I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again
Roughly a month before the release of his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d City, Kendrick Lamar sits in a Chung King Studios control room in Midtown Manhattan, separated from a recording booth by a broad window. The booth—impressive wood-paneled walls enclosing ample space for a band as big as occasion demands—hosts an aimless party, a loose patchwork of fans, bloggers, industry types, and people who don’t look out of place as much as unsure of what place they are supposed to be in.
With the potent concoction of Ketel One and Red Bull circulating through veins and loosening tongues, a conversation sparks between a sweating, slim blogger in a white tee and an attractive ad agent, sporting a dress and event-worthy makeup:
Ad Girl: “What do you do?
Blogger: “I write for a hip-hop blog. How about you?”
Ad Girl: “Very cool! I’m in advertising.”
Blogger: “How’d you find out about this?
Ad Girl: “I got an e-mail and it sounded cool.”
Blogger: “So you’re just here to check out the scene, see what it’s about?”
Ad Girl: “Yeah, definitely. Are you going to write about it?”
Blogger: “Yeah, for sure.”
That question, “Are you going to write about it,” may as well have been “Does this matter?” The hip-hop community’s answer? A thunderous “yes.” This response, however, does not necessarily account for a wider context, beyond the borders of hip-hop. In the world of rap, Kendrick has been placed at the foot of Olympus with the directive to climb until he reaches the summit. He is to be hip-hop’s savior, a revolutionary in the key of 2Pac with technical ability in abundance.
To the general listening public, the answer is a bit more complex. What is a man who’s yet to craft a bonafide hit doing on a major label? Will he top the charts? Does it matter?
To understand how Kendrick got here—to a semi-captivated room where a laundry list of legends including Jay-Z and Jimi Hendrix recorded songs, to a glass control booth from which he would excitedly inform listeners “I haven’t even shared this with L.A. yet, I’m sharing this with New York first” about his new album—it is important to understand the elements driving his growing popularity.
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