Kendrick Lamar Duckworth is an American rapper, songwriter and record producer. Since his mainstream debut in 2012 with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Lamar has been regarded as one of the most influential rappers of his generation and is regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Aside from his solo career, he is also known as a member of the hip hop supergroup Black Hippy alongside his Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) label-mates Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q.
Raised in Compton, California, Lamar embarked on his musical career as a teenager under the stage name K.Dot, releasing a mixtape that garnered local attention and led to his signing with indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment. He began to gain recognition in 2010 after his first retail release, Overly Dedicated. The following year, he independently released his first studio album, Section.80, which included his first single “HiiiPoWeR”. By that time, he had amassed a large online following and collaborated with several prominent hip hop artists.
Lamar’s major-label debut album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, was released in 2012. It would go on to be certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His third album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) incorporated elements of funk, soul, jazz, and spoken word. It became his first number one album on the Billboard 200. It was followed by Untitled Unmastered (2016), a collection of unreleased demos that originated during the recording sessions for To Pimp a Butterfly.
He released his fourth album, Damn (2017); its lead single “Humble” topped the US Billboard Hot 100, while the album became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In the two years since To Pimp a Butterfly, we’ve hung on Kendrick Lamar’s every word—whether he’s destroying rivals on a cameo, performing the #blacklivesmatter anthem on top of a police car at the BET Awards, or hanging out with Obama. So when DAMN. opens with a seemingly innocuous line—”So I was taking a walk the other day…”—we’re all ears. The gunshot that abruptly ends the track is a signal: DAMN. is a grab-you-by-the-throat declaration that’s as blunt, complex, and unflinching as the name suggests. If Butterfly was jazz-inflected, soul-funk vibrance, DAMN. is visceral, spare, and straight to the point, whether he’s boasting about “royalty inside my DNA” on the trunk-rattling “DNA.” or lamenting an anonymous, violent death on the soul-infused “FEAR.” No topic is too big to tackle, and the songs are as bold as their all-caps names: “PRIDE.” “LOYALTY.” “LOVE.” “LUST.” “GOD.” When he repeats the opening line to close the album, that simple walk has become a profound journey—further proof that no one commands the conversation like Kendrick Lamar.
In 2018, he wrote and produced 14 songs for the soundtrack to the superhero film Black Panther. Lamar has received many accolades over the course of his career, including 13 Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, six Billboard Music Awards, a Brit Award, 11 MTV Video Music Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and an Academy Award nomination. In 2012, MTV named him the Hottest MC in the Game on their annual list. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016. In 2015, he received the California State Senate’s Generational Icon Award. Three of his studio albums have been listed in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2020).
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