People often expect highly anticipated albums to disappoint, but Kendrick leaves no room for disappointment.
Lamar made this album
as an ode to his fellow ’80s babies, products of the Reagan era. In fact, one of the songs is called “Ronald Reagan Era.” On this RZA-assisted composition and other tracks, Lamar mentions problems that have been prominent since then, like drugs, police brutality and gang violence. He even refers to the ’80s babies as “crack babies” in the song “A.D.H.D.”
Growing up in Compton surely wasn’t easy, especially considering that all of the aforementioned problems are just as prominent there as anywhere else. His honesty and passion make for a vivid description of his life, and the lives of people surrounding him. The tales he tells of struggle and survival are eye-opening, explicit and well-told.
Lamar no doubt has the power to get big-name guests and producers, but he mostly did not, choosing to keep it as close to home as possible; the only recognizable names may be Colin Munroe and RZA, aka The Chef. Frequent collaborators and Black Hippy partners Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul both have strong features on the album, and soulful voiced singer BJ The Chicago Kid and G.O.O.D. Music rapper GLC also contribute guest spots. Production comes from the likes of Sounwave, Willie B and Terrace Martin, all of whom Lamar has collaborated with before.
Apparent throughout “Section.80” is his uncanny ability to alter his flow to match each beat. Perhaps most impressive is when he switches it up and uses a speedy flow, like on the up-tempo “Rigamortus.” Some songs are slower paced, but still showcase his lyrical ability. Again, whatever the beat provides, he takes it and runs with it. This is nothing new for anyone familiar with his previous work — no slip-ups here.
Easily the most powerful track is “Keisha’s Song (Her Pain),” which is nothing short of a modern-day “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” Lamar channels his inner Tupac as he details the painful life and sudden death of the young girl of the title. From child prostitution to rape and murder, Lamar shows that he is very aware of problems that face young women, especially in the rough streets of California. All this commentary, coupled with a soulful and almost eerie hook provided by Ashtrobot, makes for a sure classic.
Also with great messages are opener “Fuck Your Ethnicity” and the first single, “HiiiPoWer.” On the former, he sounds like a long-lost member of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony as he approaches issues of race; on the latter, he implicates the government as corrupt and insincere. He also demonstrates his knowledge of African-American history, dropping mentions of activists Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Huey Newton, Fred Hampton and Bobby Seale. On this, the last track of the album, one almost can sense a call for revolutionary action against injustice.
Literally every track is good. Here’s an album you can play from start to finish without wanting to hit the skip button. Smooth production mixed with intelligent, well-spoken lyrics make “Section.80” a standout in an era of hip-hop that needs just such a combination. —Ryan Querbach