Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Released: July 2, 2011
The cover of upcoming rapper Kendrick Lamar’s first album, Section.80 is an excellent summary of the contradictions and contrasts that fill this album. The cover features a filled weed pipe, a clip of bullets, a pack of condoms, some money and a woman’s lipstick, all next to a bible. The cover is a testament to the complexity of the themes explored in the album – that the same people who engage in drug use, promiscuity and gun violence are not necessarily people that don’t believe in God. It is an intriguing concept and one that Kendrick explores through the story of various characters like a young woman whose circumstance force her into prostitution and another girl whose bad luck with boys encourages her to seek companionship with other women instead. The production on the album is consistent and strong though it rarely transcends that standard into anything really powerful. At the same time, Lamar’s effort at a concept album comes across as a little preachy at some times and altogether heavy-handed at others. Despite that, it is clear that Kendrick Lamar, or King Kendrick as he is more affectionately known, has been blessed with the gift.
There are several characteristics that separate the great rappers from the good and one of them is ability to transform an average beat into something more. On this album, Lamar shows that he can do this on occasion – there are tracks where it feels like the spirits of some deceased greats suddenly possess him and inspire to write truly excellent bars. Just as suddenly though, the spark leaves him and those great lines are followed by some mediocre, repetitive ones. Nevertheless, the album is full of excellent tracks, tracks that are complete, with technically sound, masterful flow, great sound and engaging subject-matter. The album explores the different aspects of human nature in projects of ‘Section.80’. Lamar carries the album’s themes for the most part, moving from track to track with various flows in his repertoire, discussing politics, social policies and religion. The album’s sound is also consistent dark and depressive despite featuring as many as eight different producers. Of particular note is J.Cole’s work on ‘HiiiPoWeR’ which serves as a wonderful closing track and THC’s work in ‘Keisha’s Song’ which is another altogether excellent track. However, for every example of great production, there’s an example of weak tracks – ‘The Spiteful Chant’ and ‘Blow My High’ come to mind. Kendrick’s choice of co-stars is a little suspect as well – while GLC, Colin Munroe and Ashtro Bot all more than hold their own, Ab-Soul’s verses in a track named for him was disappointingly weak.
Section.80 is an ambitious attempt at a concept album and one that is very effective in its execution. It is certainly a victory for independent record label Tog Dawg Entertainment whose roster of artists include Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock as well as Digi+Phonics and THC both who helped produce Section.80. The album is not perfect, but it is solid in almost every way and while it might lack that final polish it is nonetheless an impressive album and claims that West has risen again are not unfounded even if it is a little premature.
|Fuck Your Ethnicity||THC||4.5|
|Chapter Six||Tommy Black||3.5|
|Ronald Reagon Era||Tae Beast||4|
|Poe Man’s Dream||Willie B||4.25|
|Spiteful Chant||Sounwave, Dave Free||3.5|
|Chapter Ten||THC, Iman Omari||3.5|
|Keisha’s Song||Tae Beast||5|
|Blow My High||Tommy Black||3.5|
|Ab-Souls Outro||Terrace Martin||3.5|