Released: Jul 2011
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment / Section.80
Buoyed by acclaim for his 2010 debut Overly Dedicated, Kendrick Lamar ups the stakes with this portrait of Los Angeles life, from stories of the crack epidemic ("Ronald Reagan Era") to the heartbreaking "Keisha's Song (Her Pain)," inspired by 2Pac's "Brenda's Got a Baby." While unafraid to show his influences - the superior "HiiiPower" references Kanye West's "So Appalled" - Lamar has a rambling tone and strong lyricism that sounds like none other. He may sometimes lapse into awkward hooks and lame verses, but give him credit for an ambitious and ultimately rewarding album.