Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has a career outlined by faith, passion, and determination. Born June 17, 1987 in Compton, California, to parents from Chicago, Illinois, Kendrick knew from a very young age that rap was his calling. In 1995, at the young age of eight, Lamar witnessed his idols Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre, film the music video for their hit single “California Love”, and to this day, Lamar considers this a very significant moment in his life. As a teenager, Lamar attended Centennial High School in Compton, where he was a straight A student.
After hearing DMX’s classic album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot”, Kendrick was inspired to pick up the pen and begin expressing his innate talent and ability. After perfecting his craft for years, in 2003, at the age of sixteen, Lamar released his first full-length project, a mixtape titled Youngest Head Nigga In Charge, under the moniker K-Dot. The mixtape gained enough local attention for Lamar to get a record deal with Top Dawg Entertainment. He then released a twenty-six track mixtape two years later titled Training Day (2005). From 2006 through 2007, Lamar, alongside other up-and-coming West Coast rappers such as Jay Rock and Ya Boy, had opened for veteran West Coast rapper Game. Lamar, under his pseudonym K-Dot, was also featured on Game’s songs “The Cypha” and “Cali Niggaz”.
It’s not that Kendrick got a deal so soon in his career that defines his success, it’s that Kendrick knew what to do with the opportunity granted to him that led to his success. Many rappers have gotten chances just like the one Kendrick was given, but fail to succeed because they either have a bad attitude, aren’t responsible, and lack true drive and ambition to succeed. Kendrick shows the benefits of having wisdom, self-control, and strong ambition.
Initially signed to independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment, in 2012 Lamar and the label signed a joint venture deal with Aftermath and Interscope Records. Lamar also formed Black Hippy, a supergroup with label-mates and fellow California-based rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q.
He first gained major attention after the release of his fourth mixtape Overly Dedicated, in 2010. The next year, he released his first independent album to critical acclaim, Section.80, released exclusively through iTunes and instantly ranked as one of the top digital hip hop releases of the year. Early in his career, before releasing his major label debut, Lamar amassed a large internet following, and had already worked with Dr. Dre, Game, Drake, Young Jeezy, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, E-40, Warren G and Lil Wayne, among others.
More recognition came Lamar’s way after a video of a Charles Hamilton show surfaced, where Hamilton went in the crowd to battle fellow rappers in attendance. Lamar did not hesitate and began rapping a verse over Miilkbone’s “Keep It Real”, that would later appear on a track titled “West Coast Wu-Tang”.
His major label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012 to widespread acclaim. The album spawned the Top 40 hits “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, and “Poetic Justice”. The album was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In early 2013, MTV crowned Lamar the No. 1 Hottest MC in the Game, on their well known annual list.
After receiving a co-sign from American hip hop superstar Lil Wayne, Lamar released his third mixtape in 2009 titled C4, heavily themed around Wayne’s Tha Carter III LP. Soon after, Lamar decided to drop K-Dot as his stage name and go by his birth name. This resulted in him releasing a self-titled EP in late 2009.
The highly acclaimed mixtape includes a song titled “Ignorance Is Bliss”, in which Lamar glorifies gangsta rap and street crime, but ends each verse with “ignorance is bliss”, giving the message “we know not what we do;” it was this song specifically that made legendary hip hop producer Dr. Dre, want to work with Lamar, after watching the song’s music video on YouTube. This led to Lamar working with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on Dre’s Detox album and Lamar considering signing to Dre’s label, Aftermath Entertainment.
On April 12, 2011 Lamar released “HiiiPoWeR“, Section 80s first single, of which the concept was to further explain the HiiiPoWeR movement. The song was produced by fellow American rapper J. Cole, with whom Lamar began closely working with at the time; the song marked their first of many collaborations to come.
Prior to the release of his next project, Kendrick was asked if it would be an album or mixtape. “I treat every project like it’s an album anyway. It’s not gonna be nothing leftover. I never do nothing like that. These are my leftover songs y’all can have ’em, nah. I’m gonna put my best out. My best effort. Kendrick replied.
In August 2011, while onstage with Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Game at a West Los Angeles concert, the three of them crowned Lamar the “New King of the West Coast”. On August 24, 2011 Lamar released the music video for the popular Section.80 track, “A.D.H.D”. The video was directed by Vashtie Kola who had this to say of the video: “Inspired by “A.D.H.D”s dark beat and melancholy lyrics which explore a generation in conflict, we find Kendrick Lamar in a video that illustrates the songs universal and age-old theme of apathetic youth.
In October 2011, Lamar appeared alongside rappers B.o.B, Tech N9ne, MGK and Big K.R.I.T., in a hip hop cypher at the BET Awards. In October, Lamar partnered with Windows Phone, and crafted an original song titled “Cloud 10″, with producer Nosaj Thing, to promote their new product. In the second half of 2011, Lamar appeared on several high-profile albums including Game’s The R.E.D. Album, Tech N9ne’s All 6’s and 7’s, 9th Wonder’s The Wonder Years and Drake’s Grammy Award-winning Take Care, where Lamar had a solo track.
In March 2012, MTV announced that Top Dawg Entertainment closed a joint venture deal with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment, marking the end of Lamar’s career as an independent artist. Under the new deal, Lamar’s projects, including his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city, were set to be jointly released via Top Dawg, Aftermath and Interscope, while releases from the rest of Black Hippy were to be distributed via Top Dawg and Interscope, respectively.
In 2012, Lamar toured alongside Drake on his Club Paradise Tour, opening along with fellow American rappers ASAP Rocky and 2 Chainz. In March 2012, Lamar appeared on the track “Fight the Feeling”, from Mac Miller‘s Macadelic mixtape. In March 2012,
Lamar’s major label debut studio album good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released October 22, 2012. The album was met with critical acclaim and debuted at number two, selling 242,122 copies in its first week. In December 2012, FUSE TV named Lamar’s single, “Backseat Freestyle,” one of the top 40 songs of 2012. The album has sold 980,000 copies as of July 2013 and has been certified Gold by the RIAA. HipHop DX named Lamar “Emcee of the Year” for their 2012 Year End Awards. Just nine months after it’s release,good kid, m.A.A.d city was certified Platinum by the RIAA, with Lamar receiving his first Platinum plaque for an album.
In August 2013 Lamar’s verse on the Big Sean track “Control” made waves across the hip-hop world, with Lamar vowing to “murder” lyrically every other up-and-coming rapper, including all the rappers he had previously worked with, J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, ASAP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean, Jay Electronica, Tyler, The Creator, and Mac Miller and called himself the “King of New York”. Many rappers took offense to the lines without even being mentioned by name. Rappers including Lupe Fiasco, Papoose, Joell Ortiz, Cassidy, Riff Raff, Joe Budden, JR Writer, King L, The Mad Rapper, Mickey Factz, Mysonne, Bizarre, Fred The Godson, and B.o.B all released a response or a diss song within a week.
With his top five musical influences including TuPac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem, it’s no surprise why Kendrick Lamar has been able to change the scope of hip hop since the beginning of his career. Considering Tupac to be his biggest influence, because he says he helped shape his lifestyle, as well as influence his music.
Kendrick also says Lil Wayne’s Hot Boyz days helped Kendrick mold his lyrical style, as well as DMX giving him his first push to want to begin rapping. Kendrick has what so many of us naturally have, and that’s PASSION. Kendrick knew his calling from an early age, and worked consistently and diligently to make his dreams come true. Through faith and hard work, Kendrick has been able to be named as one of the best rappers, if not the best, of our time.
Through Faith and Hard Work, Kendrick Lamar went from Ashy to Classy.