Monday, November 22, 2010

Kendrick Lamar "O(verly) D(edicated)"

The West coast is my place of birth and my home, yet I’ve rarely followed as many artists from my home coast as I do from the land where the sun rises. Maybe I just hold cats from my area to a higher standard? As the South took over the game in recent years and the East became a joke of it’s former self the West has been on a steady uprising seeing artists springing up full of life, lyrics and potential to bring hiphop to the next generation.

Kendrick Lamar is from Compton and unlike his famous neighbors doesn’t claim any set. He saw it all and much like Nas telling us about what he saw from his project windows Kendrick tells us about life. Not just any life though. A life full of pain and sorrow. Happiness and joy. Ups and downs. Good relationships and bad ones.

Where the West coast rappers of the past (by and large, not all) were about colors and a gangster mentality these new kids grew up on that and around it, or in it. Today they are making rap about life from a realistic perspective, talking about aspects of life a generation or two ago wouldn’t of got any white kids in the suburbs blood boiling.

Kendrick Lamar is a terrific emcee who plays with his delivery, voice and intonation (see “Monster” freestyle) to convey the feelings tied to the experiences he is sharing. Be it the hazy “H.O.C.” where he talks about being mistaken for a pothead by teachers, rambles off some serious stoner type philosophy and makes as good a weed song as those two joint rolling brothers or "The Heart Pt.2" where you are introduced to who Kendrick Lamar really is.

His community isn’t far from his mind and he addresses violence, despair and drugs among other uncomfortable topics throughout the tape. “Ignorance is Bliss” was one of the early leaks and is still as moving with the added benefit of two more verses. “Heaven & Hell” shows him going off pretty stream of conscious style about problems in the world today, cliche maybe but not when it’s done on Lamar’s terms.

While he can get serious on you, he doesn’t forget about the party and has a couple up beat jams here for the good times. “I Do This (Remix)” sees U-N-I, Skeme & Brown joining the Kendrick and Jay Rock for their previous collaboration. Over a monstrous beat these guys crank the energy up to 10. Ab Soul shows up here for “P&P1.5” where they talk about the two vices in their lives, pussy and Patron. Far from an ignorant song about getting drunk and banging, this is an intense examination of how each affect life positively and negatively.

Musically the album is rich and warm. It rarely shows off any traditional “West” coast type sound. “Michael Jordan” brings to mind the crunk of Lil Jon cut with a thick kush filled swisher. Somtimes some horns will blast, but mostly it’s subtle drums, soft piano chords and spacy synthesizers. Perhaps this further proves how much of an instrument Kendrick’s voice is as nothing ever sounds soft here, no matter how “soft” those sounds i just described might seem.

O(verly) D(edicted) is a great release. It’s a tough release. It’s not going to win just anyone over. It’s deep. It’s heavy. It’s not always happy. But it’s full of knowledge and insight. Kendrick Lamar runs with a crew that calls themselves Black Hippies and this is certainly some freedom music for the people. Perhaps Dr. Dre gave him the nod because this is what modern day gangsta rap should be?

Unfortunately it appears Kendrick Lamar's bandcamp site has been taken down. I swiped this link from the dope house, my bad guys. If you do anything today, download and listen to this tape.

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