Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: Section 80
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Release Date: July 2, 2011
It was just last year when Compton emcee Kendrick Lamar rattled the industry with the much lauded mixtape Overly Dedicated. Although Kendrick has recorded independently several years prior under the alias K. Dot, it wasn’t until recently that he had broken into the industry on a broader scale due to the success of his aforementioned mixtape. Section 80 has already sold over 5,000 digital copies on iTunes in its first three days of sales with minimal mainstream media coverage which proves that he’s definitely an artist to look out for. However, as with any oft-anticipated debut, one question still looms in the air. Does it live up to the hype?
In comparison to Overly Dedicated, Section 80 is much darker in its tone. With the laidback cut “Hol’ Up” being one of the few exceptions, listeners are often times forced to confront the harsh realities of Compton street dwellers. For a majority of the album, Kendrick raps as if he was perched on a palm tree perusing the Compton city streets with an eagle’s eye view. This is evident on tracks such as “No Make Up,” “Tammy’s Song,” and Keisha’s Song” which all chronicle the bitter plight women go through in a male dominant society. The most chilling out of all these, however, is “Keisha’s Song” which tells the tale of a young harlot struggling with her life as a prostitute.
“Poe Man’s Blues,” “Kush and Corinthians,” and “Ronald Regan Era” address the problems young black males face in choosing between the street life and walking the straight and narrow path. “Poe Man’s Blue’s” is a standout cut that is by far the brightest gem on the album. Despite it’s name, Kendrick refuses to let this track become a story of a poor man lamenting over his menial lifestyle. Although he addresses problems involving himself and his family, he still offers a slither of hope for those in much dire situations with lyrics like, “This for my n*****/ uncles/ 23 hours sending me pictures/ I want you/ to know that I’m so determined to blow that you hear the music I wrote/ hope it gets you off Death Row/ you came home to a pocket full of stones/ to match your PC phone/ then you went back in/ so when I touch the pen/ the pen is in my view/ I’ma get it right/ just so you…” On “Kush and Corinthians,” Kendrick shows the straight and narrow path can be a tight rope for many. In addition, he criticizes his hypocritical critics for their self righteousness . Indeed, he raps bluntly, “I’m dying inside/ I wonder if Zion is inside the heavens/ a condom, rollie, chain, a fat blunt and a mac 11/ is all I see in my life/ and they tell me to make it right/ but I’m right on the edge of everest and I might jump tonight/have you ever had known a saint that was taking sinner’s advice/well it’s probably you am I right/ if I’m wrong/you’re a fuckin lie.”
Nonetheless, this album isn’t totally filled with viscous introspection, and for fans who want to voyage into an escapist’s haven, Kendrick gives them the opportunity on “A.D.H.D.” Here, fans are transmitted into a rap Neverland as Kendrick lays down a Krayzie Bone-esque flow over Sounwave’s trunk knocking beat. Needless to say, this is definitely a song worth bumping while cruising down the freeway, and if it wasn’t for two of the biggest speed bumps on the album,“The Spiteful Chant” and “Blow My High,”listeners still would be bobbing their head ceaselessly. While both aren’t terrible, it’s safe to say that neither is great as they both would’ve been better if treated as bonus tracks. Although one possibly could make the same argument for “Rigarmortis,” one can’t deny that he absolutely killed it past post mortem which make such shortcomings forgivable. In addition, Ab-Soul’s awe-inspiring performance on “Ab-Souls Outro” along with the revolutionary single “HiiiPower,” make certain that the master of ceremony is still in complete control.
Now, some may be wondering if Section 80 surpasses the critically acclaimed mixtape Overly Dedicated, and to be perfectly honest, it does. Production wise both are virtually flawless, but in terms of concepts, Section 80 is more multi-faceted and deeper than its predecessor. In addition, it’s almost impossible to listen to this album and not be implored into an irresistible head nod. Indeed, what’s truly remarkable about this album is that he gives the listener an option of either being an escapist,as in “A.D.H.D.,” or realist, as in “HiiiPower.” This is by far one of the greatest albums to come out this year, and despite the album title, Section 80 fits in neither the lower echelon of Hip Hop or in the middle of rap’s Hooverville.
Let’s face it – judging an album on a scale of 1 to 5 mics just won’t cut it — that’s more of a magazine thing. After constant office arguments regarding album ratings, we’ve decided to revise our album review process and fairly judge an artist’s work across multiple avenues. At iHipHop.com, we believe every album deserves an impartial review, taking into account both music and cultural relevance.