Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
Kendrick’s name has been ricocheting off of the hallway walls of Hip Hop for a while now. Any time someone speaks on hot, new artists – regardless of geography – his name is always mentioned. (& rightfully so, I might add.Since the resonant release of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, K-Dot’s been called everything from “the future” to “the King of the New West Coast.” Critics & fans alike clamor on & on about how he may have single-handedly rearranged the variables of today’s rap music. With a style similar to Andre 3000, lightly coated with obvious Tupac influence, Kendrick Lamar might very well be here to save us all (like Chino XL tried to do in 1996).
To further illustrate the overwhelming magnitude of hiphopolis acceptance, one can even hear children singing his songs in cars as they zoom through metropolitan streets. 3 of those kids belong to me. In fact, my kids are the reason I really began to listen past the crispy tracks & rapid-fire wordspit. The more I enjoyed the overall audio aura of the album, the more I dove deeper into what it was all about. See, rap music is powerful. It overpowers the senses & generates feelings, positive or negative. That’s why I drive fast when I put Mobb Deep’s library on shuffle, because it makes me want to mow down pedestrians & shoot at people. Not only does good music provoke emotion, but it also almost always has a message embedded betwixt it’s rhythm.
& for what it’s worth, I notice Kendrick sings a song of self destruction. He seems to be slightly obsessed with his mortality & mentions his looming demise often throughout his catalog of various mixtapes & free music.
For quite some time, I tried to break down the references Lamar makes to holding your 3’s up, to no avail. I knew there was some underlying overtone to it but couldn’t figure it out. Then, all of a sudden, it made sense.
K. Dot subliminally glorifies the gang lifestyle with an “innocent bystander” approach, & it works. He follows the same formula that your favorite rapper(s) does, it’s just more coded & scrambled. The only actual difference is that he doesn’t rap about money. (Yet.)
The next time you spin Good Kid, OD, or Section.80, listen to the amount of times “choppers,” gang banging, ratpacking, drive-bys, & burglary are mentioned. Also, notice how much dry snitching he does about breaking into people’s homes. (Dry snitching is inadvertently telling on people, & gangsta rappers are usually masters at dry snitching.) Any of his friends from that time period of his life were surely committing burglaries, too, & someone, somewhere knows who these friends are. Then again, that would add a degree of authenticity to Kendrick’s plight, though, so I imagine those friends have already outed themselves for a savory taste of the ever elusive 15 minutes of fame.
Perhaps Kendrick really is the future of rap. That said, we can see that ultra-violent reality rhymes will be replaced with semi-aggressive, mildly subversive rap songs that don’t strike you with the same heavy-handed slap that most reality-based music does, while still delivering the same dosage of jagged surrealism. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the consumer, but it sure does make a song about getting drunk easier to swallow in rap music’s mainstream arena.
Kendrick’s camouflaged thug mentality is much like his hometown of Compton, California, where my maternal grandmother lives. (It’s also the unofficial starting line for the gangsta rap rat race.) At first glance, the city seems as nonchalant as any other urbanized locale, but between the alleys & side streets lies danger & confusion. My grandmother’s street is as quiet as a sleeping wino, but someone was killed on the corner the last time I visited her. & that was less than a month ago.
Kendrick Lamar may be the new face of Gangsta Rap, whether you realize it or not, word to Schoolly D.
Words by Tony Grands