Kendrick Lamar has cemented himself as the voice of the new generation of black millennials, activists, and visionaries. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth was born in Compton, California, on June 17, 1987. His parents had moved to Compton from Chicago to escape the city's gang culture, although Lamar's father had been associated with the notorious Gangster Disciples gang. As the 1980s crack trade and West Coast gang presence increased, Lamar grew up around dangerous street activity, but he seemed more influenced than harmed by it. He was a good student who enjoyed writing, first stories and poems, and the lyrics.
Behind His Upbringing
Lamar's family was directly touched by the violence of the streets, yet he remained thoughtful and soft-spoken, ever the keen observer, even as a child. He adopted the moniker K-Dot and began performing his lyrics as a rapper. At age 16, in 2003, he circulated a mixtape called Youngest Head Nigga in Charge, which drew a lot of interest in his native Southern California and beyond.
The project was enough to get Lamar a record deal with Top Dawg Entertainment, a respected California independent label, and feeder to major labels. He went on to release two other acclaimed mixtapes, Training Day (2005) and C4 (2009), steadily working with other up-and-coming West Coast rappers like Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q. Lamar and these other performers eventually formed their rap collective, Black Hippy.
Signing With Dr. Dre
In 2010 Lamar dropped the K-Dot tag and began using his own name. He also put out a fourth mixtape, Overly Dedicated. That same year, Lamar released his first full-length independent album under Top Dawg Entertainment. Titled Section.80, it was released exclusively on iTunes. As the buzz on Lamar continued to build, Dr. Dre signed him to his independent record label, Aftermath Entertainment, alongside more established rap stars Eminem and 50 Cent (in a joint venture with Top Dawg).
That one move by Dre would pay off big in just 2 years. In October 2012, Lamar's highly anticipated major-label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released to wide acclaim. The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 242,000 copies in its first week – earning the highest first-week hip-hop album sales of 2012 from a male artist, along with the best-selling debut from a male artist of the year.
Kendrick's DAMN Dominance
In 2015, Lamar released his second album, To Pimp a Butterfly, featuring artists like Bilal, Snoop Dogg, and Pharrell Williams, among others. Butterfly was another highly acclaimed outing known for its funk-laden mix of bravura, community politics and vulnerability. Lamar was nominated for a whopping 11 Grammys later that year and won the first award of the 2016 show, specifically for Best Rap Album. (He'd already received four other Grammys pre-telecast, making him the biggest winner of the night.)
The artist continued to wow fans with the April 2017 the release of his third album, Damn, which featured such tracks as "Humble" and "Loyalty," a collaboration with Rihanna. Along with achieving double-platinum status, Damn was named by BBC news as the critics' favorite album of 2017, based on the compilation of year-end polls. Nominated for seven Grammys, Lamar kicked off the 2018 awards show with a politically charged performance that also featured Dave Chappelle and Bono and the Edge of U2.
Most recently, Kendrick has returned to the chart with the release of Black Panther: The Soundtrack. A fantastic collection of hip-hop, soul and African inspired drum heavy dance songs like of which, Hollywood and white-America have never experience. Kendrick was in charge of executive producing and curating the entire soundtrack, an honor usually given to major record labels or pop producers. The soundtrack was released on February 9th, 2017.
Celebrate Black History month by streaming or downloading the Black Panther soundtrack today.
Black Panther Track List
You can listen to the soundtrack on Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify or Tidal.
Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.