Don't Sleep: Necessary Notables

Headliner: Kendrick Lamar

Album: Section.80

Key Cameo: "No Make-Up (Her Vice)" featuring Colin Munroe

The best things in life aren't always free, and while New West Coast representative Kendrick Lamar started his career offering up free Internet-only mixtapes, the Compton, California, rapper is setting a new standard with his latest album, Section.80.

"It was something that I had to understand, that my company had to make me understand. I'm putting out this free music, constantly putting it out," Lamar told MTV News of his old way of thinking. "My whole thing is bringing music back to where people actually buy it, but at the same time, you know what? I don't think I'm ready yet to start selling my project because I feel the world don't know me yet."

Since changing his name from K.Dot, he released The Kendrick Lamar EP at the end of 2009 and Overly Dedicated in 2010. Both projects were available for free throughout the hip-hop blogosphere, but Section.80 does not follow that same model. The change in Lamar's feelings on free music is largely due to the urging of the heads of his record label, Top Dawg Entertainment. "Top Dawg is always telling me, 'They'll never know you [and you'll never] get a chance to bring music back to its original roots because you aren't demanding to go out and buy it,' " Lamar said of the advice he was given. "That made sense to me."

Section.80 is a densely packed affair, where the rapper displays his lyrical dexterity and storytelling ability. There are no songs that fit the traditional radio format; instead Lamar focuses on the ills of the crack epidemic ("Ronald Reagan Era"), the hardships young women face ("Keisha's Song") and religion ("Kush & Corinthians").

Barring any support from radio and major marketing companies, the success of Section.80 will depend on his ever-growing fanbase. "People out here, they really gotta go out and support that last music that's alive as far as hip-hop, because we're a dying breed now," he said. "Truthfully, it's up to the world."