by Peyton Gallaher
“My momma told me the moment I was invented I was different. Estranged baby, no I’m not ashamed.”
Compton product and rapper Kendrick Lamar melodically opens the second verse of Untitled 06 with a riddle.
A poet, Lamar understands that his lyrics are to be interpreted by the listener. He uses his voice and song to force the listener to think of what he could possibly be truly saying. It’s provocative, but in a good way. I eat it up.
The words of Kendrick rapidly provoke artistic thought. Instantly, when he begins to talk about his strange mind and his separation from normality I get it. I relate.
His words are calculated, smart, and possess qualities that somehow make a 16 year old, white-privileged male empathize to the struggles of a successful rapper who grew up in the streets of one of the most dangerous places in America.
I feel waves of emotion with Kendrick Lamar when I listen to his music. I feel his pain, his happiness, his ambition when listening. I realize that when Kendrick claims he was “estranged” from birth he’s not talking about all of us, but at a basic level, just him.
To some degree we are all mentally separated from one another aren’t we? All weird and different in our own special way.
However, he’s talking about himself. Kendrick is, as I interpret, talking about him being estranged but accepted in the community of Compton. It’s complicated but important.
Intricate, multilayered tapestries of language and sound create puzzles like this one when I listen to a K-Dot track.
I feel it’s unparalleled in modern day hip hop if not hip hop’s history. The sheer lyricism and mindfulness that each word receives creates intrigue.
It’s crazy that I usually have to listen to each song several times just to grasp what’s being preached, but it’s what must be done. No one else right now is doing that.
He has to compete with an overwhelming tide of opposition in other sects of rap music but continues to win. Ask someone to stylistically stand out in a sea of other trap, gangster, and grime artists and he will do it better than anyone.
However, this generation of music lovers hesitates to gravitate to a rapper such as Lamar because their ears have been trained to a different tune. Trap music.
In a trap music era, where artists expound upon roaring beats and rely heavily on catchiness and hooks for success, a lesser rapper of Kendrick’s style would simply be drowned out.
We as an audience crave escape when listening to music but Lamar doesn’t allow that. He makes us think when not everyone wants to. That’s why this musical genius is so incredible.
Kendrick isn’t only surviving in this musical ecosystem, he’s running it.
Thriving in his uniqueness, Kendrick seizes our ears and minds and takes advantage of his reputation as not only a rapper but a thinker. He stares down the opposition and runs with the competition.
Has the trap era destroyed hip hop? Hell no, the contrary actually.
Trap music has grown the genre immensely. However, despite trap’s conquest of the genre as a whole, K-dot has stuck to an important and influential style in his own right.
Refreshing elements of spoken word and poetry are present in the of Kendrick’s verses. This style, complimented by jazz beats, is different than any of the trap style music clogging the rap scene right now. He continues to stick out.
This is the reason I love Kendrick Lamar. He’s relentless and he doesn’t mind sticking out a bit if it means giving the right message. His style, lyrics, and voice have influenced me at least if not my whole generation. He’s brought light to real issues and has represented what makes him who he is. This encourages me to do the same.
At times his words lift me, at times they bring me down, and at times what Kendrick Lamar says gives me knowledge. He arms us against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry. He loves what he’s about regardless of what anyone thinks. He represents the underdog in all of us.
Kendrick Lamar is my favorite rapper of all time.