5 Directions Kendrick Lamar Could Go With His Next Record
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By Paul de Revere
Contrary to popular belief, 2012’s platinum-certified and critical darling good kid, m.A.A.d. city was not Kendrick Lamar’s debut. Aside from several independent mixtapes released in his native Los Angeles, 2011’s Section.80 was the first time Lamar got a serious audience to feel — or at least not kill — his vibe.
Section.80 was a critical darling on release for its slice-of-life narrative about fictional characters, similar to good kid, which focused on semi-autobiographical vignettes of Lamar’s life. Fiction, “non”-fiction, sure, but where does the 26-year-old rising rap star and GQ Man of the Year from Compton go from here?
“I don’t like to get stuck in doing something [so] that once I do move on and do my next joint,” Lamar told MTV News earlier this month. “I don’t want to get caught up in it sounding the same or being locked in to what I’ve done already. I always want to elevate myself and challenge myself.”
Lamar said he doesn’t have any set creative direction yet and suggested it might be a while before we hear anything new from him, as he’s letting the inspiration come to him passively.
“If I knock myself into the wall,” he explained, “I’ll probably be out the game for a minute because it’s stressful trying to be creative rather than letting creativity come to you and being inspired by something.”
It’s hard to say what all that means precisely. But what if Lamar does continue with his impressionist narratives and street poetry? Would his creative shift be so drastic as to abandon that, his signature swag? What if he does throw listeners something totally different? What might we see? Here’s five possibilities:
01) Ride Around Shining
Kendrick going all P. Diddy wearing a shiny suit in next album cycle isn’t likely. But it stands to reason that, for the first time, Kendrick is seeing some serious money coming from his rap career. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for Kendrick to leave the street grit behind and show the world how he’s flossin’ on the cover of GQ now. While doing that, of course, he’d be telling the world what his and hip hop’s consumerism means to the world, namely the streets, at large. Or, forget it the conscious stuff, just ball outta control like Donald Trump.
02) Cut A Posse Record
It’s the least likely direction Kendrick could take, banding together with ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul, his Black Hippy collective, for a Cruel Summer-like posse record. These collaborations are often full of new and exciting– if perhaps undercooked– ideas that showcase the collective’s lesser-known production and MC talents. While often not stellar records, they’re necessary inventories of a performer and their talent stable’s creative universe. Why is it so unlikely? Because, simply, the other Black Hippy members aren’t quite ready yet, as they’re dealing with solo careers. ScHoolboy Q has a long-awaited major-label debut, Oxymoron, coming out in January.
03) Let Beef Get Out Of ‘Control’…
Rarely has a featured guest verse sent shockwaves through the hip-hop world like Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the Big Sean’s “Control (HOF)”. It was a verse so huge, it devoured the track it was featured on. In it, Kendrick proclaimed himself “King of New York” (i.e. the whole rap game) and called out his fellow rap contemporaries, “I got love for you all but I’m tryna murder you n***as/trying to make sure your core fans never heard of you n***as,” adding “What is competition? I’m trying to raise the bar high.” It benefits everyone (listeners, industry, artists, etc.) if Kendrick wants to “raise the bar” in friendly competition with his next record. And no doubt, Kendrick will have plenty to say about other rappers and the rap game in general.
04) …Namely With Drake And The Rap Game Itself
Lamar’s rise in 2013 has been meteoric, putting him alongside Drake, the newly minted rap superstar. It was High Noon for the two this year at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, where Lamar bested Drake. And strangely enough, Drake was notably absent from the event.
When asked about his relationship with Drake in his GQ Man of the Year cover story, Lamar played coy. “[It’s] pretty cool,” he said. “And I mean, I would be okay if we weren’t.” Lamar also emphasized that he sees Drake not as a role model but a “peer. If anything. We all peers.” In other words, Lamar might be aiming past Drake’s Nothing Was the Same for his next record, be it in sales or acclaim.
When it comes Kendrick’s beef, it gets meta. Most recently, Kendrick and his camp perceived his treatment by GQ magazine in its cover story as “completely disrespectful” with “racial overtones” in a statement. “[The] story was more focused on what most people would see as drama or b.s.,” it read. “Instead of putting emphasis on the good that [Lamar’s label] TDE has done for west coast music, and for hip hop as a whole, [the story’s author] spoke on what most people would consider what’s wrong with hip hop music.” Kendrick’s likely to act once bitten, twice shy when it comes to his media strategy next album cycle.
05) Treat The Fame Game Like He Did The Street
The most obvious direction Kendrick could go in: continue in good kid, m.A.A.d city’s semi-autobiographical mode but talk about his newfound high life and possible struggles with fame, as opposed to Lamar as a “good kid” struggling in the streets. Lamar could talk about what Jay Z called in “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”, “a room full of vultures/ industry’s shady and need to be taken over.” Lamar’s tiffs with GQ and rappers like Drake who helped bring him up, plus general music-industry chicanery, is more than enough inspiration off which to write another record. Plus, venting, sermonizing and/or contemplating on a stressful rise to fame is something of a rite of passage for rising rappers.