Did You Know??? (May 2013): Kendrick Lamar
Few artists can legitimately claim to have their finger on the pulse of a generation; in 2013, 25-year-old Compton emcee Kendrick Lamar is unquestionably one of those few. Despite his short stature, Lamar has stood tall on a pedestal all his own for the past two years, looked up to as unique voice and talent by his peers, his critics (MTV named him 2013’s Hottest Emcee back in March), and his fans alike. What separates Lamar from any of the plenty of talented, lyrically sharp artists making their name today?
“I’m trying to keep it alive and not compromise the feeling we love. You’re trying to keep it deprived and only co-sign what radio does…and I’m looking right past you…” – Kendrick Lamar, “Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Rather than use his considerable skill to glorify negativity in Hip Hop culture, Kendrick navigates a complex and decadent landscape with an observer’s eye, highlighting problematic thought processes and behavior in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy or holier-than-thou. As a result, Lamar has largely avoided being typecast as a conscious rapper; his pithy brand of introspection and deadly technical proficiency on his debut mixtape – Section.80 – earned him props and placements artists as diverse as 50 Cent and Lady Gaga.
Despite increasing co-signs, guest appearances and album/ticket sales - a trend that’s only continued throughout 2012-2013, following the release of his first album good kid, m.a.a.d. city – Lamar has not lost track of his priorities or his humility. In a recent interview with Erykah Badu, Kendrick describes his motivations thusly:
“[A]s a kid I was always fascinated knowing that I could be the best at something—like Jay-Z or Nas or B.I.G. But putting a positive light on where I come from is also important to me. When you think of Compton, it’s numb with negativity, even to this day. So the whole purpose of this first album was really to spark the idea of doing something different rather than doing a record that’s just about gang culture. That’s the ultimate thing I want to do in making music—to be able to inspire somebody else.
Tellingly, Kendrick doesn’t just pay lip-service to positivity. As he expresses his lack of concern about album sales in verses, Lamar acts in ways to inspire people in his community and beyond. Recently, he made headlines for his partnership with GetSchooled,described as “a nonprofit that aims to improve high school graduation rates and help students succeed in college.” Through GetSchooled, Lamar was able to host a motivational Skype conversation with 500 7th-12th graders at Alaska’s Bethel Regional High School, spitting rhymes, answering questions, and uplifting the student body. In a speech to the students, he said:
“Without education you don’t have anything. My teachers were great positive influences in my life. My middle school English teacher was probably the reason I became a rapper. He used to encourage me to write poetry and challenge me, which helped me improve my vocabulary and made me enjoy writing.”
Days later, Kendrick took some time out from touring to serve as Celebrity Principal at Providence, Rhode Island’s Mount Pleasant High School, where he encouraged close to 1000 more students through his partnership with GetSchooled. Lamar summed up his experience thusly:
“Any time I can make a difference in the lives of students, it matters to me. Knowing that these students earned this event because they took the time to come to school daily and work hard on a daily basis for the attendance challenge is impressive. For me, education is the key to success. Without some form of education, you don’t have anything. Education was always important to me, as my mom made sure that I was always in school.”
Kendrick’s commitment to integrity in his life and in his art serves as an example of youth empowerment in the face of cultural and societal challenges. By choosing to use his talents to inspire young people, Lamar positively achieves his vision.
HIP Enterprise salutes Kendrick Lamar for his maturity and efforts to motivate his community.
This has been Jerome J. filling you in with what’s really going on in the world of entertainment when the cameras are off and the studios are closed.