King Kendrick Lamar? – The Rizzle Report

Beef, Big Sean, hip-hop, Jay Electronica, Kendrick Lamar

The internet went kerrrrazy today when Big Sean dropped his newest song, Control ft Kendrick Lamar and the elusive Jay Electronica. Unless, you have been living under a rock, you will know that the following is true:

  1. Big Sean is regretting putting those two on the track with him
  2. Jay is annoyed that his otherwise solid verse is now an afterthought
  3. Kendrick has reignited an interest in lyrical content in commercial hip-hop (finally!)
For too many years mainstream hip-hop has become a watered-down version of itself. In fact, it’s almost veering towards parody (see: Trinidad James and 2 Chainzzzz) where fads, clothes and trap beats far outweigh the lyrical content that saw it ascend to the top of the charts from the mid 90’s until the mid 2000’s.
Aside from the regular big names such as Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, (who are as much ingrained in popular culture as they are in the hip hop culture they were born into), Kendrick Lamar is arguably the biggest star of the new breed of MC’s. He has been dropping stellar guest verses, as well as two critically acclaimed full length projects for a couple of years now but a popular debate that I’ve been having with my friends is whether he is just the best of a bad bunch or if he’s the real deal?

In his verse, he calls out the names of the “new n*ggas” who are currently deemed to be the hottest in the game and goads them to step their games up. Furthermore, he proclaims himself the King of New York, despite hailing from Compton. These friendly lyrical jabs are what hip-hop has been missing. The art of beef died a long time ago with 50 Cent’s popularity and has been replaced with a mediocre landscape where everyone is best friends and all appear on each other’s albums freely. While there’s nothing wrong with a beef-free rap game (vegetarian rap?), hip hop was about the survival of the fittest, from the best breaker, to the hottest DJ, to the most innovative graffiti artist. When there’s no competition, the standard stagnates and people don’t raise the bar.
Is Kendrick the king of New York? I think the question is who is actually representing fully for New York these days? A$AP Rocky isn’t the most lyrical dude, Joey Bada$$ has great potential but I worry about his ability to turn from underground hero to full on King like Nas or Biggie. Jay Electronica needs to put out his mythical album and stop relying on the plaudits of Exhibit C. The crown is there for the taking, so Kendrick is taking it.

As far as the other guys on the list, I think J Cole can match Kendrick lyrically but whether he will react is another issue. Drake is actually surprising me this year with the straight bangers that he keeps releasing (half of the tracks aren’t even making the album) and despite it being fashionable to hate him (shout out to Amanda Bynes), he is a solid lyricist with crossover appeal.
One thing is for sure – people are talking about lyrics in hip-hop again. Whether it will last and people will go back to poppin’ bandz and twerking remains to be seen, but either way, it will be an interesting watch.
UPDATE

KEVIN HART AKA CHOCOLATE DROPPA JUST RAISED THE DAMN BAR!!! IT JUST GOT REAL!!!

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The Rizzle Review: Kendrick Lamar at Hammersmith Apollo

Kendrick Lamar, Reviews

2012 was a pretty big year for hip-hop’s newest saviour Kendrick Lamar and fresh from the release of his album Good Kid, M.A.A.D city he’s back in the UK, on the promotion trail during the cold snap.

KDot, complete with his now trademark black leather shirt, hit the stage to soulful sounds of the intro to Art of Peer Pressure and immediately had the crowd eating out of his hands.The setlist contained tracks from all three of his major LP’s; the aforementioned Good Kid, Section 80 and Overly Dedicated and this definitely gave it an authentic feel, rather than just performing the mainstream hits from his major label debut.
Hip-hop’s newest saviour kept it simple, dressed in in all black and barely any bling, save for the gold watch on his wrist. His DJ supplied him with the hits and Kendrick delivered without the need for any unnecessary hype men (a pet peeve of mine) or shouting over a recording of himself (another pet peeve of mine).
Kendrick knows his fanbase, acknowledging those overly dedicated (pun intended) fans that have been with him from day one. This allowed him a variety of tracks to choose from switching from the Janet Jackson sampling ‘Poetic Justice’ to the jazzy, soulful, sleeper hit ‘A.D.H.D’.
Kendrick’s lyrical dexterity is what makes him one of the most exciting rappers around and this was demonstrated with ease throughout the show, switching up the ferocious flow on ‘Backseat Freestyle’ to slowing it right back down on ‘Don’t Blow My High’, which meant that the show never got boring.
In fact, Kendrick kept it interesting between songs through regular crowd interaction and even picking on one particular member of the crowd who didn’t quite seem to be feeling the show as much as everyone else in the room, and then proceeded to launch into ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’. Kinda apt…

I have a new found respect for Kendrick Lamar. He’s an artist who genuinely cares about his craft and in his show he catered to his hardcore fans and also the new fans who’ve just jumped on the wave (yeah, that’s probably me) without compromising. He kept the old fans happy by giving them what they want, while simultaneously giving the newbies a lesson on his evolution to see how the buzz started.

2012 – The Year That Hip-Hop Was Resurrected?

hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar, music, Nas
pic from cybergorrillas.com

Back in 2005, before David Guetta’s music had plagued the charts and Chris Brown was still America’s golden child (gosh, it seems like another lifetime), hip-hop music was arguably at its commercial peak. We had new artists such as Game, T-Pain and Kanye West, freely mixing with established hitmakers such as Jay-Z and Common. If you took a look at the charts, the dominant form of music was Hip-Hop, whether it be hardcore or more pop-orientated, there really did seem to be something for everyone. The emergence of the South was also something to be celebrated, adding a new style and new artists to the genre, with Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Mike Jones and Slim Thug spearheading the movement. Then just one year later, in 2006, to much outcry and controversy, Nas declared “Hip-Hop is Dead”. Many rappers, particularly those from the South took offence to the statement, claiming that he was simply out of touch with the current musical climate. Even I at the time, thought the statement was a touch premature and perhaps a slight towards the sudden popularity of Southern Hip-Hop but then again, I was too busy making it ‘snap’ and listening to ‘Laffy Taffy’ to care.

However, fast forward to 2011 and there were grounds to believe that Nas’ proclamation had manifested itself. Save for a few of the big names (Jay-Z, Kanye West and Eminem) sales of Hip-Hop music were at an all time low and the style of the genre had shifted to an entirely new direction with the emergence of several “rappers” that did not seem to embody the lyricism or perfection of artists before. Sure, Waka Flocka Flame, OJ Da Juice (pronounced “Joo”) Man and French Montana can make some catchy songs but really, will we be playing their songs in 20 years time? I highly doubt it.

Gone was the diversity of subject matter and lush instrumentation and in came…

And…

Or even….

Again, there’s nothing wrong with this type of music. You might even see me getting crunk to some of this stuff occasionally…but there comes a time when you want to listen to something with a bit more substance and I think one of the major symptoms of the declining state of hip-hop was the lack of variation on the mainstream charts. My biggest bugbear with hip-hop in 2011 (and arguably 2012) was that when the majority of the output is like the aforementioned video, it starts to get a little bit (read very)…boring. I remember the days of watching ‘Yo’ on MTV and seeing DMX videos followed by Snoop, followed by Mos Def, followed by Eminem – a whole range of styles of hip from different areas. Nowadays, the south is the dominant form and even rappers who aren’t from the south are adopting this style (shout out to Drizzy Drake).

Nevertheless, Hip-Hop and I have a dysfunctional relationship: no matter how bad she treats me, I still come back for more, sticking up for her when I should really know better and leave her for something more befitting like house music or whatever the kids are listening to nowadays. But during the tail end of 2011 and throughout 2012, I’ve started to notice a few greenshoots of recovery in the genre which gives me hope.

A new wave of hiphop, mixing both old styles, new styles and everything in between has emerged. One of my favourite LP’s has been A$AP Rocky’s LongLiveA$AP. This guy has been compared to Eazy-E as well as harking back to a sound more commonly associated with the 2005 chopped and screwed movement. Lyrically, no new ground is being broken here but when the vibe is so catchy and the flow is so confident, it’s hard to ignore.

The past 12 months has also seen solid releases from relative newbies Childish Gambino (think Kanye for the recession generation), Azaelia Banks (a pre-Young Money era Nicki Minaj mixed with Grace Jones) as well  as older, more established hip-hop heads such as DMX, Lupe Fiasco, Rick Ross and the G.O.O.D music crew. However, it has been the last couple of months that have really seen the bar raised for 2012.

Nasty Nas used the experiences of his marriage breakdown with Kelis to spend the year putting in a series of stellar guest appearances before releasing arguably his finest album since 2001’s Stillmatic. Life Is Good was an expertly crafted, well rounded body of work that touched on mature themes as well as Nas’ classic storytelling. Unlike much of Nas’ previous albums, he seemed to have conquered his phobia of choosing good beats and delivered on the majority (Summer on Smash is terrible) of the tracks.

The Kendrick Lamar buzz was an altogether different beast. From building a strong underground following on the mixtape circuit, through to inking a major deal with Dr Dre’s Aftermath/Interscope records, the artist formerly known as K.Dot had the unenviable task of “bringing the West Coast back”. Faced with the kind of pressure and expectation known only by London’s 2012 Olympic athletes, it’s safe to say that with good kid, m.A.A.d city  not only delivered but produced one of the finest (if not finest) hip-hop albums of the year so far.  It’s not just in the lyrical delivery, the content matter or the beats (which in themselves are all pretty outstanding, but it’s in the execution of the project as a whole. It is designed to be digested in full, rather than as a collection of singles and tells the story of a young Kendrick (a good kid) on a typical day in Compton (the Mad City). For me, it took a couple of listens but from then onwards, I was hooked.

Which brings me to the title of the blog post. This is probably the weakest era in terms of hip-hop music that I can remember. At least in the jiggy era, you still had a healthy mix of hardcore and crossover hits. At the moment, we have an abundance of ignorant music in the charts at the expensive of other topics. Albums like Life Is Good and good kid are like shining lights in this current era of mediocrity, but they do offer hope. It’s usually in times like these that a new movement is born as a reaction to the watering down of the mainstream: think punk as a reaction to Disco in the 70’s, grunge as a reaction to squeaky clean pop in the 90’s and hip-hop as a reaction to social injustices (as well as party music).

Has Hip-Hop as we know it been resurrected? Was it even dead to begin with? rather than being dead, I would say that Hip-Hop is actually starting to show some green shoots of recovery. Here’s hoping that these two albums as well as the artists mentioned earlier see rappers up their game and Hip-Hop regain its diversity and integrity once more.