A gangster rapper from Compton with a social consciousness sharp as Common, Kendrick Lamar entered the hip-hop game in 2010 with his release of O(verly) D(edicated). The year prior, he released the Kendrick Lamar EP, notable for the fact that it contained 15 tracks—many more than the traditional EP, displaying an impressive dedication and work ethic. In “The Heart Pt. 2,” the opening song of OD, Kendrick explains: “Got all these niggas approaching their mixtapes different / They said seven tracks, I said fifteen / Called it an EP, they said I’m tripping / But little did they know, I’m trying to change the rules / That we’ve been confined to / So the corporate won’t make decisions / Uppity bitches, handling business…”
Kendrick extended this attitude of true workmanship on his 2011 album, Section.80. The album reached only 45 on Pitchfork’s list for the year. Guffaw.
Seven of its songs now rank amongst the top-played on my iTunes. On these tracks Kendrick Lamar delivers the complete package: memorable melodies snapped into gripping beats, all overlaced with a flow of original lyrics. “Hol’ Up,” “Ronald Reagan Era,” “Rigamortus,” “Ab-Souls Outro,” and “Hiii Power” provide this and more.
More than individual songs, Section.80 has something to offer everyone. From highly-produced tunes with catchy choruses, to tragic tracks centered around the stories of Tammy and Keisha, Section.80 is at once a banger and a thinker. The album is unified by Kendrick’s overarching desire to speak for Generation Y, Eighties Babies, who befall a number of hardships due to their circumstances—from the unavoidability of drugs to corrupt politics.
The opening track, “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” is Kendrick at his best. Lyrically he is piercing as he shifts from commenting on a societal ill to showing how his rapping promotes its cure: “Racism is still alive / Yellow tape and colored lines / Fuck that, nigga look at that line / It’s so diverse / They getting off work / And they wanna see Kendrick.” When you hear the piano bounce and the beat pound, all there is to do is put your 3’s up in the name of HiiiPower.