Who Is Kendrick Lamar?

By B.L. Barbour

Who is Kendrick Lamar? He’s a thirty year old, three-time Grammy Award winner from California.  His given name is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth.   His latest album, “Damn” was released in April of this year.  Damn showcases fourteen songs.  These songs all have single-word titles like DNA, Love, God, Lust, Fear and Damn.  Although single words, they all carry a lot of meaning and stir deep emotions.   It makes you wonder, what he was going through during the writing of these songs.

Kendrick Lamar’s Early Life

He was struggling with the same challenges all of those who acquire overwhelming fame.  Like many before him, he’s telling the story of his climb out of Compton to fame so that his audience understands what he’s going through.  Kendrick was born and raised in Compton, California.  Compton is a city bordering Los Angeles that lacks any of the prestige of LA.  It’s plagued with gangs, drugs and crime.  Kendrick’s family includes five brothers and sisters plus parents who all lived on welfare and in section 8 housing.  His fiancée is his high school sweetheart, Whitney Alford.  And most surprising for a Hip Hop artist is the fact that he is a self-professed Christian.  He let’s us know about his relationship with God in the song i” on the To Pimp a Butterfly album.  Because of his status he often finds himself being held up as a role model for young kids.  Despite his surroundings or maybe because of his surroundings Kendrick rose up and succeeded as a musical artist.

A Brief History of his Career

After seeing a video featuring Tupac and Dr. Dre, Kendrick was on fire.  He wanted to make Hip Hop music too.  Eight years later, he began his career at age 16 recording under the name K-Dot.  His first recording was a mixtape called Youngest Head Nigga in Charge (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year). This led to his being signed with a new Indie record label, Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) in 2004.  He signed with Lil Wayne in 2008 and decided to change his stage name to Kendrick Lamar in 2009.  During Lamar’s early career, he performed solo as well as accompanied many established artists like Jay Rock and TechN9ne.

Titles and Awards

In 2011, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Game named Kendrick Lamar the “New King of the West Coast”.  A year after being granted that ominous title by his predecessors, Kendrick signed a new contract with Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment, making all his new releases the responsibility of the cooperative of Top Dawg, Interscope and Aftermath.  In 2013, he won the BET Hip Hop Award for Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, his second album.  There are many Hip Hop aficionados that believe To Pimp a Butterfly is the best Hip Hop album ever made.

His Music

Kendrick often writes music about his everyday life.  The song Sing About Me was written to pay tribute to his partner and his partner’s brother who both passed away while living the gangster life in Compton.  Only the producers are credited on his first album, Section.80, but all his subsequent releases list him as a co-writer of every song.  Kendrick helped write Drug Test in collaboration with J-Cole, J-Zee’s protégé for the Game on the R.E.D. Album.  He co-wrote Alright with Kawan Prather, Pharrell Williams and Mark Spears. Kendrick admits that his time his consumed with penning new tunes.


To Pimp a Butterfly is a jam packed grouping of songs filled with rage, romanticism, self examination, great jazz backgrounds, promotion of a relationship with God and sophisticated lyrics all melding with the interspersing of blunt real, language. His album releases include Section.80 hitting the market in 2011, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City released in 2012, To Pimp a Butterfly released in 2015 and Damn, which came out this year in 2017.


Kendrick Lamar is steadily rising to the top of the Hip Hop world.  He’s definitely considered one of the best rappers. Complex magazine placed Lamar among The “20 Best Rappers in their 20’s” annual lists for three years straight beginning in 2013 and Billboard named him one of the “Ten Greatest Rappers of All-Time” in 2015. We’ll be seeing much more from him and hopefully he will outdo the genius of To Pimp a Butterfly.

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