Thank You, Kendrick, For Not Becoming a Sellout

“Got a high tolerance when your age don’t exist”

This lyric is from the first song I heard by Kendrick Lamar, “ADHD”, from his album Section.80. I listened to it sometime in 2011 and was in love. The song centers around drug abuse. At first, I thought the previously stated lyric meant that people often don’t believe they can become addicted to drugs when they’re young. However, it could actually mean that many become exposed to drugs due to their mothers using them while pregnant. Another line of ADHD states “you know why we crack babies, ’cause we born in the 80s”, which might refer to to popularity of cocaine in the 1980’s that led to some babies being born with a higher tolerance.

In the first verse, Lamar explains that someone he knows is “trippin’…again” (likely an overdose), so he tries to put this person into cold water and give him/her vicodin. The following line states “Hope to take the pain away from the feelin’ that he feel today.” Later in the same verse, he says “cause you are…a loner. Marijuana endorphins make you stronger.” To me, Kendrick is explaining that abuse/addiction is often a result of using drugs to cope with life’s pain.

People do drugs to have fun. People do drugs when they want to escape from everything life’s thrown at them. Kendrick Lamar gets that – and for that reason, I love him. This song’s borderline cutthroat honesty is so beautifully raw.

People really started to notice Kendrick Lamar when he released his next album, Good Kid m.a.a.d City, in October of 2012. It seemed like everyone I knew obsessed over two songs of the album’s sixteen – “Backstreet Freestyle” and “M.a.a.d City.” They’re both crazy songs that were worthy of the radio and everyone’s shouting voices for late 2012 and early 2013. They didn’t resemble the slow paced, truthful “ADHD”, but I didn’t care much because they were still quality songs. Lamar was finally famous.

I love these two songs, along with the rest of the album. I also love “ADHD” and Lamar’s other work. I love Kendrick Lamar, and I thought everyone else did too. Well, I guess they loved Good Kid M.a.a.d City. Kendrick Lamar released a new album on Sunday titled To Pimp a Butterfly. After listening to this album, I felt like I knew more about Lamar. He shared so much with us through this collection of songs. In “Complexion”, he states that one’s skin color doesn’t matter (“Complexion don’t mean a thing…it all feels the same”) And oh my gosh – “The Blacker the Berry” might have brought me to tears. The song describes some of Lamar’s thoughts on being African American in the United States in 2015 and his dislike of black – on – black crime. He makes it clear that he is, in fact, black. This is followed by “You hate my people; your plan is to terminate my culture.” The line that I remember the most is “I’m as black as the heart of a[n]…aryan.” Shortly before the song finishes, Lamar asks himself why he sympathized with Trayvon Martin after his death yet doesn’t flinch at blacks inflicting violence on blacks. The album has so much of his heart inside of it. I’d definitely recommend you to listen.

You’d think that an album this moving would be a success – especially considering that many of his fans have been anticipating new music. I guess not, though. Sure, I could list name after name of people I know that appreciated To Pimp a Butterfly. But it doesn’t compare to the amount of people that practically worshipped “Backstreet Freestyle” and “M.a.a.d City.” Some people said that they were disappointed by this album. But, how?

I’m disappointed in everyone that’s disappointed by this album. They don’t know how to appreciate masterpieces, I guess.

Furthermore, it saddens me that not as many people know about “ADHD” because it’s still relevant today. I’m not against the usage of drugs. However, I feel that many illegal psychotics are glamorized as an “experience.” People go into it thinking that because these substances are “cool”, they’re fine to irresponsibly experiment with. But addiction can develop, and it can be a losing battle for many. Some even die after just one use. I feel that a lot of people don’t want to use drugs like LSD, cocaine, or ecstasy responsibly – while hydrated, in a comfortable environment, and only in amounts that one can handle – because they feel that they don’t need to. They think they’ll turn out okay. But sometimes, by the time they realize that they didn’t, in fact, turn out okay – it’s too late. They need that substance just to survive. Or, they stopped surviving – stopped living, actually. 

Lamar somewhat confronted this in lyrical format – but not enough people know about it, in my opinion. He confronted more issues, still through music – but this time, it was after his huge surge of fame. He could’ve chosen to instead release music that appeals to a larger amount of people – like, music that has little to no lyrical content but sounds wild – instead. And I’m sure he would’ve gotten even more famous and made a copious amount of money that way.

But maybe, that’s not what Kendrick Lamar cares about. I believe that he makes the music that he wants to make, whether it follows the trend of other mainstream songs or not. After listening to his most recent album, I realize that he isn’t necessarily interested solely in appealing to others. So, maybe some people don’t know the meaning of these new songs. People might not even know that there is meaning. Or, they can comprehend what he’s saying, but don’t care to truly listen because it’s too difficult.

I guess this is just my way of saying thanks to Kendrick Lamar. Thank you for continuing to demonstrate your musical variety years after I learned your name. Thank you for challenging me to reconsider what I thought I knew about the world, even though it was difficult for me to do so. Thank you for giving me an album that I’ll always treasure. Thank you, Kendrick, for not becoming a sellout.

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