At this moment no other hip-hop figure touches Kendrick Lamar’s cultural preeminence with my college-aged students. Roddy Ricch, DaBaby, and Polo G may get streamed, but Lamar is their Beatles: never taken for granted. From DAMN’s impressive 2017 performance — three consecutive months in the top three, culminating in a return to #1 in late August — to the cultural space he occupies in the form of guest spots, allusions, and tips of the hat from David Bowie and collaborations with Kamasi Washington, commercially and critically he’s on his own.
This means clear-eyed criticism is more necessary than usual. A solid mimic and master of polysyllabic flow, Lamar can also get tangled in his syntax; on the weakest To Pimp a Butterfly tracks he and the dense overdubs or live performances don’t gel. Less of a problem on Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The offhand cruelty both observed and lived in “The Art of Peer Pressure” finds its correlative in Lamar’s offhand delivery; the prissier he sounds, the worse the news.
Because of the ambition, he will record a turkey soon. I don’t want to watch the critical somersaults.
1. The Art of Peer Pressure
2. King Kunta
4. Swimming Pools (Drank)
5. The Blacker, The Berry
6. Poetic Justice
7. Wesley’s Tune
8. Collard Greens – Schoolboy Q featuring Kendrick Lamar
9. untitled 02 | 06.23.2014
11. Really Doe – Danny Brown featuring Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt
12. Hood Politics
14. Freedom – Beyonce
15. Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst
19. Backseat Freestyle