Kendrick Lamar – Section.80 | Album Review

The collective appreciation of an emerging new rapper will forever remain present. Whether the hysteria remains after their first album or if it dissolves into a pool of hate will always differ depending on material, their ego or their authenticity. Kendrick Lamar for the last few years has predominantly been a name referenced in the California regions. But since his much lauded Kendrick Lamar EP, O(verly) D(edicated) release and a co-sign by XXL Magazine, the Lamar mentions have travelled far beyond his Compton hometown and now anticipation for a new product is shared by more. Section 80 for the time being, currently remains as the rappers greatest test. Dropping an independent album which rather adds a spike to his peak rather than denting it has proven to be a task too tough for many.

Set to a continued theme of an ominous neighbourhood meeting around an open fire, Section.80 begins with a mysterious voice which bellows out ‘F*** your Ethnicity‘ – the first track of Lamar’s album. Blending rapid beats with a harmonising piano, the 24 year old goes to work early – embracing a double time, rhythmic flow punching through autobiographical verses.

Compton’s rising star takes an old school approach to spitting – cleverly arranged rhymes which are delivered with much vigour over a range of different tempos. The suave, jazz influenced ‘Hol’ Up’ and the chilled ‘Chapter Six’ leaves room for less intense performances but still display enough of Lamar’s talents. When tackling heavier productions – or in the case of the track ‘Ronald Reagan Era’ – tackling heavier issues, this is where the current hype over the starlet begins to become justified.

Painting a bleak, concrete jungle depiction of LA life during the former Presidents tenure, Kendrick’s trawl through history is a mature affair, which is something many of the ’80s born rappers lack. Conceptions of the XXL Freshman resembling previous Compton born acts have long since dispersed and Section.80 continues to put such assumptions to rest. The child like observations brought up in ‘Poe Man’s Dream’ usurps a soulful, heartfelt message which will transcend past the LA borders.

Even production, which is handled by Soundwave, THC, and Tommy Black amongst others doesn’t remain in the funkier and dirty drones and synths of typical West material. Crunk, Southern flavours are present on ‘The Spiteful Chant’ which features Schoolboy Q whereas ‘A.D.H.D’ embraces an airy atmospheric sound, which is also injected with a Midwest-like Kendrick Lamar performance with slick, talk meshing seamlessly.

The weight in Section.80 lies in numerous avenues – one of which is its storytelling. ‘Keishas Song’ intricately narrates the story of just one of many young women facing issues within a dystopian community, adding to the mature theme the album follows. To say that the songs which arguably don’t dig deep into socio-economic issues are a flaw would be incorrect as Section.80 flows seamlessly with its correct mix of stirring, amped and emotive material not to stir the ship. The poetic outro by Ab Soul and the J Cole produced ‘HiiiPoWeR’ ensure the album closes on a reflective note but Kendrick’s angst final verse on the latter ensure an edge still remains evident even in the rappers more tranquil moments.

Section.80‘s whirlwind of streetsmart poetry, socio-political themes and engulfing productions results in quite frankly, one of the best releases of 2011. Kendrick’s appetite for transcribing hood smart chronicles is carried off with enough passion, anxiety and cleverness to hold the attention span of the line for line analysers.

Only someone with the talent and confidence of Lamar could proclaim in a record to break the wrist of Dr Dre if he ever tried to provide him a handout. Even if the Good Doctor hadn’t given his blessing to the young rhymeslayer, the definitive qualities on hand on Section.80 show enough evidence that Compton has birthed the next powerhouse in Hip Hop. Kendrick Lamar breaks out of his rookie rankings and now stands in the legion of juggernauts with the potential to run riot in the next decade.

Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Released: July 2, 2011
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Buy: iTunes US / iTunes UK

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