Given Name: Kendrick Lamar Duckworth
Alias: K.Dot, King Kendrick
Releases: Y.N.I.C. (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year), debut mixtape, 2003; Training Day, solo mixtape, 2005; No Sleep 'Til NYC, collaborative mixtape with Jay Rock, 2007; Do It Nigga Squad, Vol. 1, collaborative mixtape, 2008; C4, mixtape, 2009; Kendrick Lamar, EP, 2009; Overly Dedicated, mixtape, 2010; Section.80, debut album, 2011; good kid, m.A.A.d city, album, 2012.
Career Highlights: In 2006, Kendrick started popping up on songs by big-name West Coasters like The Game and Snoop Dogg. On his 2009 mixtape C4, he received a crucial co-sign from Lil Wayne. In 2009, he formed the group Black Hippy with Schoolboy, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock. His 2010 mixtape Overly Dedicated peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. After seeing the "Ignorance Is Bliss" music video, Dr. Dre became interested in working with Kendrick, and eventually executive produced good kid. In 2011, Kendrick made XXL's Freshman Class. good kid mA.A.d city went platinum, won five BET awards, and was nominated for seven Grammys. In September 2013, Kendrick's verse on Big Sean's "Control" sparked controversy after he called out several rappers by name and called himself the "King of New York."
Sound: Generally speaking, Kendrick's music alternates between breezy West Coast jams, and harder-edged, updated NYC boom-bap. He cites 2Pac as his biggest influence, and although his music may not seem as immediatly "gangster rap" as Pac's, his storytelling, ghetto narratives and relative hesitation to produce club bangers are all reminiscent of Shakur. Beginning on good kid, Kendrick popularized a technique of double-tracking his vocals, rapping in a low voice on one while in a higher, sing-songy register on the other -- this can now be heard on almost every song he puts out.
Strengths: Frequently hailed as the best pure lyricist in modern rap, Kendrick writes brainy, technically impressive verses that often address inner city drama in unique ways. On good kid, m.A.A.d city, he gathered a great selection of beats from big-name producers like Pharrell, as well as ones from TDE's Digi+Phonics and THC, that showed his versatility. His storytelling abilities are thrilling, often recounting tales from his youth, and are notable for their ambiguous treatment of the gangster lifestyle, being both informative and objective. The sky's the limit for Kendrick at this point, but following up good kid (an opus-like, autobiographical masterpiece) will be quite a task. But with a consistent discography, and access to pretty much any collaboration he could ever want, odds are "King Kendrick" will have a long, fruitful reign.