Music / Kendrick Lamar

One of the great young talents in rap music, Kendrick Lamar (full name Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, born June 17, 1987) is a Compton-born rapper known for delivering politically charged, story driven, and often nostalgic lyrics, drawing on his experiences growing up in a bad neighborhood.

He released his first mixtape at the tender age of sixteen. Having signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, Kendrick continued to pump out acclaimed mixtapes and finally released his debut album in 2011, titled Section.80. The album won him great critical acclaim and revealed to the public the great potential the young MC had, including Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who crowned him the "New King of the West Coast" at a concert.

With this recognition, Kendrick signed to both Interscope and Aftermath and in 2012 released his second full length album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, an album all about his teenage years and experiences with drugs, alcohol and gang violence. It has been highly regarded as one of the best albums of 2012 and caused mass controversy when it lost all of its Grammy Award nominations and some of the awards went to Macklemore (who even admitted that Kendrick should've won).

In August of 2013, Kendrick featured on the Big Sean song "Control". His verse, in which he managed to call out the entirety of the rap game's current artists while simultaneously claiming that he is the best in the game and urging the others to catch up, was widely considered to be the year's best display of raw lyricism. Kendrick's verse is so popular, that some are surprised to learn that there are two other artists on the song. That verse can be heard here.

On March 16, 2015, Kendrick's third full length album, To Pimp A Butterfly was unexpectedly released (due to an error on Interscope Records' behalf which caused the album to be released a week earlier than scheduled) to widespread critical acclaim. Similarly to GKMC, the album was infamously snubbed for an Album of the Year Grammy that went to Taylor Swift, although it did win a number of other Grammys. A compilation of demos that were created during the production of TPAB was eventually released in March 2016 under the name untitled unmastered.

Kendrick began hinting towards a fourth album on March 22, 2017, where he deleted all of his pictures on Instagram and uploaded a since-deleted picture with nothing but the word "IV". The following day, The Heart Part IV was released as a promotional single, signaling an upcoming return of Kendrick, supposedly taking shots at Big Sean and Drake, and hinting the date of his fourth album with the line "Y'all got April the 7th to get your shit together."

A week later, the album's lead single, "HUMBLE.", was released ahead of schedule due to the cover art being leaked online. On the announced date of April 7, 2017, the new album was not released but merely made available for pre-order, to the dismay of fans. On April 14, 2017, Kendrick's fourth studio album, DAMN. was released to widespread critical acclaim, beating out Drake's More Life for best selling hip-hop album of the year with 600,000 units sold.


  • Y.H.N.I.C. (Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year) (mixtape; 2005)
  • No Sleep 'Til NYC (mixtape; 2007)
  • C4 (mixtape; 2009)
  • The Kendrick Lamar EP (EP; 2009)
  • Overly Dedicated (mixtape; 2010)
  • Section.80 (2011)
  • good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)
  • To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
  • untitled unmastered. (compilation; 2016)
  • DAMN. (2017)

good kid, m.A.A.d tropes:

  • all lowercase letters: untitled unmastered.
    • good kid, m.A.A.d city also fits...sorta.
  • Arc Words: Every song from "King Kunta" onwards on To Pimp a Butterfly ends with an expanding monologue that begins with "I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence."
    • "Ain't nobody prayin' for me" is a recurring phrase on DAMN., appearing in some form on "ELEMENT.", "FEEL.", the album version of "HUMBLE.", and "FEAR."
  • Anachronic Order: The narrative of good kid, m.A.A.d city jumps back and forth between Kendrick getting jumped on his way to meet Sherane, hanging out with his friends, and voicemails from his parents. The story ultimately begins at the end of the second track, when K.Dot (Kendrick's younger self) is invited to come along with some friends.
  • Ascended Fanboy: This is true of most rappers, but Kendrick (especially in good kid, m.A.A.d city) makes this a point in interviews and in his music. He has worked with many artists who were his musical heroes growing up, including E-40 (who he references in "Money Trees"), Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Game and, to crown good kid, m.A.A.d city, he got Jay-Z to feature on the remix of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe".
  • Book Ends:
    • Due to good kid, m.A.A.d city's Anachronic Order, "Compton" functions both as the opening and ending credits to the narrative.
      • A variant of the Sinner's Prayer opens the album proper, and is heard again with context before the penultimate song.
      • "Backseat Freestyle" begins and ends with the same break.
    • The first and final line of DAMN. spoken by Kendrick is "So, I was taking a walk the other day." We hear it first in the opening track "BLOOD." and then again in "DUCKWORTH.", after the song ends with several sounds from previous songs on the album being played in reverse as if the whole album is being reversed back to the very start.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens three times on good kid: once when he refers to producer Hit-Boynote  on "Backseat Freestyle", another when Keisha's sister refers to Section.80note  on "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst," and lastly when Just Blazenote  inserts his name into "Compton," the one song on the album he produced.
  • Call-Back: The video for "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe" stops mid-song at one point and Kendrick is shown being baptized in a swimming pool full of liquor. This is an obvious reference to "Swimming Pools (Drank)."
  • Caps Lock: Every single song title in the album DAMN.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: good kid, m.A.A.d city's plot seems to be a version of this.
  • Concept Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city is a somewhat fictionalized account of Kendrick's teenage years in Compton. After a night of robbery and drugs with friends, K.Dot (young Kendrick) heads to Sherane's house for sex. Upon arrival, two gangbangers outside her house beat K.Dot up as his gang affiliation (or lack thereof) is not welcome. K.Dot friends get word of what happen and decide to involve these two gang members in a drive-by shooting. This goes awry as K.Dot's friend Dave is shot and killed in the process. K.Dot reassess his life, allowing him to become the Kendrick Lamar we know today.
  • Deconstruction: Ultimately, GKMC is one for Gangsta Rap and the more unhealthy aspects of today's rap. There's nothing glamorous about the thug lifestyle, instead coming off as bloody and pathetic. Partying and excessive drinking is ultimately destructive and hollow. Even sex, represented through K.Dot hooking up with Sherane, leads to an STD and some very poor choices in the name of getting laid. K.Dot eventually is set straight but at a very high price.
    • DAMN. can also be a deconstruction of the modern rap and pop scene with songs like GOD. and DNA. being deconstructions of the pop-rap and trap genres respectively.
  • Doing It for the Art: invoked Explicitly spelled out in "King Kunta":
    Something's in the water
    And if I gotta brown-nose for some gold
    Then I'd rather be a bum than a motherfuckin' baller
  • Dream Team: Really, Kendrick and pretty much anyone, but some noteworthy ones include
    • Kendrick and Dr. Dre on "The Recipe" and "Compton"
    • Kendrick and Jay-Z on the "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" remix.
    • Kendrick and Lady Gaga on the original version of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe".
    • Kendrick, Big K.R.I.T. and J Cole on DJ Khaled's "They Ready".
    • Kendrick and J Cole in general.
    • Kendrick and Pusha T on "Nosetalgia".
    • Kendrick and Eminem on "Love Game".
    • Kendrick and Kanye West on "No More Parties In L.A.".
    • Kendrick and Danny Brown, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt on "Really Doe".
    • Kendrick and Travis Scott on "goosebumps".
    • Kendrick and Rihanna on "LOYALTY."
    • Kendrick and U2 on "XXX."
  • Drowning My Sorrows / I Need a Freaking Drink: Swimming Pools (Drank)
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: Emulated in the chorus of "Cartoons and Cereal".
  • Epic Rapping: Several of the songs on good kid, the most obvious being "Money Trees" (6:26), "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" (12:03) and "Real" (7:23).
    • To Pimp a Butterfly gives us the 12:07 album closer "Mortal Man". Worth nothing, though, that both "Mortal Man" and "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" feature multiple minutes of spoken word.
    • DAMN. gives us the 7 long minute FEAR., a song about Kendrick's fears during different stages of his life. Just like Mortal Man and Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst, it ends in a spoken word portion by Kendrick's cousin Carl.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: He's 5'5".
  • Foreshadowing: Kendrick's mom tells him to stay away from Sherane.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: His "Black Friday" freestyle contains one about 30 seconds before the end, as well as a fake second one at the actual end, where Kendrick starts going into another line, stops himself, and says "No, I'm just fuckin' with ya".
  • Freestyle Version: He freestyled over Kanye West's "Monster" in 2010 and created a brilliant Villain Song out of it.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • A working title for To Pimp A Butterfly was To Pimp A Caterpillar, because if you change "to" into "2", then initialize the rest, you get 2PAC.
    • The "m.A.A.d." in good kid, m.A.A.d. city has a double meaning; it means both "my angry adolescence divided" and "my angels on angel dust".
  • Gangsta Rap: good kid, m.A.A.d. city is Type 1 of an extremely disillusioned nature, even compared to other albums with a similar introspective style.
  • Genre Throwback: The video for "King Kunta", to classic West Coast hip-hop videos, right down to the aspect ratio.
  • How We Got Here: "Sherane, a.k.a Master Splinter's Daughter" to the skit after "Poetic Justice" on good kid, m.A.A.d city.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "HUMBLE" has a chrous that says "Bitch, be humble" while the rest of the song is a Boastful Rap.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: now crawl your head in that noose, you'll wind up dead on the news
  • Kubrick Stare: The cover art for DAMN. shows Kendrick himself doing one of these.
  • Leitmotif: Sherane has one, a pitched-up vocal melody that appears in her titular song and "Poetic Justice."
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: "Poetic Justice" ends like this, just before the skit where Kendrick gets jumped upon arriving to Sherane's house.
  • Listing Cities: In "Recipe". Rap Genius points out that all of the locations mentioned are important to the history of hip hop.
    You might catch me in Atlanta looking like a boss
    New Orleans and then Miami, party in New York
    Texas I be screwed up, Chi-town I be really pimping
    But nothing like my hometown I'm forever living
  • Love Hurts: "Opposites Attract".
  • Mind Screw: To Pimp A Butterfly. It's definitely about something, but nobody's quite sure what. There's a general message about black violence in there, but it doesn't seem to be the only one.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The dark grey cover of untitled unmastered with just the title in small print in the upper left corner.
  • Motor Mouth: Seen in a lot of his songs, "Rigamortis" from Section.80 being a good example.
    • Also m.A.A.d city, which is full of motor-mouthed tongue-twisters.
  • Odd Friendship: With Lady Gaga, who appeared on the original version of "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" (the final version was just Kendrick) on good kid.
  • Oh, Crap!: "I'mma tell you where I'm from, OK? You gon' tell me where you from, OK? Or, or, where your grandma stay, where your momma stay, or where your daddy stay, OK? Matter fact, get out the van, homie. Get out the car before I snatch you out that motherfucker, homie."
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Throughout To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick progressively recites more and more of a poem, adding lines after the end of each song. The album concludes with The Reveal that the whole poem is being recited to Tupac Shakur.
  • One-Word Title: DAMN. and all of its tracks.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: In the skit following "m.A.A.d city":
    Nigga, pass Dot the bottle, damn! You ain't the one that got fucked up, what you holding it for? Niggas always acting unsensitive and shit.
    Nigga, that ain't no word.
    Nigga, shut up!
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "THIS. DICK. AIN'T. FREEEEEEEE!"
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Averting this trope was the point of "The Blacker the Berry".
  • Rearrange the Song: The version of "untitled 03" that was performed on The Colbert Report differs notably from the album version; the final verse is left out, and there's not as much buildup for certain parts of the song.
  • The Reveal: On To Pimp a Butterfly, the tracks end with Kendrick reciting a poem and getting a little bit further each time. The final track, "Mortal Man", reveals that Kendrick is reciting the full poem to Tupac Shakur.
  • Running Gag: "Where my mothafuckin dominoes at?!"
  • Shout-Out: Several to establish good kid's mid-2000s setting.
    • A song named "Sherane, a.k.a. Master Splinter's Daughter".
    • When Kendrick meets Sherane, she's dancing to Ciara.
    • When Kendrick is driving to Sherane's house, he references Curtis Jackson.
    • In "The Art of Peer Pressure," Kendrick and his buddies are riding round listening to Young Jeezy (who featured on Kendrick's song "Westside, Right on Time", released as a non-album single just prior to the release of good kid).
    • "I fucked Sherane and went to tell my bros / then Usher Raymond 'Let it Burn' came on."
    • He shouted out Rihanna and Nicki Minaj on the remix to Ab-Soul's "Black Lip Bastard".
    • See Fun with Acronyms above.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Kendrick during is life performances...and it's EPIC!
  • Take That!: "King Kunta" takes shots at rappers who use ghostwriters, rappers who didn't actually earn their success and just hopped on the latest trend, and people who blindly follow the next big thing (i.e., Kendrick) just because they're popular. "The Heart Part 4", meanwhile, is absolutely loaded with shots at Drake and Big Sean.
  • Tempting Fate: One of his friends in "Sing About Me".
    Just promise me you'll tell this story when you make it big
    And if I die before your album drop I hope —
  • Textless Album Cover: To Pimp a Butterfly.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The meaning of "Backseat Freestyle" (a super arrogant and vulgar rap by a very ignorant young K.Dot whose yet to have his eyes truly opened to the consequences of the hedonist/thug lifestyle he follows) is essentially lost outside of the rest of the album. That didn't stop it from becoming a sequel where listeners would be prone to take its lyrics on its own merit without the context of later songs like "Money Trees" and "Real."
  • This Loser Is You: If you still want to live the gangsta lifestyle after listening to GKMC, you have some problems.
  • True Companions: Him and his Black Hippy clique, consisting of himself, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q. The four of them comprise probably the best young rap group out there right now.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: He does this in the remix of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive", and on the single version of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood", which few were expecting.
    • Completely inverted with his song "Money Trees", in which his friend Anna Wise sings the bridge, which makes it A Wild Singer Appears.