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Rap - Released March 19, 2015 | Aftermath

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Grammy Awards
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Rap - Released April 14, 2017 | Aftermath

Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
To Pimp a Butterfly's proper and oft-biblical follow-up arrived on Good Friday, 13 months after untitled unmastered., an intermediary release that eclipsed the best work of most contemporary artists. If Kendrick Lamar felt pressure to continue living up to his previous output, there's no evidence on DAMN. He's too occupied tracing the spectrum of his mental states, from "boxin' demons" to "flex on swole," questioning and reveling in his affluence, castigating and celebrating his bloodline, humble enough to relate his vulnerabilities, assured enough to proclaim "Ain't none of y'all fuckin' with the flow." Throughout, he intensely examines most of the seven deadly sins, aware all along that his existence is threatened by anyone who objects to the color of his skin or clothes -- or, in the case of the blind stranger who shoots him during the album's opener, nothing that is apparent. Compared to the maximum-capacity, genre-twisting vastness and winding narratives of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and To Pimp a Butterfly, DAMN. on the surface seems like a comparatively simple rap album that demands less from the listener. There's relative concision in the track titles and material, and a greater emphasis on commercial sounds -- such as Mike WiLL's lean and piano-laced trap beat for the strong-arming "HUMBLE.," Lamar's first Top Ten pop hit, and a couple productions that are merely functional backdrops lacking distinction. In a way, however, DAMN. is just as lavish and singular as the preceding albums, its quantity and weight of thoughts and connected concepts condensed into a considerably tighter space. It contains some of Lamar's best writing and performances, revealing his evolving complexity and versatility as a soul-baring lyricist and dynamic rapper. Although it's occasionally distorted, stretched, smeared, and reversed to compelling and imagination-fueling effect, his voice is at its most affecting in its many untreated forms. Take "FEAR.," in which he switches between echoing hot-blooded parental threats to enumerating, with a 40-acre stare, various death scenarios. His storytelling hits an astonishing new high on "Duckworth," the album's finale. Over ethereal funk sewn by 9th Wonder, Lamar details a potentially tragic encounter between his father and future Top Dawg CEO Anthony Tiffith -- and the conditions leading to it -- that occurred long before Kung Fu Kenny was known as K. Dot. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Rap - Released January 1, 2013 | Aftermath

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
Hip-hop debuts don't come much more "highly anticipated" than Kendrick Lamar's. A series of killer mixtapes displayed his talent for thought-provoking street lyrics delivered with an attention-grabbing flow, and then there was his membership in the Black Hippy crew with his brethren Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock all issuing solo releases that pleased the "true hip-hop" set, setting the stage for a massive fourth and final. Top it off with a pre-release XXL Magazine cover that he shared with his label boss and all-around legend Dr. Dre, and the "biggest debut since Illmatic" stuff starts to flow, but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would be a milestone even without the back-story, offering cool and compelling lyrics, great guests (Drake, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht) and attractive production (from Pharrell, Just Blaze, Tabu, and others). Here, Kendrick is living his life like status and cash were extra credit. It is what makes this kid so "good" as he navigates his "mad" city (Compton) with experience and wisdom beyond his years (25). He's shamelessly bold about the allure of the trap, contrasting the sickness of his city with the universal feeling of getting homesick, and carrying a Springsteen-sized love for the home team. Course, in his gang-ruled city, N.W.A. was the home team, but as the truly beautiful, steeped-in-soul, biographic key track "The Art of Peer Pressure" finds a reluctant young Kendrick and his friends feeding off the life-force of Young Jeezy's debut album, it's something Clash, Public Enemy, and all other rebel music fans can relate to. Still, when he realizes that hero Jeezy must have risen above the game -- because the real playas are damned and never show their faces -- it spawns a kind of elevated gangsta rap that's as pimp-connectable as the most vicious Eazy-E, and yet poignant enough to blow the dust off any cracked soul. Equally heavy is the cautionary tale of drank dubbed "Swimming Pools," yet that highlight is as hooky and hallucinatory as most Houston drank anthems, and breaks off into one of the chilling, cassette-quality interludes that connect the album, adding to the documentary or eavesdropping quality of it all. Soul children will experience déjà vu when "Poetic Justice" slides by with its Janet Jackson sample -- sounding like it came off his Aunt's VHS copy of the movie it's named after -- while the closing "Compton" is an anthem sure to make the Game jealous, featuring Dre in beast mode, acting pre-Chronic and pre-Death Row. This journey through the concrete jungle of Compton is worth taking because of the artistic richness within, plus the attraction of a whip-smart rapper flying high during his rookie season. Any hesitation about the horror of it all is quickly wiped away by Kendrick's mix of true talk, open heart, open mind, and extended hand. Add it all up and even without the hype, this one is still potent and smart enough to rise to the top of the pile. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Rap - Released March 4, 2016 | Aftermath III JV

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Issued without advance notice 17 days after Kendrick Lamar's riveting 2016 Grammy Awards performance, untitled unmastered. consists of eight demos that are simply numbered and dated. Apart from segments previewed at the Grammys and late-night television appearances, there was no formal promotion. A postscript, it's (artfully) artless in presentation -- not even basic credits appear on the Army green liner card in the compact disc edition -- yet it's almost as lyrically and musically rich as To Pimp a Butterfly. The dates indicate that the majority of the material was made during the sessions for that album, and the presence of many of its players and vocalists is unmistakable. This was assembled with a high level of care that is immediately evident, its components sequenced to foster an easy listen. Track-to-track flow, however, is about the only aspect of this release that can be called smooth. After an intimate spoken intro from Bilal, the set segues into an urgent judgment-day scenario with squealing strings and a resounding bassline as Lamar confronts mortality and extinction with urgent exasperation. He observes terrifying scenes all the while sensing possible relief ("No more running from world wars," "No more discriminating the poor"). untitled unmastered. offers this and other variations on the connected themes of societal ills, faith, and survival that drove the output it follows, with Lamar at his best when countering proudly materialistic boasts with ever-striking acknowledgments of the odds perilously weighted against his people. Remarkably, this hits its stride in the second half. The stretch involves a rolling, ornamented retro-contemporary production from Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (with vocal assists from Bilal and Cee Lo Green), a stitched suite that is alternately stern and humorously off the cuff (featuring Egypt, five-year-old son of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, as co-producer and vocalist), and a finale of Thundercat-propelled funk. Even while coasting over the latter's breezy and smacking groove, Lamar fills the space with meaning, detailing a confrontation with sharp quips and stinging reprimands. While Lamar referred to these tracks as demos, and not one of them has the pop-soul appeal of "These Walls" or the Black Lives Matter protest-anthem potential of "Alright," untitled unmastered. is no mere offcut dump. It's as vital as anything else its maker has released. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Rap - Released February 9, 2018 | Black Panther (TDE - DMG) PS

Hi-Res Booklet
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Rap - Released January 1, 2013 | Aftermath

Hip-hop debuts don't come much more "highly anticipated" than Kendrick Lamar's. A series of killer mixtapes displayed his talent for thought-provoking street lyrics delivered with an attention-grabbing flow, and then there was his membership in the Black Hippy crew with his brethren Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock all issuing solo releases that pleased the "true hip-hop" set, setting the stage for a massive fourth and final. Top it off with a pre-release XXL Magazine cover that he shared with his label boss and all-around legend Dr. Dre, and the "biggest debut since Illmatic" stuff starts to flow, but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would be a milestone even without the back-story, offering cool and compelling lyrics, great guests (Drake, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht) and attractive production (from Pharrell, Just Blaze, Tabu, and others). Here, Kendrick is living his life like status and cash were extra credit. It is what makes this kid so "good" as he navigates his "mad" city (Compton) with experience and wisdom beyond his years (25). He's shamelessly bold about the allure of the trap, contrasting the sickness of his city with the universal feeling of getting homesick, and carrying a Springsteen-sized love for the home team. Course, in his gang-ruled city, N.W.A. was the home team, but as the truly beautiful, steeped-in-soul, biographic key track "The Art of Peer Pressure" finds a reluctant young Kendrick and his friends feeding off the life-force of Young Jeezy's debut album, it's something Clash, Public Enemy, and all other rebel music fans can relate to. Still, when he realizes that hero Jeezy must have risen above the game -- because the real playas are damned and never show their faces -- it spawns a kind of elevated gangsta rap that's as pimp-connectable as the most vicious Eazy-E, and yet poignant enough to blow the dust off any cracked soul. Equally heavy is the cautionary tale of drank dubbed "Swimming Pools," yet that highlight is as hooky and hallucinatory as most Houston drank anthems, and breaks off into one of the chilling, cassette-quality interludes that connect the album, adding to the documentary or eavesdropping quality of it all. Soul children will experience déjà vu when "Poetic Justice" slides by with its Janet Jackson sample -- sounding like it came off his Aunt's VHS copy of the movie it's named after -- while the closing "Compton" is an anthem sure to make the Game jealous, featuring Dre in beast mode, acting pre-Chronic and pre-Death Row. This journey through the concrete jungle of Compton is worth taking because of the artistic richness within, plus the attraction of a whip-smart rapper flying high during his rookie season. Any hesitation about the horror of it all is quickly wiped away by Kendrick's mix of true talk, open heart, open mind, and extended hand. Add it all up and even without the hype, this one is still potent and smart enough to rise to the top of the pile. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Rap - Released July 2, 2011 | Top Dawg Entertainment - Section.80

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Rap - Released December 8, 2017 | Aftermath

Booklet
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Rap - Released February 9, 2018 | Black Panther (TDE - DMG) PS

Booklet
This is more than we'd bargained for: to accompany the cinema release of the Marvel/Disney blockbuster Black Panther, here is a soundtrack put together by Kendrick Lamar (and his label TDE) which was anything but an afterthought. While a quick look at the track list shows that Kendrick only features on three tracks (the sharp Black Panther, the sure-fire hit All The Stars with protégée SZA and Big Shot), it seems that Lamar has co-composed, co-written and co-produced most of the others - proof, were it required, that he is far from being just one of modern rap's most spectacular performers. To round the whole thing off, he takes the mic on several other artists' tracks, most notably on the epic closing piece Pray for Me, with The Weekend. As for the cast, alongside collaborators Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and SZA, stars like The Weekend, Khalid and Vince Staples (there's even Future, Travis Scott and James Blake waiting in the wings), Lamar shines a spotlight on several unknowns, whose names will surely soon be cropping up on our screens. That includes the Californian group SOB x RBE who keep alive the spirit of Vallejo, hometown of legends E-40 and Mac Dre (Paramedic!) and South Africa's Babes Wodumo, a figure in the Gqom tendency which is all the rage in Durban and is starting to move feet in Paris and Berlin (on Redemption, with Zacari for whom Kendrick has already done the honours on DAMN.). Black Panther The Album is a laboratory for Kendrick Lamar (he uses it to test new formulas, from the underground of South Africa's townships to the Sacramento projects), a manifesto (the opportunity of the "black blockbuster" as a pulpit for his message was too good to miss) and as a billboard (he invites a whole flock of disciples with more than a nod at Kanye West). It's a hat trick - hats off! © DB/Qobuz
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Rap - Released September 23, 2014 | Aftermath

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Rap - Released January 4, 2018 | Black Panther (TDE - DMG) PS

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Rap - Released March 19, 2015 | Aftermath

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Rap - Released September 14, 2010 | Top Dawg Entertainment - Kendrick Lamar

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Rap - Released September 14, 2010 | Top Dawg Entertainment - Kendrick Lamar

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Rap - Released March 23, 2016 | Aftermath III JV

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Rap - Released March 16, 2015 | Aftermath

Becoming an adult ultimately means accepting one's imperfections, unimportance, and mortality, but that doesn't mean we stop striving for the ideal, a search that's so at the center of our very being that our greatest works of art celebrate it, and often amplify it. Anguish and despair rightfully earn more Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Pulitzer Prizes than sweetness and light ever do, but West Coast rapper Kendrick Lamar is already on elevated masterwork number two, so expect his version of the sobering truth to sound like a party at points. He's aware, as Bilal sings here, that "Shit don't change 'til you get up and wash your ass," and don't it feel good? The sentiment is universal, but the viewpoint on his second LP is inner-city and African-American, as radio regulars like the Isley Brothers (sampled to perfection during the key track "I"), George Clinton (who helps make "Wesley's Theory" a cross between "Atomic Dog" and Dante's Inferno), and Dr. Dre (who literally phones his appearance in) put the listener in Lamar's era of Compton, just as well as Lou Reed took us to New York and Brecht took us to Weimar Republic Berlin. These G-funky moments are incredibly seductive, which helps usher the listener through the album's 80-minute runtime, plus its constant mutating (Pharrell productions, spoken word, soul power anthems, and sound collages all fly by, with few tracks ending as they began), much of it influenced, and sometimes assisted by, producer Flying Lotus and his frequent collaborator Thundercat. "u" sounds like an MP3 collection deteriorating, while the broken beat of the brilliant "Momma" will challenge the listener's balance, and yet, Lamar is such a prodigiously talented and seductive artist, his wit, wisdom, and wordplay knock all these stray molecules into place. Survivor's guilt, realizing one's destiny, and a Snoop Dogg performance of Doggystyle caliber are woven among it all; plus, highlights offer that Parliament-Funkadelic-styled subversion, as "The Blacker the Berry" ("The sweeter the juice") offers revolutionary slogans and dips for the hip. Free your mind, and your ass will follow, and at the end of this beautiful black berry, there's a miraculous "talk" between Kendrick and the legendary 2Pac, as the brutalist trailblazer mentors this profound populist. To Pimp a Butterfly is as dark, intense, complicated, and violent as Picasso's Guernica, and should hold the same importance for its genre and the same beauty for its intended audience. © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Rap - Released August 16, 2011 | RBC Records

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Rap - Released February 9, 2018 | Black Panther (TDE - DMG) PS

Booklet
A culturally momentous film directed by a black man, featuring a black lead actor and a predominantly black supporting cast, Marvel Studios' Black Panther is augmented with an album powered by Kendrick Lamar. It's an unprecedented convergence of the mainstream film industry with an uncompromising musician thriving commercially and artistically. Director Ryan Coogler sought Lamar out to contribute to the album, but the artist ended up involved with every track, credited in varying combinations as headliner, featured artist, co-songwriter, and co-producer, with long-term producer Sounwave a factor in all but three cuts. Subtitled "Music from and Inspired By," this is not a soundtrack in the strictest sense. Indeed, a significant portion of the content -- from whole tracks like the Travis Scott turn "Big Shot," to the part where Future quotes Juicy J's "Slob on My Knob" -- has no relation to the film, though there's a reflectively militant quality to a high percentage of the verses. Elements that are alternately obvious and subtle, including tribal-futuristic drums, audio-logo-like mentions of character names, and ululations (the last instance via the Weeknd on the despairing but proud finale), are threaded throughout to maintain the connection. They frame Lamar, a central figure as he proclaims his sovereign rank and examines its pitfalls -- not a stretch for him. The set has a major crossover single bid in the form of "All the Stars," an elegantly crafted SZA showcase that sounds at once like a defiant hero's anthem and a love theme. Another canny aspect in the album's assemblage is its inclusion of several artists from South Africa. The most notable appearance is made by Yugen Blakrok, "half-machine" Johannesburg native who boasts of "crushing any system that belittles us," references Millie Jackson, and leaves a pile of smoldering rubble in her wake. Lamar also enlists England's Jorja Smith and James Blake, and a Stateside crew that includes Mozzy, Ab-Soul, and Anderson Paak, as well as SOB x RBE, who, like Coogler, represent the Bay Area. Given the level of the performances, the majority of the guests evidently approached this as a Kendrick Lamar album, not as a soundtrack. Black Panther: The Album serves both purposes well. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

Rap - Released October 16, 2015 | Aftermath

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Rap - Released March 4, 2016 | Aftermath III JV

Issued without advance notice 17 days after Kendrick Lamar's riveting 2016 Grammy Awards performance, untitled unmastered. consists of eight demos that are simply numbered and dated. Apart from segments previewed at the Grammys and late-night television appearances, there was no formal promotion. A postscript, it's (artfully) artless in presentation -- not even basic credits appear on the Army green liner card in the compact disc edition -- yet it's almost as lyrically and musically rich as To Pimp a Butterfly. The dates indicate that the majority of the material was made during the sessions for that album, and the presence of many of its players and vocalists is unmistakable. This was assembled with a high level of care that is immediately evident, its components sequenced to foster an easy listen. Track-to-track flow, however, is about the only aspect of this release that can be called smooth. After an intimate spoken intro from Bilal, the set segues into an urgent judgment-day scenario with squealing strings and a resounding bassline as Lamar confronts mortality and extinction with urgent exasperation. He observes terrifying scenes all the while sensing possible relief ("No more running from world wars," "No more discriminating the poor"). untitled unmastered. offers this and other variations on the connected themes of societal ills, faith, and survival that drove the output it follows, with Lamar at his best when countering proudly materialistic boasts with ever-striking acknowledgments of the odds perilously weighted against his people. Remarkably, this hits its stride in the second half. The stretch involves a rolling, ornamented retro-contemporary production from Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (with vocal assists from Bilal and Cee Lo Green), a stitched suite that is alternately stern and humorously off the cuff (featuring Egypt, five-year-old son of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, as co-producer and vocalist), and a finale of Thundercat-propelled funk. Even while coasting over the latter's breezy and smacking groove, Lamar fills the space with meaning, detailing a confrontation with sharp quips and stinging reprimands. While Lamar referred to these tracks as demos, and not one of them has the pop-soul appeal of "These Walls" or the Black Lives Matter protest-anthem potential of "Alright," untitled unmastered. is no mere offcut dump. It's as vital as anything else its maker has released. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

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Kendrick Lamar in the magazine