CMJ Preview: Kendrick Lamar – The west coast’s new vanguard

by Marcus K. Dowling

Kendrick Lamar teaches us that straight A students from the streets of Compton use words as artillery to illustrate our common dreams and combat the ills of society. Artists like Snoop Dogg and The Game once represented the west coast vanguard with street-gained intellect, sipping on “Gin and Juice,” “underdogs who made it on top” with the aid of Crips, Bloods and a cloud of the finest kush. However, the baton of carrying the West’s gold-medal standard in rap’s relay race was passed from Game and Snoop to Lamar onstage at a concert in August, making this CMJ performer possibly the hottest young rapper in the industry.

While J. Cole’s Cole World is smoking at the registers, the most fiery hip hop of the year may be Lamar’s retail mixtape Section.80. Following a familiar new school concept established by the likes of Drake, Lamar’s mixtape instead of a full retail album is a hedged bet placed against expectations of enormous future success. Tracks like “A.D.H.D” and “F*** Your Ethnicity” show the emcee eschewing 2011’s ad-lib crazed flows for more classic intellectual fare as favored by the mixtape’s inspiration, Tupac Shakur. A tale of Reganomics and urban blight proving that hindsight is absolutely 20/20, Lamar’s clear thoughts and rapid-fire flow hearken to the days of Rakim’s master plan and aching to be “Paid in Full.”

If and when Dr. Dre’s Detox ever sees the green light of  release, Lamar is expected to use the album as a catapult to celebrity. Much like Snoop Dogg on Dre’s legendary Chronic 18 years prior, many of the guest spots on the album are occupied by the emcee. Want the ability for your own “remember when” moment? Check for the fantastic Mr. Lamar live at CMJ.