Today in Hip Hop History: June 17, 1987
Happy birthday, and all hail King Kendrick! 29 years ago today, Kendrick Lamar was born in Compton, California. The 5’5″ emcee began his rap career under the name K-Dot and released his first mixtape Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year at the age of 16 in 2003. In 2007, K-Dot collaborated with then Top Dawg Entertainment signee Jay Rock on No Sleep ‘Til NYC. After making the 2009 mixtape C4 in honor of his hero Lil Wayne, K-Dot signed to TDE and officially dropped his pseudonym in favor of his actual name, Kendrick Lamar.
Debuting on TDE with Overly Dedicated, Kendrick began to build a cult-like following of locals and hip hop heads alike. His uncanny ability to fuse conscientious rhymes along a spectrum of word-flow and instrumentals was a breath of fresh air during a time of pop-saturated music in the hip hop industry. He emerged from the underground scene with his single “HiiiPoWeR” in early 2011. Kendrick then followed up in the summer with his debut studio album, Section.80, which arguably stands as a contemporary classic.
The following year, Kendrick broke into the zeitgeist full force with his instant classic Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The sophomore album portrayed the young emcee’s life growing up in the hectic Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton. One of the greatest hip hop albums of this generation, Good Kid M.A.A.D City immediately enthused hip hop heads and music critics alike with its’ raw depictions of family, gang life, the Black American struggle and other narratives prominent in the rapper’s perspective.
3 years later, Kendrick released another instantly classic album. The 2015 To Pimp A Butterfly followed up GKMC with a jazzy hip-hop rendition of Kendrick’s coming to terms with personal demons created by a marginalized upbringing. The social commentary mixed with Kendrick’s edgy yet refined sound symbolically embodied what it means to be “un-apologetically black” in America. TPAB opened avenues among mainstream music and has since won three Grammy Awards and has achieved RIAA Certified Platinum status.
This year, Kendrick graced us with his newest album, Untitled Unmastered. The surprise release was a compilation of unreleased material from 2012-2014 that supposedly did not make the cut for TPAB. Featuring a similar sound to TPAB, Untitled Unmastered is helping hold over his fans until his next studio album, whenever that may be.
Beyond making music, Kendrick Lamar has emerged as an idol to his audience. Just yesterday, Kendrick revealed his new Reebok shoes. The third installment of his Reebok Classics promotes gang neutrality with their mix of blue, red and grey colors. He also donated $50,000 to his alma mater high school to improve the music department at the school.
There’s not enough room in one post to say all of what could be said about Kendrick Lamar, one of the greatest hip hop artists of our time, and of all time. Happy birthday K-Dot!