Kendrick Lamar‘s major-label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, has dominated the hip-hop conversation since its release Monday. Fans have praised it on Twitter — earning multiple trending topics — critics have applauded it profusely, and the buying public have wildly supported the LP, which is estimated to sell upward of 225,000 copies in its first week.
To the unfamiliar, Kendrick is a Dr. Dre protégé who seemingly came out of nowhere, but for those who have been paying close attention to the Compton spitter, his growth from K-Dot (his original rap moniker) to Kendrick Lamar is just as intriguing as the 12 tracks that make up GKMC. For those still playing catch-up, MTV News caught up with King Kendrick to discuss his artistic evolution.
Back when he went by K-Dot, the Black Hippy lyricist was cutting his teeth with mixtapes like Training Day and C4, but when he changed his name and dropped the self-titled Kendrick Lamar EP in December 2009, he truly broke through.
What fans didn’t know back then is that the stories he told in songs like the sex and alcohol ode “P&P” and the soul-bearing “Wanna Be Heard” would be a precursor to his audio-cinematic debut. “Kendrick Lamar was an artist, a starving artist wanting to be heard,” he told MTV News of his mind-set back then. “[‘Wanna Be Heard’] is really significant for that project. That was me having something to prove.”
Kendrick followed up in September 2010 with Overly Dedicated. The remarkably darker tape still showcased Lamar’s thoughtfulness on tracks like “The Heart Pt.2″ and his storytelling ability on “Ignorance is Bliss,” but it was the rambunctious “Michael Jordan” with Schoolboy Q that stood out most. Not only was K-Dot introspective, but he proved he could craft club-ready riot-starters as well. “Overly Dedicated, that was an extension of wanting to be heard, so now I’m gonna go a little bit in-depth with who I am, where I’m from, what I represent and a piece of the struggle that gives me the advantage to talk about the things I talk about,” he said.
The buzz Lamar created drew praise from Dr. Dre and XXL magazine, which included him on the yearly Freshman cover in 2011. He would eventually sign with Dre’s Interscope-distributed Aftermath label.
Before he embarked on his major-label mission, however, Kendrick took his mixtape clout and focused his energy on 2011’s Section.80, his independent debut. “It starts feeling a little different. Seciton.80, I was in a space where, OK, I gave you an introduction of myself; now it’s time to connect the dots for everybody across the world so they can relate,” he said of the underground gem. “Getting out of selfish mode, not talking about me, but rather hitting bases of my whole generation.”
No doubt Kendrick has a ton of experience under his belt, and even though he’s been building toward this moment for a few years, with the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city, he’s feeling brand-new.
“It feels like the start of a new beginning. I like to look at this album as the prelude for everybody that’s been down with me from day one. They can go back to the EP and hear some of those references and really piece it together with this album,” he said. “A lot of things I held back from talking about on those tapes, just because I knew this day would come where the world would be listening.”
Which is your favorite Kendrick Lamar project? Let us know in the comments!