Kendrick Lamar is one of the most recognizable names in the hip hop game. His latest album, Good Kid m.a.a.d City, has reached the masses and is already considered a certified classic by many.
Similarly to most other rappers who have made it big; Lamar has been grinding for years prior to his breakout project. Most notably, his premiere studio album, Section.80, was released on July 2, 2011.
The album was a masterpiece from start to finish as it was filled to the brim with lush production, created by the talented team from TDE. Most importantly, Kendrick Lamar was in top form as he expertly rapped throughout each track, all the while tackling heavy societal issues and maintaining an underlying concept throughout the project.
Section.80 is Kendrick Lamar’s interpretation of his generation; those who were born in the 80s. The narrative throughout the album is impactful and acts as a spark for further reflection.
In my opinion, Section.80 is Kendrick Lamar’s best work to date and to further explain why, here’s a breakdown of each track:
Fuck Your Ethnicity
||The solid intro track is extremely important for a great album. It sets the tone and mood for what the listener should expect for the rest of the project. “Fuck Your Ethnicity” does this and more as Kendrick Lamar spits some of his best verses to date.|
His lyrics are on point as they always are but on this track in particular, you can really hear a hunger and passion in his voice that is undeniable. If you were doing anything prior to popping in this tape, you will surely drop it after hearing this one.
Besides the grade A raps, “Fuck Your Ethnicity” also serves multiple other purposes. One of them is it introduces the recurring story and theme of a young Kendrick gathered around a camp fire, listening to a wise old head speak some wisdom. Not to mention that “Fuck Your Ethnicity” was likely an introduction to Kendrick Lamar for many people and if that was the case, they were drawn in from the first bar. It is important to note that the old head by the campfire calls out for Tammy and Keshia to come close. These are two integral characters to the rest of the album.
|Besides being my favorite Kendrick Lamar track of all time and having endless virtual rotations on my iTunes, “Hol’ Up” features the same hungry and passionate Kendrick that was featured on “Fuck, Your Ethnicity”. If you did not get enough of his style from the intro track, “Hol’ Up” gives you another much needed dose of dope raps. The slightly braggadocios Kendrick switches up his flows numerous times through his verses while interrupted only by the simplistic, yet infection hook.||
Most importantly, this track is really a testament to how amazing the production is on Section.80. The drums are anything but monotonous and the melodies are cohesive. On top of that, the added horns and choir layers really do wonders for pulling the entire package together.
||Never skipping a beat, the production team did it again with this one. This time, they demonstrated how to properly layer multiple vocals as well as how to use different vocal pitches to their advantage. Meanwhile, Kendrick demonstrates his diverse repertoire of rap skills by introducing his expert-level storytelling skills.|
“A.D.H.D” is arguably the most important track on this entire album. As previously mentioned, the theme of the album is to act as a representation for all 80s babies, but “A.D.H.D” goes one step further by connecting Kendrick’s generation to the youth of today. Where his generation were doomed by the emergence of crack, Kendrick brings up the fact that today’s youth are also faced with a beast that is different, yet, as impactful. The track brings up the diminishing attention span of the youth mostly due to the culture of over-consumption. Whether it is alcohol, prescription drugs, weed or women, Kendrick chants “Fuck that (thought)” to those who say to limit their intake.
No Make-Up (Her Vice)
Song writing in the aspect of how a song is structured is often overlooked in modern rap. “No Make-Up (Her Vice)” is a track that demonstrates how much song structure can enhance a song. Kendrick’s first verse is stellar as he describes how this woman he knows looks beautiful without make-up. The second verse starts out identically how the first one does, however, it takes a turn as the woman who Kendrick refers to interjects in-between his bars to show her point of view and why she needs to wear make up in the first place. Keep in mind, this contrasting point of view from the woman is placed perfectly in Kendrick’s repeated verse that he spit earlier in the song. The result is the perfect use of juxtaposition and its executed so well that the identical nature of each verse’s structure and rhyme scheme is often missed.
|Add in a great hook and another amazing instrumental and you have a track that fits perfectly in the album. And hold on – is this a track directed to women that does not come off as extremely cheesy? Eat your heart out Drizzy.On top of all that, the end of the track reveals that it is to be continued on Track 11 of the album, where the listener can learn even more about the girl who wore a bit too much make-up.||
Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)
||Kendrick Lamar gets his storytelling hat back on with the fifth track on Section.80. He starts off describing a woman who is extremely loyal to her man until she finds out he has been unfaithful. She quickly calls up a male friend of hers to get some revenge. From there, Kendrick goes on to describe another girl he knew who would exclaim how loyal she was to her man even when Kendrick would just look at her. After finding that her man has been unfaithful as well, she had enough. The final verse of the track digs deep into how females often react when they feel vulnerable, and in the end the two girls become so tired of men that they “turn dyke”.|
“Tammy’s Song (Her Evils)” is one of the only tracks on the album that does not demand to be replayed. The repeating hook can become tiresome, especially in combination with digital-sounding synth pattern in the beat. Still, this small stumble acts as a great break from the extremely stimulating tracks that precede it.
Ronald Reagan Era
“Lightnin’ bolts hit your body, you thought it rained.
Not a cloud in sight, just the shit that I write,
Strong enough to stand in front of a travellin’ freight train,
Are you trained?
To go against Dracula draggin’ the record industry by my fangs.”
After a much needed drop in tempo with the interlude with “Chapter Six”, Kendrick picks up right where he left off with the help of some plot from the old head by the campfire.
The intro of “Ronald Reagan Era” is absolutely relentless. From the soulful opening bridge to Ab-Soul’s short spoken bit, the listener gets a sense of urgency. It all makes sense when Kendrick Lamar comes through the speakers with his rabid, yet still articulate persona as he rips through his bars.
The beat goes hard yet still remains classy. The hook takes some getting used to but once you get accustomed to it, you begin to appreciate how the simplicity of it fits perfectly in the track as a whole.
Poe Man’s Dreams (His Vice)
“Smoke good, eat good, live good.” The infectious mantra that is repeated throughout “Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice)” has some serious therapeutic qualities. Kendrick Lamar shines as he does what he does best. His earnestness in his verses is impossible to ignore as he is able to connect with listeners by just speaking from his heart.
And can I give a serious shout out to GLC? Before Section.80 the only thing I remember from him is when he said “And that don’t make no sense, but baby, I’m the shit” on Kanye Wests’ “Drive Slow”. He really gave listeners something to remember him by on this track. Although he only actually spits four bars before he goes on his slang-heavy rant, he did an amazing job closing out the track. “Apply yourself to supply your wealth.”
“I penetrate the hearts of good kids and criminals,
Worrisome individuals that live life critical.
So won’t you bear witness while I bare feet,
So you can walk in my shoes and get to know me.”
||The Woodkid sampled instrumental on “Spiteful Chant” can only be described as epic. It is a beat that would be fitting for an army of thousands storming a battlefield or maybe for the slow entrance of a newly resurrected leader of the Third Reich. One thing for sure is that that it does not sound like is a beat for a rap song. Kendrick Lamar utilizes his duel layered vocal chant to smoothly navigate through the team of horns, ambient choir and big percussion. Throw in a real feisty Schoolboy Q verse and you have a banger.|
Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)
|The second interlude on Section.80 called “Chapter 10” comes right after “Spiteful Chant”. It includes a fast-tempo keyboard sample and a very impressively fast-rapping Kendrick Lamar. After some more plot provided by the old head by the campfire, “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain)” begins and acts as the continuation of “No Make-Up (Her Vice)”.||
We come to learn that the woman who apparently wore too much make-up is actually a woman of the night. Kendrick Lamar’s most impressive storytelling comes from this particular track. The heartbreaking story of Keisha is laid upon a soulfully layered beat and complimented by a densely sung hook. If the end of the track does not tuck at your heart strings, I don’t know what will.
I refuse to believe that this track is even possible. Kendrick Lamar and his poor, poor lungs start his verses over a vintage sounding loop sax sample and eventually through the epic addition of the drums. And he keeps going and going and going and going. After a quick break he keeps going and going and going and going and going again. Finally, after another quick break, his third and final verse lasts for almost an entire minute. It is one thing to just hold your breath, but it is something entirely different to hold your breath while expelling what oxygen you have stored in your body with some fast paced raps. Kendrick Lamar left every other rapper dead and stiff with this one.
Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)
“When I lie on back and look at the ceiling, it’s so appealing to pray,
I wonder if I’m just a villain, dealing my morals away.
Some people look at my face then tell me don’t worry ’bout it,
I give ’em back they deposit, no money, just total silence.”
As the album starts to close out, Kendrick Lamar shows off some his diverse flows and rhyme schemes on “Kush & Corinthians”. He uses the mellow beat as his canvas to spit his introspective laid back rhymes. The combination of weed and one of the most eloquent books in the Bible sets the tone for a collection of oxymorons brought up throughout the track.
Kendrick Lamar is extremely introspective and the song is perfectly closed out by the soulful BJ the Chicago Kid. The sound of his voice in combination with his crooning style of flowing through the beat fits perfect with the mood of the track.
Blow My High (Members Only)
On top of being one of the most fun tracks on the album, “Blow My High (Members Only)”, features a playful Kendrick Lamar. The track serves as a tribute to some of hip hops most tragic losses. The track samples Pimp C’s verse from Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” and Aaliyah’s “4 Page Letter” with an added shout out to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
“Time will never wait on no man,
Society will never hold your hand.
Niggas like to gossip like bitches,
Got me thinking you don’t like bitches.”
The outro to the album starts off with a very urgent drum beat. The jazzy beat forms as Ab-Soul starts rapping at an awkward, yet satisfying cadence. He changes up his tempo and flows as his verses are broken up by various background vocal effects. Ab-Soul absolutely shines as he summarizes all of the themes and even plot covered throughout the album in a playful way.
Kendrick Lamar joins the track in a spoken piece as the beat builds. The track develops into solely instrumentals as it trails off. “Ab-Soul’s Outro” ends with some more wise parting words from the old head at the campfire.
“I watch this fire that we’re gathered around and see that it burns similar to the fire that’s inside you. Section 80. Section 80, babies. A generation of bliss and disobedience. Know they can’t control us, know they can’t control you, know they can’t control us, but we can control eachother. We live in our own world. If you don’t leave with nothing else tonight, you will leave with knowing yourself. You will leave knowing that you represent something that’s bigger than all of us. Our family. Heart, honor and respect. This is you, this is me.
And we are HiiiPower”
Kendrick implores listeners to start seeing with their third eye as he summons the energy of Martin Luther and Malcolm X.
||The last track of Section.80 serves as the anthem for the movement that Kendrick Lamar represents. You can really tell he was inspired to try and write some of the best bars of his life as he was tasked with laying them on one of the best beats in recent memory. Every aspect of “HiiiPower” was executed at an extremely high level – the deep verses, the powerful bridge and the lasting hook.|
Section.80 is an album that I find myself revisiting very often since its release, three years ago. Upon its release, it was obvious that Kendrick Lamar is a shining star among his peers in the rap game. His ability to maintain his artistic integrity while having his music reach the masses is extremely important to the continuing evolution of the hip hop genre. With countless artists around him constantly selling their souls for more dollar signs, Kendrick has found that perfect middle ground.
Out of all of the new school rappers that have come out in the past couple of years, Kendrick Lamar is the one with the most potential to change the trajectory of where hip hop as a whole goes in the future. Section.80 is perfect evidence of why this is true.