Long before Kendrick Lamar was getting guest verses from Jay-Z or being crowned MTV’s Hottest MC, the Compton rapper was a 16-year-old just trying to get his sound heard. In 2003 Lamar released his debut mixtape Y.H.N.I.C. (Youngest Head Nigga In Charge) which, as FACT points out, features the young rapper styling over then-popular radio samples such as Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ,” and Jay-Z’s “Hova Song.”
Lamar spoke about the mixtape in an interview with HipHopDX back in 2011, stating “My first mixtape, I was 16 and it was called Y.H.N.I.C., Youngest Head Nigga In Charge. Kind of ignorant, right? We put it out on a local scale in Compton and built a buzz in the city and eventually got to this guy named Top Dawg, he had his own independent label and I’ve been with them since and we’ve just been developing my sound and branching off of that mixtape to eventually have a debut album.” While this is certainly not good kid, m.A.A.d city or his 2011 Section.80 mixtape, it is pretty special to be able to hear the roots that led to those records.