“Everybody gon’ respect the shooter, but the one infront of the gun lives forever.”
Whilst I don’t condone everything that Kendrick Lamar raps about (you can work out those bits for yourself), the way he writes is fascinating. To the untrained ear it probably just sounds like another ‘gangster’ who is bragging about how many cars he’s got, how many ladies he gets and how much money he makes. But if you listen closely, his tracks are far more profound.
Many of today’s artists, particularly in the Hip-Hop/Rapping world see it as an opportunity to showcase their ‘privileged status’. Drake for one is not shy in telling us how seemingly great his life is:
‘Guess what, I made it
I’m da Mo’f***ing man
I just want you to see it’
Thanks for informing us that you’ve made it Drake.
But Lamar in his album Cool Kid, Maad City takes a unique approach. There is no doubt that his upbringing in Compton, a notorious gang land in Los Angeles, has a lot to do with how he writes. Lamar’s family had moved from Chicago to Compton to escape gang culture but it wasn’t long before Lamar’s father was reconnected to that way of life. Lamar observed, wrote, absorbed, all that was happening around him.
Rather than adopting the ‘rags to riches’ style that Lamar has to a certain extent experienced, many of his tracks tell the story of the streets. ‘Money Trees’ is a great example of this and the line at the top articulates this beautifully. There seems to be some kind of glorification of those who become top dogs on the streets. Certainly Lamar would have seen this.
I don’t want to make Lamar into a saint; his self comparison with Martin Luther King Jr is enough to tell me that he thinks quite highly of himself. However what I do like is that he tells it how it is. He doesn’t sugar coat his message and make out that life on the streets is to be desired. His efforts are to ensure that the voice of those who lose their life wrapped up in gang crime is not forgotten.
Kendrick Lamar has a story which he stays true to.