Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city came out Tuesday after months of hype and promotion. K. Dot is highly recognized as a next level artist, a west coast lyricist that has hip hop purist reminiscing on the golden era of rap. I haven’t listened to the whole album yet, but I do like the few songs I’ve heard. But when I peeped some of his topics, I couldn’t help but notice that buried beneath his skilled style and word play, were themes based on drinking, women, and gang bangin. Let me first say that subject matter doesn’t necessarily matter to me as much as it used to; I relinquished my title as a hip hop head when I realized that every artists held succumbed to type of gimmick, even the so called “conscious” MCs. Kendrick is hailed as a game changer, an MC that brought something fresh and new to a decaying art form. But I wondered if his cleverness actually made him different from his contemporaries.
Remember when Oprah had the cast of the critically acclaimed “Crash” film on her show, but wouldn’t allow Ludacris on because she found his lyrics offensive? Oprah claimed that she would never have a rapper on her show, but later relented. When she did finally decide allow a rapper to grace her presence, she decided to choose Jay-Z. Before you know it, she was on stage beat boxing and freestyling with the anoint king of hip hop. As I watched her making a mockery of the art form, I thought about the differences between Jay-Z’s and Ludacris’ lyrics. What made Jay-Z so special? What was so appealing about his music that Oprah and our very own president admit that they have Hova bangin in their Ipods? The only dissimilarity between Jay-Z and Luda was Jay’s knack for wittily reciting his lyrics. Jay-Z is commended for his style and cadence, while Luda has much more of a straight forward old school style with punch lines instead of in depth metaphors. The fact of the matter is they still talk about a lot of the same things, Jay-Z just happens to articulate it better.
My cousin went on Facebook the other day and proclaimed that there wasn’t much distinction between Waka Flocka and Kendrick Lamar. The responses to his post were dripping with negative backlash and emotional rants. Some said that Waka Flocka was garbage and they would never taint their ears with his music, others said that Kendrick talked about much more than the typical MC. My cousin made it clear that he had nothing against Kendrick Lamar and that he really liked his music, but also wanted to point out the hype and marketing aspect of his success. I didn’t bother commenting on this page; I didn’t want to involve myself in the argument. But I thought about his proclamation for quite some time; all these cats pretty much talk about the same ol shit.
I’m actually looking forward to listening to Kendrick Lamar’s whole album. He has some smooth tracks and I always try to get down with west coast artists, but we have to avoid getting caught up in the hype machine. It was only a couple months ago that people didn’t even know who this guy was, and now he’s a hip hop savior. I know that I’ve always been one of the people pleading for rappers to add depth to their craft and perfect it, but I realized that we are all out here trying to get money and ultimately take care of our families. If talking about selling drugs and pimpin women is what people want to hear, then that’s what rappers are going to talk about; some are just more creative than others.