Kendrick Lamar hails from Compton, but his portrayal of South Central doesn’t quite jive with the countless gangster stereotypes on wax and in film. The violence is self-consciously pushed to the background, as if he surveys it from his bedroom window, cooped up with a book and headphones. Kendrick’s rhymes detail a contradictory lifestyle of pleasure and principle, showcasing street scenes from the point of view of a dude raised on Saturday morning cartoons and The Chronic.
This Sunday, he’ll be blessing the mic at the Wilbur Theatre, a stately venue that’s the perfect match for his sophisticated steeze.
Pedestrian MCs don’t get to headline the Wilbur. The last hip-hop act to come through was Mos Def, giving you an indication of the company Kendrick keeps. With the help of Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and, Jay Rock, Kendrick and his Black Hippy crew have vaulted into the spotlight in the last year.
And if the Black Hippy crew were to form like Voltron, Kendrick would most definitely be the head.
In the process of this underground success, Kendrick inevitably connected with Dr. Dre. The SoCal power couple graces the cover of the August issue of XXL, with a headline that reads, “After Snoop, Eminem & 50 Cent, Dr. Dre brings us hip-hop’s next big star.” It’s worth noting that Dr. Dre looks like a candidate for the villain in Iron Man 4—but I digress.
The good doctor took Kendrick to the mainstream, collaborating with him on his major label debut single “The Recipe” (Kendrick’s debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, is due out on October 22 on Aftermath.) Earlier this summer, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” offered another auspicious taste of Kendrick’s future. The video features Lebowski-ish visuals depicting a black out, while the song showcases Kendrick’s more contemplative side. At one point, his helium-voiced conscious comes in, cutting into his verse to undercut him.
He gives self-doubt swag.
When he comes to the Wilbur on the 16th, he’ll have this momentum in his corner. His reality-drenched rhymes that microscopically detail his little world have caught on, making fans from Compton to Copenhagen—a European tour with Drake helped take the nerd-in-South-Central state of mind globally.
On August 15th, Lady Gaga announced via Twitter that she would be working with Kendrick. The kneejerk reaction to this is cynical concern, considering the same thing happened to Wale, but hopefully Kendrick’s eccentricity won’t be corrupted by the lamestream.
Too many rappers (see: Fiasco, Lupe) have raw genius overshadowed by controlling suits as they try to crossover.
Hopefully Kendrick keeps his wonder in tact, displaying his narrative flair that turns verses into mental movies.