In 1940 a novel by author Thomas Wolfe was published entitled, “You can’t go home again”. The statement is somewhat true in that things do change, and people change and grow up. Your home can never be the same as when you were a child. That statement can be perceived as good or bad news depending upon an individuals’ childhood experiences. However a person views his or her early life, the memories stay forever. In fact, those memories help to pave our adult paths.
The featured artist this week can never be accused of shying away from his childhood experiences. Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has grown to become a successful Hip Hop artist who like many contemporaries is inspired by his own life. He was born and raised in Compton, California, a city southeast of Los Angeles.
Compton has been made popular because of negative depictions in media and film, and also gang problems throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Compton is home to many rap artists, most notably the group N.W.A., with influential rapper/producer Dr. Dre a childhood idol of young Kendrick Lamar. The sub-genre “Gansta Rap” was brought to prominence by Compton rappers who basically spoke about the gang and police activity that surrounded them. Even though the city of Compton is widely perceived as violent and dangerous, it cannot overshadow the many successful people who also call Compton their home. Largely a middle-class city with homes, schools, stores and other amenities necessary for normal living, Compton is really no different than any other place. I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, and although widely known for major violence it continues to produce many leaders in entertainment and other industries. That is the same reason Kendrick Lamar can be proud of his originating from the city of Compton. Even though he had some bad experiences growing up, he also received the influence of previous Hip Hop artists that pushed his own success.
Kendrick Lamar’s musical influences were not only external: he also writes about experiences within his family. His new album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, is filled with songs chronicling childhood exploits surrounding his family sometimes in great detail. The album has been met with positive critical acclaim and a growing fan base has responded with record sales: the album, released October 22, 2012, was certified gold by RIAA (The Recording Industry Association of America).
I must admit I did not really know much about Kendrick Lamar until just before the release of good kid, m.A.A.d. city, his second studio album. Even though he is a young new artist, after listening to some of his earlier work I knew he was an extremely talented rapper. It may be a little early for lofty comparisons to the likes of Tupac Shakur, but even now I consider him a true poet. As his body of work continues to grow I’m sure he will only improve, and in time Kendrick Lamar may be mentioned in the same context with many of the legendary lyrical geniuses of Hip Hop. If you are not familiar with Kendrick Lamar, I understand he will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live airing January 26, 2013. I’m sure he will give a great performance. Perhaps everyone really can go home again to our memories of younger days, and possibly receive inspiration, encouragement and ideas to help us succeed today. Maybe?