailing him as the next coming, but that is just not the case. I believe that he is prepping an album for the ages in Good Kid In A Bad City. How apropo of a title. Even with the machine now behind him, with Interscope, Aftermath, and TDE all taking part in the unveiling of the proposed 2012 release, I feel that Kendrick Lamar is just the artist to not let the hoopla get the best of him. He was able to survive in an environment that has claim all too many victims. He has been able to bring the art of lyricism to the forefront in a place and time where lyrical skills are not as important as that overused four letter word: S-W-A-G. He will be prepared for the long haul, because he is the coming...of Kendrick Lamar. Not another Tupac. Not another Nas. Not another Drake (whatever that may be at this moment). Just Kendrick Lamar. Nothing more, nothing less. The world will be a better place for the coming of Kendrick Lamar indeed.