By John Sosnowski in Arts & Entertainment
April 28, 2011
Not just your everyday hip-hop hedonist, Kendrick Lamar is an MC who wants to really say something and isn’t afraid to follow through with it.
While treading the standard hip-hop waters of money and sex, Kendrick’s “Section.80” immediately lets the listener know that he’s also a big thinker.
A preacher-like narrative voice addressing a figurative audience opens the first track and appears throughout the album, bringing to fruition the cinematic quality so many other hip-hop acts have failed to achieve through their album skits.
Kendrick immediately throws political correctness to the wind in an effort to make a genuine statement, encouraging human unity by titling his opening track “[sic] Your Ethnicity,” calling out unfaithful partners of both sexes on “Tammy’s Song (Her Mistakes),” and damning destructive right-wing politics on “Ronald Reagan Era.” He achieves all of this with a level of flow and poetic technique not standard fare in rap lyrics since the 90s.
However, the album is far from flawless.
For the most part, the production seems to try too hard with vocalists better suited for American Idol than for an album like this, while a few other tracks seem to evoke dubstep, with poor results.
The album would be better served by sparser boom bap production a la KRS-One, Wu-Tang Clan, etc. It’s a minor setback to a pretty solid album, and few notable exceptions to the pattern of played-out production include Ashtro Bot’s enjoyable neo-soul hook on “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain),” the jazz riff accompanying “Ab-Soul’s Outro,” and the beat of the closer “HiiiPower.”
Kendrick says on the next-to-last track, “People say I speak for a generation… Why lie? I do.” While this is a lofty claim, I daresay he speaks for our generation better and more comprehensively than Kanye West; though, no disrespect to our favorite college dropout..