Kendrick Lamar – Section.80

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The best album of 2011, hip-hop or otherwise, and one of many releases in 2011 that forced publications to take mixtapes seriously. It took me a while to get past the barrier of Kendrick Lamar’s nasally voice, though it’s assuredly not quite as gimmicky or divisive as Danny Brown’s. If you’re having the same issue, I suggest focussing less on the vocals and more on the lyrics; you’ll soon forget you had a problem with the former in the first place. Here are some of my favorites (in no order):

~“I’m a loser, I’m a winner
I’m good, I’m bad, I’m a Christian, I’m a sinner
I’m humble, I’m loud, I’m righteous, I’m a killer
What I’m doing, I’m saying that I’m human”
-“Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)”

“I’m not the next pop star
I’m not the next socially aware rapper
I am a human motherfucking being, over dope ass instrumentation,
Kendrick Lamar”
-“Ab-Soul’s Outro”

~”Wicked as 80 reverends in a pool of fire with devils holding hands
From a distance, don’t know which one is a Christian, damn”
-“Hol’ Up”

~“My listeners reply
And tell me that you biting style, you got a hell of an appetite
And I’mma be here for a while just buckle up before the ride
Or knuckle up if you could fight, we always making them duck or die
A suit and tie is suitable and usual in suicide”
-“Rigamortus”

~“Don’t ask for your favorite rapper
I rapped him and made him Casper”
-“Rigamortus”

~“I got my finger on the motherfucking pistol
Aiming at a pig, Charlotte’s web is going to miss you”
-“HiiiPoWeR”

And observe the alliteration of:

~Back in this bitch in the back of that bitch, with my back against the wall
And your bitch on the edge of my dick, jump-off”
-“Hol’ Up”

~”Heart racingracing past Johnny because he’s racist
-“Ronald Reagan Era”

~”Strong enough to stand in front of a travelling freight train, are you trained?
To go against Dracula dragging the record industry by my fangs”
-“Ronald Reagan Era”

“You slipped your disc when I slipped you my disc
You wanted to diss but jumped on my dick
-HiiiPoWeR

—– —– —– —– —–

Section.80 plays as a pseudo-concept album, as seen in the campfire scenes laced throughout (on “Fuck Your Ethnicity,” “Chapter Ten” and “Ab-Soul’s Outro”), where Kendrick Lamar introduces two fictional characters – Tammy and Keisha – and places them in sympathetic situations and delivers the stories about them with such conviction that it wouldn’t surprise me if both were real people he knew personally. But even without ignoring the overarching concept,Section.80 is perhaps the most conscious record I’ve heard by a mainstream rapper since conscious rap’s a-day; Lamar moves swiftly from racial issues (“Fuck Your Ethnicity”), (t)his generation’s growing tolerance and dependency on drugs (“A.D.H.D.”), domestic abuse (“No Make-Up”), infidelity (“Tammy’s Song”), prostitution (“Keisha’s Song”) and politics (“Ab-Soul’s Outro” and “HiiiPoWeR”), all while reminding us that he’s the best ever (“Hol’ Up” and “Rigamortus”). On “Ab-Soul’s Outro,” he proclaims, “People say I speak for generation Y / Why lie? I do,” and it isn’t hyperbolic, it’s fucking prophetic.

There are some lines that you can’t get the full effect from just reading so I didn’t bother listening them previously: Kendrick Lamar getting angrier and angrier as “Keisha’s Song” progresses culminating in the growl of “Caught a knife inside the bladder, left her dead, raped in the street, Keisha’s song” or where he displays the lung capacity of a deepsea diver in the last verse of “Rigamortu.” Meanwhile, he manages to work a hook into the second verse of “Hol’ Up” by emphasizing certain words, “Your bitch on the edge of my dick, jump off” and “I never did nothing but break the ground on top of the asphalt,” mimicking the song’s chorus. But the best example of his rapping comes is on the first verse of “A.D.H.D.” where he does both – injecting a hook despite the fast flow: “You are, you are / A loner, loner / Marijuana, endorphins / Make you strong, stronger” before running through “I’m in the house party tripping off / My generation sipping cough syrup like it’s water / Never no pancakes in the kitchen / Man, no wonder our lives is caught up / In the daily superstition that the world is ‘bout to end.” There are people who think that Section.80 is better from a rapping perspective than good kid, m.A.A.d. city and in these songs, it’s hard to say they’re wrong. The guests do their part too, with uncredited TDE-affiliated female singers boosting “Ab-Soul’s Outro” and “HiiiPoWeR,” to Astrobot’s chorus on “Keisha’s Song” (dig the way he changes the melody on the final instance) to Ab-Soul’s slew of one-liners throughout his verse on “Ab-Soul’s Outro” (“Odd Future’s aight / But our future’s not”; “On another note, we focused like the Hubble Telescope”).

Meanwhile, aside from the blips and bloops of “Tammy’s Song” being are too close together taking away from the message and “The Spiteful Chant” being nothing more than its sample of Woodkid’s “Iron,” the beats are gold, too. Listen to the ominous piano notes that come in right after the monologue of “Fuck Your Ethnicity”; listen to how queer the horn sounds on “Rigamortus” but manages to work all the same; listen to how massive the bass and drums sound when they enter lack in that track; listen to how the drum machine on “A.D.H.D.” comes in on the command, “We never do listen unless it comes with an 808” Meanwhile, the saxophone sample of “Hol’ Up” and J. Cole’s beat on “HiiiPoWeR” (better than anything he’s produced for his own albums) are melodic enough that those songs didn’t need choruses. But the best beat is on “Ab-Soul’s Outro,” where Terrace Martin lays down frantic percussion and a drunken saxophone swinging in and out that gets more and more chaotic with Kendrick Lamar’s climax. “Fuck em up, Terrace,” Kendrick commands, and Terrace fucks us up.

Finally, I still can’t get past just how eerily Kendrick Lamar mimics Kanye West on closer “HiiiPoWeR,” either in the gasps in the second verse that recall “Jesus Walks” or in the hook; when Lamar says, “This shit is,” I’m practically waiting for RZA to say “Fucking ridiculous.”

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4 responses to “Kendrick Lamar – Section.80

  1. Pingback: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly | Free City Sounds·

  2. Pingback: ScHoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions | Free City Sounds·

  3. Pingback: Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade | Free City Sounds·

  4. Pingback: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. | Free City Sounds·

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