The Importance of Kendrick Lamar

The Importance of Kendrick Lamar

A while back, my dude B-Nease, aka the Black Kevin Arnold, put up a Tweet about his mom asking him who Kendrick Lamar was. His reply: “The best rapper in the world.”

Not since Ice Cube could the West Coast lay claim to the best rapper on the planet. Nobody was touching Ice Cube when Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and Death Certificate were causing pants-soiling fear across suburban America. Nobody was safe during Ice Cube’s prime: not the police, government, former friends from N.W.A, or the activator section at Walgreen’s.

The East Coast, fiercely protective of its baby, rolled out a Murderer’s Row of Redman, Nas, Biggie, and Jay-Z to bring the crown back to the Mecca, and the West Coast never recovered. The Westside Connection experiment was California’s defiant dying breath as the balance of power shifted back east in the late 1990s. Tupac was dead, Ice Cube was getting deeper into film, Snoop’s albums fell off, and E-40 wasn’t a commodity outside of the Bay Area.

The saviors of the West Coast came and went: The Game, Crooked I, Bishop Lamont, Nipsey Hussle to name a few. The Game has had the most success, benefiting from the blessings and assistance of the Old West as he took their sounds and formulas and interpreted them for a new generation. The Game kept the West Coast relevant, but at no point in time has he been mistaken for the best rapper on the planet.

While California’s indie scene is immensely talented, you won’t see those artists at the BET Awards or their videos on MTV Jams. I’ve been treated to a parade of average California rappers who can’t freestyle a lick who try to re-create the Death Row Records sound because it represents the high point of West Coast hip-hop. If the Ohio Players successfully collected from every California rap album that sampled “Funky Worm”, they’d rake in more royalties than Elvis and Michael Jackson combined. After 20 years of Dr. Dre retreads, you’d think California artists would get it by now: where’s the originality?

Every day, Rap Internet and its kingmakers and gatekeepers trot out the next hot thing, the next Chosen One who will create an album that will be mentioned in the same breath as the sacred texts of the 1990s. We wait for the one who will brazenly carve their face onto Rap Rushmore alongside the godfathers and G.O.A.T.s. Invariably, this figure is from a New York cypher circle or Detroit’s assembly line of lyrical miracles, or someone from down South who raps like they’re from New York. But the new champion hails from the Jerusalem of the West Coast’s Holy Land: Compton.

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  1. Oz
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 10:54:00

    I truly believe we need to stop predicting and guess who will be the second coming of Christ in the rap game. I like Kendrick’s music but I am gonna sit back and see how his career unfolds before professing him at the Neo of rap.

  2. Bryant S.
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 20:34:00

    The title of the article says is at. I feel like Kendrick is the 2Pac of my generation (even though I firmly believe Kendrick Lamar is the first of his kind). His skills, insight and ability to put out music that represents who he his is an accomplishment in its self. He could easily make records that we’ve heard before about money, women, cars, drugs/booze and even though he has to an extent, its hard to pin him down on one particular category per say. The first since 2Pac in my opinion to use his talents and make music for everyone about everyone. His mixtapes and album (Section.80) proved that he can make great records that have an organic feel. And most importantly, at least to me but I’m sure many will agree, he raps about life. Real life. Problems, relationships, state of the community and his experiences which he manages to do in a way that relates to the masses. That’s the special thing. A voice for everyone not just himself. October 22nd, I will do my self a favor and invest in the best music I’ve heard in a long time. good kid, mA.A.d city.

  3. Justin Ivey
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 17:33:00

    Good piece Fred.

  4. Fred
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 17:30:00

    u mean there are people who DON’T crease their Dickies?! My iron game is tough.

  5. Gedi D.
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 17:19:00

    Good article Fred. Kendrick’s the truth. lol @ “The Game kept the West Coast relevant, but at no point in time has he been mistaken for the best rapper on the planet.”

  6. Descry
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 16:22:00

    Chucks and Dickies? You mean Cortez’s and Dickies w/ the crease.

    Born and raised in LA, I think Fred’s article is on point. The West needed someone to come from the “family tree” who was not only introspective and intelligent, but also gifted with life experience from living in a tough neighborhood.

    This was the next logical evolution of the West as rap moved on from straight hood rap.

    There’s no doubt that talent isn’t lacking in LA, but as far as RAP is concerned…Kendrick really is the next torchbearer to bring the west back to relevancy.

  7. Fred
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 12:00:00

    Oh absolutely! But thing is, nobody you mentioned makes “California music,” if that makes sense. Alchemist has a very East Coast sound, Madlib is undefinable (and awesome), Odd Future are on their own shit, etc. There’s a ton of great stuff, but how much of it gets the kind of exposure that Kendrick might get? OF, but they’re not descendants of the West Coast tree. Remember, Jay Rock and Kendrick started on The Game’s label. Kendrick and Black Hippy are heirs to the West Coast throne, and Kendrick just so happens to be heir to throne for the rap world as well.

  8. Andrew Martin
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 09:45:00

    I think he’d agree that those producers are obviously killin’ it. Fred’s point is on a larger scale with MCs.

  9. Josef Zehetner
    Oct 17, 2012 @ 09:41:00

    As someone who listens a lot to West Coast Music i really don’t agree with your article. Besides Kendrick there is so much stuff coming out of Cali and the West in gerneral. BTW i agree with Kendrick beeing the best rapper.
    For example: I take Odd Future and Black Hippy ten times over ASAP Mob. And what about FlyLo, Alchemist and all the other dope producers like Madlib and OhNo?

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